Bill Evans: New Jazz Conceptions (1956) Riverside


Selection: Five (Theme)


Bill Evans (piano) Teddy Kotick (bass) Paul Motian (drums) recorded Reeves Sound Studios, NYC, September 18 and 27, 1956


Although a critical success that gained positive reviews, New Jazz Conceptions was not  initially a success, selling only 800 copies the first year (volume akin to Mobley 1568) , which accounts for the premium  on copies of the original pressing. Evans attracted greater recognition with successive albums, hence Riverside re-released his first title as leader, to capitalise on his growing following.

The critics hindsight is that New Conceptions was far ahead of other pianists of the time, but only a glimpse of the talent that was to develop over the following decade. Powered by the drive of Silver, the helter-skelter shimmering cascades of Powell, long serpentine lines of Lennie Tristano, Evans combines all these with his own unique musical intelligence and sensitivity, the complete pianist in the making.

The trio here already features Paul Motian tasteful cymbal-work, and the capable Teddy Kotick on bass. Kotick’s place in the trio was later taken by Sam Jones, but neither anticipated the arrival five years later of the surging forceful bass lines of Scott La Faro, who with Motian brought the Bill Evans Trio to completion, if briefly.

 Cover: Not the iconic first cover, below, however the  pen-and-ink/watercolour sketch cover has a quirky charm of its own.


Vinyl: US Riverside RLP-223 mono, deep groove, second issue

US pressing on smaller 92mm Riverside label, no INC on label or cover, label in use 1958-60, 2-4 years after first release, hence a second pressing, with second cover. Still vintage, but not quite as desirable as the very scarce original. The runout contains an obscure etching in addition to the catalogue number, unknown significance.  UPDATE: the Riverside customer code in the manner of Blue Note’s 9M, related to  metalware services.Evans-New-Jazz-Conceptions-labels-1800-LJC


Collector’s Corner

To be picky, this Ebay auction was described incorrectly as “ORIG” not “2ND ISSUE/ 2ND COVER”. Doesn’t sound as good put that way, does it?


The challenge with Bill Evans is to find a copy that is in top condition, as so many have been played excessively. This one has a few soft pops along the journey. When hard-core collectors turn their nose up at a second pressing, nicer for me, for whom 2ND BEST is often GOOD ENOUGH.

21 thoughts on “Bill Evans: New Jazz Conceptions (1956) Riverside

  1. Does anyone know if Riverside ever issued this in fake stereo, as they did many titles from this era? There is a copy with an RS 9223 catalog number in addition to the mono number that’s photographed on discogs, [] but no actual fake stereo issue listed.


  2. I (like another poster here) have the OJC issue, and think it sounds nice, but without having heard an original, I guess I can’t really say much. I will, however, say that anyone who said that Bill Evans didn’t or couldn’t swing obviously never heard this album (or the stuff he did with Cannonball, for that matter). And of course, this was the first appearance of Waltz For Debby, which is a mere 2 minute vignette of what it would evolve into in later years.


  3. when I bought this record way back around 1960 I did not know that there had been another, first, issue. How innocent we were those days. We just dug the music.


    • You are fortunate indeed to have been tuned to the right wavelength in the 60’s, Rudolph. Retrospectoscope! I was listening to all sorts of nonsense then, which proved to have no staying power. However, better late than never.

      Whilst there is young talent out there now, I do have a strong feeling that those times can never be repeated.


  4. What about the early 80s OJC vinyl mastered from original analogue tapes by Fantasy? Better IMO than the US originals which aren’t great.I’m not a big fan of Bill Evans but I bought Portrait recently on OJC and the sonics are good. I like the Philips and Decca pressings on vintage UK Riverside reissues but OJCs are a £5-£8 at my LRS. Covers are nice – same goes for Prestige. There is not and was never a Holy Grail original pressing beats all else with these records.


    • I have both the second pressing discussed here and the early OJC. The second pressing smashes the OJC. Especially for bass and drums and overall clarity. It only cost me 40 euro at a local shop.


  5. I recently bought the remastered Complete Village Vanguard set on CD because it can be found so cheaply. And also because if the unimpeachable review it gets in the Cook/Morton guide. It replaced an old late 70s Prestige two-fer, French, if I recall correctly. The sound is superb, of course, but there is a further consideration (apart from the old cd vs vinyl argument), and that is that the remastering bumps up (or restores, as I have read it elsewhere) some of the audience ambience (or noise). I still haven’t decided whether having the entirety of. The Vanguard set — powercut and all — outweights the CD format and the noisier audience….


    • Ken Dryden (Allmusic) says “…the songs are in their original recorded sequence, adding a bit of ambience and audience reaction between numbers.” Between numbers! This would not hint at noise being “bumped up” by the remastering, which would only work with music and ambience having been recorded on separate tracks. I doubt whether this was the case. You’re quite right, Alun: Cook & Morton seldom err.


      • Eduard, You’re right: ‘bumped up’ is probably not the right description — and yet…and yet…the ambient audience noise is most definitely louder than was the case on my old two-fer LP set. It is, as you point out, largely between tracks, however. I think this is because the old vinyl sets typically chopped out between-track noise, whereas the impression I get from the four-CD set is that the tapes seem to roll more or less without interruption…


  6. Well, this is serendipitous because I’ve been thinking a lot about Bill Evans for the last week or so. The trigger is the imminent release of the new vinyl complete Village Vanguard box set. On the surface, it looks like a very attractive package and an ideal thing to ask Father Christmas to leave under my tree. However, a lot of places where I’ve been reading about this state that the mastering process hasn’t gone back to the original analogue tapes but has instead re-used the low sampling rate digital mastering work from when this set was released on Evil Silver Disc a few years ago.

    So I face a dilemma: do I buy this because of the extra tracks that aren’t available on vinyl any other way and live with the risk of lower audio quality? Or do look for different sources of true analogue pressings (and we all know the premium that original pressings of two Riverside LP command)? I’d welcome thoughts from other LJC regulars…


    • Well, we like to stay on the pulse.
      I have another dilemma for you: mono or stereo? I have both mono and stereo editions of Waltz for Debby, on UK Riverside 1st release, and I gotta admit as a mono man generally, the stereo is delicious Bill Evans Trio in 3D. Quite remarkable.

      I fought long and hard for my vinyl editions. It is very hard to find copies not played to death, and ones with more clicks and pops than you would want. There is to my mind, unusually, a very persuasive case for an alternative to originals here. I say that as a collector of originals, but sometimes the music is more important.


      • I’ve tracked down an alternative Waltz for Debby pressing to try: Japanese Victor SMJ-6118 (stereo). I’ll report back once it arrives and I’ve had time to listen to it.


        • I have found Victor mostly pretty good, more opinions welcome. Interesting they should opt for the stereo. Most of the US Riverside stereo I have from the early ’60s are fairly horrid (my WfD stereo is a UK mastering, by Decca as I recall)


  7. It comes to mind that four tracks from “New Jazz Conceptions” are found on that legendary Fontana collection known as “Plaisir du jazz” (or “Popular Jazz Series”, or “Jazz Club Series”, respectively) – not a must for the hard-core vinyl collector, but heaven for cover lovers:


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