This unique session by Bill Evans and recorded in Germany in '68 features Jack DeJohnette and is the sole recording with him on drums. But the music is timeless and though Evans approach changes little throughout his career-the sidemen and recording context (here in Germany) influence the outcome and this set is clearly spectacular for the nuances and ambiances that its captures. We are fortunate to have this magically appear in 2016!
Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest is one of these. It was recorded when Evans was on tour in Europe with a trio that included Eddie Gomez on bass and, on drums, a young Jack DeJohnette, who would go on to much greater fame with Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, and as a leader himself. It was cut between stops on a European tour by German producer Joachim-Ernst Berendt, with the idea that the rights and a release plan would be figured out later. This particular group had only been documented on record just once, on At the Montreux Jazz Festival, recorded five days prior to this date. So the existence of an unheard studio album by the trio is a significant addition to the Evans story.
The piano/bass/drums trio setting is where Evans did his most important and lasting work. He thrived on both the limitations and the possibilities of the set-up, and returned to it constantly over the course of his quarter-century recording career. He generally favored truly collaborative improvising in the setup; the bassist in his trio was expected to contribute melodically and harmonically, in addition to rhythmically, and he could often be heard soloing alongside the pianist. Eddie Gomez, heard on this album, was a steady partner of Evans' for a decade, and the level of empathy between the two players is something to behold. On "What Kind of Fool Am I?," Gomez's dancing lines darts between Evans' bass notes, almost serving as a third hand on the piano. On the immortal title track, Gomez seems like half a conversation, accenting and commenting on Evans' melodic flourishes. For his part, DeJohnette offers tasteful and low-key accompaniment, heavy on the brushwork and soft textures on cymbals—he was more of a role-player at this point in his career. But the three together feel like a true unit.
The tracklist on Some Other Time is heavy on standards, with a few Evans original sprinkled in. To love the American songbook is to be in love with harmony, and Evans never stopped discovering new possibilities in old and frequently played songs. He had a way of phrasing chord progressions for maximum impact, and he used space as virtually another instrument. Evans recorded "My Funny Valentine" many times in a number of different arrangements, often uptempo, but here he drags it out into an achingly poignant ballad that picks up speed as it goes. In his autobiography, Miles Davis famously described Evans' tone as sounding like "like crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall," and the tumble of notes on the faster sections of "My Funny Valentine" evince that crystalline loveliness. In addition to the material planned for the original LP, there's a second LP of outtakes and alternate versions that feels very much on par with the first disc.
Evans' art has endured in part because he has a brilliant combination of formal sophistication and accessibility; critics and his fellow musicians heard the genius in his approach to chords, his lightness of touch, and his open-eared support of others in his band, while listeners could put on his records and simply bask in their beauty, how Evans' continual foregrounding of emotion made the sad songs extra wrenching and the happy ones extra buoyant. He was sometimes criticized for an approach that could sound like "cocktail piano," meaning that it wasn't terribly heavy on dynamics and tended to be lower key and generally pretty, but this turned out to be another strength. If you wanted jazz in the background while engaging in another activity, Evans was your man, and if you wanted to listen closely and hear a standard like "Some Other Time" pushed to the limits of expression by his ear for space, he was there for that too.
It plays out like a tale of espionage. In Bremen, Germany, more than five-thousand miles from his Los Angeles home, American producer Zev Feldman, has a chance meeting with the son of a late German jazz producer. In a parking lot, the German plays a single track of music on his car stereo; a forgotten recording from tapes almost fifty years old. Feldman, upon hearing more of the tapes, decides he needs to get this out to the world. It is not quite that straight-forward and it takes the better part of two years to complete the deal. The result is a rare Bill Evans studio album, Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest.
The never before released album features Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette and represents DeJohnette's only studio recording with Evans. The content is trademark Evans in style, with alternative versions of "You're Gonna Hear From Me" and duo (with Gomez) and trio versions of "Baubles, Bangles & Beads." The difference between this and Evans' better known trio is in the influence of a young DeJohnette who plays with a lightness on the snare that belies his ability to guide the direction of the music. In comparison, the Gomez/DeJohnette trio opens Evans to more consistent cadences and longer lines than what was typical of the Paul Motian/Scott LaFaro trio. The differences may be subtle, but they place Some Other Time in a light that provides a somewhat different perspective on Evans' creative evolution.
The animated "You Go To My Head" opens the first disc and sets the tone for a mostly upbeat collection of twenty-one compositions, relying deeply on well-known standards. There are, of course, the kind of ballads that were mainstays in the Evans repertoire. "Very Early," "I'll Remember April," "My Funny Valentine" and "Turn Out the Stars" stand out among the more reflective pieces. Another highlight is "Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)," demonstrating some of Evans' exceptional improvisational skills. Evans also offers some other fine solo performances with "These Foolish Things" and an unfinished "It's All Right With Me" being noteworthy.
Gomez worked with Evans for some time but DeJohnette, for only six months in 1968. It was, however, at a time when Evans was overflowing with novel ideas and establishing himself as a force for change in jazz. Moreover, Evans was on the cusp of moving away from swinging lyricism to becoming a musical beat-poet. DeJohnette's sense of interchange and his propulsive motion, and layering technique lent itself to the new direction that Evans was working toward, and that influence remained after the drummer's brief tenure with Evans. The two-CD set includes an informative forty-page booklet with previously unpublished photographs, essays and interviews and there is a limited edition hand-numbered two-LP set as well. Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest is more than a nice-to-have addition to the Evans catalog; it is an excellent collection that shines a new light on one of the most revered artists in jazz.
This enthralling session by the late Bill Evans (a crucial pianistic influence on stars from McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock to Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau) was recorded five days after a famous performance at the 1968 Montreux jazz festival by Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Verve’s Montreux live recording won a Grammy, but this studio session has been in the vaults ever since. DeJohnette, who spent only six months with Evans (Some Other Time thus becomes only the second album to document the partnership) and would go on to play on Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew the next year, was a more elementally forceful drummer than the pianist usually employed – but his fire and his robust tenderness affected Evans’s attitude to drums from then on. DeJohnette the cymbal texturalist is in evidence on classics such as On Green Dolphin Street and In a Sentimental Mood, and the drummer’s more muscular intensity pushes the leader into controlled abandon on How About You? The album is not only exquisite jazz playing, but a document of a step-change in the great Bill Evans’s trio conception.