About a year ago, I received an email from Dr. Jan Dropvat in the Netherlands. Jan is a major Bill Evans collector, and he told me about a rare recording made of an Evans concert performance on June 22, 1968 at the Netherlands Radio Union (NRU) VARA Studio 8 in Hilversum. I have a vast Evans collection and knew nothing about it, which was strange, and I couldn't find any mention online.
At the studio concert, Jan said, Evans was joined by bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Wow, I thought, another trio album with DeJohnette just two days after they recorded at MPS Studios in Germany's Black Forest and a week after they performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The Montreux concert was released by Verve in 1968, and the previously unknown MPS session was released in 2016 by Resonance on Bill Evans:Some Other Time.
If Bill was as relaxed as he was on the other two albums and the sound was as pristine, the tape Jan mentioned would be a major find, since it represented only the third DeJohnette recording with Evans and Gomez. When Jan sent a couple of tracks, I flipped. The quality of Evans's piano and the sound were warm and loving. I immediately thought of producer Zev Feldman. Once I connected Jan with Zev, the rest, as they say, is history. That fortuitous email from Jan led to a green light by Resonance owner and producer George Klabin and an extraordinary effort by Zev to secure the tape and produce the album. The result is the new Bill Evans CD release, Another Time: The Hilversum Concert. The album from Resonance is absolutely gorgeous, and it comes with a 34-page booklet featuring multiple interviews with surviving artists and those associated with the tape.
I wound up writing the album's main essay in the liner notes, in which I explored why Evans always sounds so good when he was recorded on tour in Europe. My dear friend Laurie Verchomin (above), author of The Big Love, a memoir about her relationship with Evans from April 1979 until his death in September 1980, told me the pianist's passion for Europe was a result of three factors: the quality of the pianos there, the ambiance of the venues and the audience's studious, enveloping vibe. All three are aligned in Hilversum.
What we have is a sterling Bill Evans Trio recording. Evans is at ease, which means his playing is even, his swing is rich and his ideas are new and inventive on songs you may have heard before. Gomez is conversational on the bass and DeJohnette is splendidly expressive throughout without sounding overly percussive.
The song choices are poetic—You're Gonna Hear From Me, Very Early, Who Can I Turn To, Alfie, Embraceable You, Emily, Nardis, Turn Out the Stars and Five. Evans plays each with measured joy. Listening to him here is like watching tulips blow in the wind in slow motion.
Kudos to Zev and George, Fran Gala and John Koenig for another superb job preserving a sterling recording and doing so with enormous elegance and a swell mix of journalistic executions in the notes. I think Laurie would agree that Bill would have been delighted with the outcome.