Track Selection: “Interplay”
Freddie Hubbard (tp) Bill Evans (p) Jim Hall (g) Percy Heath (b) Philly Joe Jones (d)NYC, July 16, 1962
If unconfined simultaneous group improvisation – Free Jazz – marks one end of the jazz spectrum, then dazzling artistry within the confines of rhythm, tonality and melody must surely mark the other. Pianist Bill Evans seems to me the standard bearer for “Unfree Jazz” and this was my first Evans record.
In contrast to the sparse but beautiful Bill Evans Trio, Interplay is a quintet format which lends the music a quite different degree of propulsion. The presence of Freddie Hubbard is a happy one and Jim Hall adds a soft tracery of fluid guitar solo lines.
I have always found Riverside have a bright and punchy presentation which is immediately engaging. It delivers a convincing timbre to the instruments and a satisfying tonal range, from sizzling cymbals and hi-hat through to firm walking bass. Some engineers – well let’s be frank, Rudy Van Gelder – have a reputation for poor recording of piano. No such problem here, and I was pleased to find the mono did a good job of holding this contrasting quintet together.
Evans most coveted records “Waltz for Debby” and “Portraits in Jazz” escaped me during an auction of a large collection, due to me underestimating just how much collectors crave these records. Both just UK pressings, Debby’s Waltz closed at approaching £150 and Portraits at around £80, both some way beyond my valuation. With the focus all on the most desirable titles, as is often the case, I was able to take some consolation prizes home at only a small cost. There will be other times.