Bill Evans “Portrait in Jazz” (1960) UK Riverside


At last! An upgrade, to an original 1960 pressing (UK Riverside)  from my previous Orpheum US reissue 1966

Track Selection: Witchcraft


Bill Evans (p) Scott LaFaro (b) Paul Motian (d) recorded NYC, December 28, 1959 three days before the turn of the decade to 1960.

Music: Change of track from the previous selection (Autumn Leaves) to the ever so spooky “Witchcraft”. Scott laFaro continues to amaze as the combination of Evans, LaFaro and Motian continued to redefine and expand the musical potential of the humble “Piano Trio”. One record you must have in your life.

Vinyl: Original (UK) Riverside 12-315 mono, 1960 pressing

The matrix codes A-2L / B-1L I remember reading, means first pressing, though I don’t claim to understand UK Riverside. As I recall the alphabet (I only know the QWERTY sequence nowadays)  A is before B so shouldn’t it be A1/B2?. (Update: This is a Decca pressing for Riverside, however it follows the numbering convention of Philips, who later took over pressing of Riverside European releases. Not a lot wiser as Decca had their own numbering convention which includes a letter identifying the engineer. This is definitely a Decca machine-drilled matrix code, so I’m not a lot wiser.)

Twin Reels White Label (UK)


Collectors Corner

At last!. Good things come to those who wait, and I have been waiting for a copy in Excellent condition for a long time, and it is beautiful. It’s history is anyones guess, but no scratches, and after a good wash and brush up courtesy of my Moth Pro RCM, 95% of the minimal clicks and pops disappeared. Not entirely “silent” as one always hopes, but very slight natural vinyl background noise, and the odd spit. Its how they were made.

The spindle area looks unmarked, but closer inspection (click the thumbnail opposite to view the spindle area at 1600 px) suggests it has been played probably no more than 15-20 times in its almost fifty year life. My guess, it was bought by someone who decided they didn’t “dig” Bill Evans after all and put it away for twenty years. It then fell into the hands of an Evans fan, but in the mean time record players had grown into hi-fi systems, and it became difficult to actually damage the vinyl (excluding punk,of course, which fans damaged just to prove they didn’t care) . After another long sleep caused by the ascendancy of CD, it eventually came back into circulation for collectors via eBay.

That completes the Bill Evans Holy Trinity for me – Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Portrait in Jazz, and Waltz for Debby. I can cross  “Bill Evans” off my saved searches. That reduces the daily mailbag to nineteen. Collectors never sleep.

16 thoughts on “Bill Evans “Portrait in Jazz” (1960) UK Riverside

    • Dimitri: I have no idea how these reissues sound. But, if it is true what you say, that the price of those is similar to first pressings, why don’t you just go after an original. Forget about all these remakes and buy the real thing.


  1. Just snagged an (I’d say NM, no marks at all really) original (?) on stereo, small black label, deep grooves. Just been A/B-ing with my XRCD copy. I think the stereo separation, as such, is better on digital, think they basically boosted the bass and drums on the new mix, because on the vinyl, the piano takes the spotlight, the drums and bass are low key, on the background. The piano itself sounds a lot more “rounded” on the vinyl, up front and sweeter…and thin, and to the background on the digital. Can’t believe I grabbed a copy “relatively” cheap though, with the prices these go for. And it sounds really good, for being 55 years old.


  2. hi to all evans fans! just received a great OG copy from australia (thanks andrew for your back-up/advice). graded for VG+, i wish they’d all come as fine as this one! no noise, click or disturbing pop and dynamics and space to die for… a masterpiece
    run-out reads:
    side one:
    A/3 ou AB then /4//2/0 or a very small 6 and 12-RLP315A for
    side two:
    3/26/65 then 4//2/5 + 12-RLP315B – all handwrite
    3/26/65 probably means the pressing date, which looks like a late one (1961 session) but the magic of the music is ageless


  3. Those matrices look suspiciously Decca-esque to me, and in the wonderful world of Decca, the final alphanumeric code does not indicate mother/stamper as with most. The 1 indicates the first laquer master and the letter following indicates the Decca engineer who cut that laquer. In this case, L=George Bettyes.

    Decca wanted to be sure that the same engineer who cut the original master cut any subsequent masters to ensure consistent sound quality. On a side note, certain London/Decca pressings serve as a momento mori marking the passing of the original cutting engineer when side A has a different master letter than side B.

    So it goes…

    Lots of good info on Decca matrices:


    • Your knowledge continues to amaze me. I haven’t photographed matrix numbers consistently until recently so my oversight of UK Riverside is small numbers, but there are two distinctive groups. There are a bunch which you rightly say are Decca – the numbering style is unmistakable, and there are a bunch which are Philips, equally unmistakable with country codes eg 420 for UK.
      When I have more time i think I will do a Riverside forensic study, with dates, to figure it out.
      Thanks for the input, as always.


  4. Don’t want to add to your list of unfulfilled goals, LJC, but I really think you should add “Undercurrent” to that list of necessary albums by Bill Evans. Great interplay between him and Jim Hall.


    • Groan! “Undercurrent“! Yes, OK, you are right. It is actually on my list but keeps turning up at stupid prices because it is “rare!!”
      I have a Japanese King of Undercurrent, which I have not played for some time. Sounds like good advice, I will go listen “with new ears” as I hadnt “got” Bill Evans at the time I got it from Japan (seller polish Andy from Tokyo, bless him)


      • Whatever you do, stay away from United Artists pressings of “Undercurrent”, I love the album, but every pressing I’ve run across (including 1st) is unbelievably noisy. I even have a mono pressing of this album with a Plastylite ‘P’ which is still very noisy. Perhaps the masters were bad?

        I’ve run into the same problem with “Conversations with Myself”. I think that Japanese pressings are the way to go with both of these albums.

        MGM/UA in general seems to have some really terrible pressings. My copies of the Zabriskie Point soundtrack and the 2001 soundtrack both have the same problem: constant intermittent noise sometimes growing into actually distortion in the low end. Looking at the pressings, however, doesn’t reveal anything unusual. They look pristine.

        I’ve had similar issues with the Pink and Green Limelight releases. I have a copy of “Last Date” by Eric Dolphy I got as a bargain that is unlistenable because of noise and distortion.


        • though “undercurrent” is one of the most beautiful Lp cover ever, i actually prefer musically “intermodulation”- the other evans-hall duet. left aside the noisy pressings issues of the lady in the lake Lp


        • which japanese reissue will you advise here between GXC-3128, LAX-3112, UAJS 15003, TOCJ-90011, LBJ-60051, UAJS 15003?


  5. A2/B1 appears on some current pressings, ie, 2012 current bands. Perhaps it has some technical meaning which has survived the years?

    It’s not the same as A-2L, as in this album, but similar.



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