Bill Evans: “Explorations” (1961) Riverside/UK

bill-evans-explorations-cover-1920px-ljc

Selection Israel (John Carisi)

Artists:

Bill Evans (piano) Scott LaFaro (bass) Paul Motian (drums) recorded NYC, February 2, 1961

Music:

Evans reinterpretation of the tune “Israel” for trio is sheer artistry. The tune, written by Trumpeter Johnny Carisi, first appeared on Miles Davis “Birth of the Cool”.  To see whether the two bore any resemblance, I dug out the Miles Davis Nonet version (JJ Johnson, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz etc) recorded April 22nd 1949.

Sample: Miles Davis “Israel”

Despite repeated plays I am still looking for the same tune.

It always impresses me when musicians, on hearing a band playing jazz, just reel off the song credit “Oh that’s so and so”. I only know that because the band leader introduced it over the PA.

Jazz critic Roger Cook remarks that LaFaro and Evans had an argument just before the recording session for Explorations, resulting in a degree of “brittleness”. I’d never have known that either. Sometimes you can have too much information.

Vinyl: Riverside RLP 12-351 UK Interdisc

Riverside pressings characteristically offer very wide dynamic and tonal range and this is no exception, with LaFaro’s bass filling the room, and Motian’s sympathetic brushwork crisp and graceful .

Hand inscribed catalogue number instead of the expected Decca or Philips machine stamped matrix. This is not normal for Riverside/Interdisc. Contracted out to a third party? Odd.

bill-evans-explorations-labels-2000px-ljc

 

Matrix code - Run out

bill-evans-explorations-back-1920px-ljc

Collector’s Corner

I think one of the reasons  copies of Evan’s records in excellent condition command such high prices is that such a condition is rare –  this music demands and repays repeated listening. Certainly this copy is well worn, but it would be a hard soul that bought this record and played it only once. The cover is a little dog-eared from constant use as a much-loved record, but I don’t have a problem with that either.

I have little sympathy for collectors who demand “virgin”  copies, still sealed, to add to their vault of unplayed trophies. The dividend of ownership should be the pleasure of listening, not capital appreciation, but I guess people collect for different reasons.

(Pictures updated to modern standard October 28, 2016 )

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18 thoughts on “Bill Evans: “Explorations” (1961) Riverside/UK

  1. Dear All…just spotted a copy of this UK pressing in my local store…the guy wants 95 euros…condition is ok…please help
    many thanks Mark

  2. The deadwax etching on your UK mono copy looks suspiciously similar to my US stereo copy. Maybe the UK was pressed with US supplied stampers?

    • I must admit there are similarities in the way the letters are formed, but also discrepancies:

      The looped letter L is the oddity, and the final A. Jury is out, but it is entirely possible. Is there a graphologist in the house?

        • Very difficult to recover what is hardly visible but here is best I can do. The US original looks very very similar to my UK press, I’m inclined to agree common stampers. Both look different to your copy (Orpheum?)

            • Just an opinion, but I think the UK and US mono stampers have common parentage. The bottom curve of the “3” and the base of the 2 in 12 are dead ringers. Apart from Esquire, I’ve never had any direct evidence of US metal in UK pressings before but this looks very convincing. (The stereo is a different hand, I’m sure)

  3. Just acquired an Orpheum Productions reissue of this. It’s mono, but the back cover is for a stereo record. It plays very nicely, and seeing what originals of these have been going for, this is most likely the closest I’ll get to an original. But as I said, it sounds great, so I’m not aching to upgrade.

    Also recently got an Orpheum pressing of “Moonbeams”. Not quite as nice, very noisy, but most likely due to a poor cartridge/stylus and heavy tracking force, as the record itself looks excellent. You win some, you lose some, I suppose.

    Also, I don’t know if this was mentioned in another thread, but I know you said you were unsure as to what the “M” in the circle in the deadwax meant on some Riverside records, but the back cover of Explorations may give a clue: “Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.” Perhaps the “M” is Matthews…?

    Either way, finally glad to have a nice version of this album. Discogs has been good to me as of late. 🙂

  4. just received an outstanding mono Riverside/UK copy of this mighty Lp. wax is almost flawless and the dynamics are outstanding, indeed. even the laminated cover is almost as heavy as a U.S pressing. currently listening to it , all is bliss, all is bliss…

  5. It must be sheet music indeed. But the tongue in cheek idea of it being a keyboard was just too good to leave out. I can still read music thanks to the years of guitar lessons that I had during my teenage days, but writing music is a whole different story; something that makes listening to great Jazz -or any other style of well arranged music for that matter- a humbling experience 😉

  6. Maybe a bit off topic, but I couldn’t resist: of you look at the front cover, it almost looks as if Bill was writing on what looks like a modern day computer keyboard and just stopped typing for a second to have his picture taken. Maybe he mastered the technique of travelling through time… 😉

    • I think it is just sheet music but nice try Matty. As though it wasn’t hard enough to play the stuff, the idea of writing it down as well amazes me. I once sat opposite a guy on a train who spent the entire journey turning the pages of a symphony, like he was actually listening to it, no headphones required. I thought of asking him if he wouldn’t mind just turning it down a little…

    • OK guys, its fixed. Broadband ISP choked the bandwidth during the upload – must have been a repeat of last nights outage. I was just talking to the call centre in South East Asia when the brodband was restored. Thanks for feedback.

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