Track Selection: “Autumn Leaves” >
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Bill Evans (p) Scott La Faro (b) Paul Motian (d) Reeves Sound Studios, New York; December 28, 1959 , eight months after recording with Miles Davis on “Kind of Blue”.
Extraordinary musical craftsmanship, a recording which almost single-handedly redefined the trio as an equal partnership, which deservedly elevates this record to mythic status. Not that you would know listening to the CD, which is pedestrian and entirely fails to capture the electrifying communication between Evans and La Faro. The Riverside pressing must be to die for, as close as this 1968 Orpheum reissue indicates.
Label, run-out and liner notes
Not the original Riverside, but a first US re-issue by the company that bought Riverside in 1966 – Orpheum Productions. Gone are the classic twin-reels, in their place, the tag Orpheum Productions NYC at the footer of the label. The quality of the pressing is near-outstanding, being just one step from the extraordinary quality Riverside master, but just a tad less bright, though not noticeably so.
Its main problem is one that it shares with many original Riverside pressings of Bill Evans masterpieces: sheer over-use. This music has such depth and subtlety it demands repeated playing – hence wear and tear is abnormally high. I looked at an original “Waltz for Debby” the other day in a store. They wanted £70 for it – the record sounded like Surface Noise with a Touch of Piano Trio. Horrid. This has quite a bit of noise, and some scratches that spoil a couple of tracks, but when you can listen, it is gorgeous.
I bought the CD but play them side by side and you might just as well consign the CD to better use as drinks coaster. It totally fails to capture the beauty and the liveliness of the interplay between Evans and Scott la Faro, which is the whole raison d’etre of the recording.
Scott la Faro was killed in a motor accident a short time later, dissolving one of the finest musical partnerships ever. Bill Evans Trio was not just a piano supported by a rhythm section like The Three Sounds. It was an Orchestra of the Universe.
Looks like Riverside
The vinyl of this recording – UK or US original pressing – is stupidly expensive by any normal yardstick. But Bill Evans devotees are not normal. They will simply pay whatever it takes to secure a good copy when one comes to market, which is not very often. I misjudged the market appetite – with hindsight I should have tripled my bid, you learn. Some things are just worth more than others, and Portrait in Jazz, Waltz for Debby, Everyone digs Bill Evans and Sunday Night at the Village Vanguard are it. Less to do with rarity, or collectability, and more with sheer musicality.
My Orpheum copy of Portrait cost me £40 and I felt it was too much, given the release and the condition but sometimes you have to buy it when you see it, and hope a better copy will come along in the future. That weekend a US Riverside copy in ex condition from a British seller closed at £240 with 15 bidders.
I have seen a copy go to £380. Suddenly you know when you are batting in the wrong league.
UPDATE December 24th 2011
So who bought this record for £240? Nearly two months later the sellers feedback is still blank for this record- no feedback was given buy the “buyer”. Their buying history contained no music or records whatsoever – merely “Vehicle parts and accessories”, on which they placed an average three bids a day. As a compulsive observer of human behaviour, I find this one difficult to call. A man pays £240 for a record on ebay but has bought no other records and seems to be a motor trader of some sort. All very baffling.