Music Review: New live jazz album of 1964 performances by Bill Evans trio sings and swings

This image released by Elemental Music shows "Tales" by Bill Evans. (Elemental Music via AP)

The newest gem in the ever-growing catalog of Bill Evans, the late jazz pianist, commemorates a return to his roots.

European classical music is at the foundation of Evans’ distinctive sound, and “Tales — Live in Copenhagen (1964)” features previously unreleased recordings from his first European tour.

The vinyl version will be released for Record Store Day on Friday, Nov. 24, with the CD edition scheduled for Dec. 1. The album is record label Elemental Music’s follow-up to “Treasures — Solo, Trio & Orchestra Recordings from Denmark (1965-1969),” an engaging two-CD set of later performances.

“Tales” contains 11 cuts, 10 of which feature Evans with bassist Chuck Israels and drummer Larry Bunker. Most of the tunes had been part of the trio’s repertoire for some time when they arrived in Copenhagen, and their comfort level results in music filled with inventive interplay that is a marvel of syncopation and synchronicity.

As always, Evans’ rhythmic creativity delights. There are two renditions of “How My Heart Sings,” and the piano sparkles with rapid stop-and-start single-note explorations that swerve, skip, spin and dance.

Since this is Bill Evans, the music sings as well as swings. “Waltz for Debby” receives a lovely, spirited rendering, and while “My Foolish Heart” begins at a mournful tempo in two performances, Evans’ embrace of the melody soon dispels the gloom.

There’s also a lyrical interpretation of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.” According to the extensive, excellent liner notes, it’s Evans’ only recording of the Rodgers-Hart song.

Considering the age and sources of the material, the sound quality is remarkably good. That makes it easy to enjoy Evans’ earliest European evocations of the many influences he distilled so beautifully, from Miles and Monk to Debussy and Beethoven.


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