Once upon a time…. deep in the Black Forest of Germany (Villingen, in fact)… lived a Wizard nick-named HGBS who ran a recording studio in his home for the high fidelity recording of artists he loved. Wizardly HGBS — whose name was Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, and who I shall refer to simply as The Wizard from here on out — became the focus for a record label (MPS) which was formed to release many of the recordings made in his studio.
Great talents such as legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson fell under the spell of The Wizard, recording several exquisite sounding and gleefully performed albums there (particularly the Exclusively For My Friends series).
And then, this happened…
After a 1968 performance at The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, where piano legend Bill Evans had performed with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette, The Wizard once again cast his spell on the traveling minstrel with the help of one of his Sorcerer friends, producer Joachim-Ernst Berendt. The Sorcerer had attended the concert and subsequently encouraged Evans’ management to let The Wizard record this trio for posterity. In a flash, the musicians were whisked off on a magic carpet fantastic to The Black Forest for what became the only time these three players actually recorded together in a studio.
A luscious recording resulted and the analog tapes from that magical session no doubt made The Wizard and his entourage rejoice and make merry. Yet, for some reason the tapes sat idle in the archives for 40-plus years. That is until the modern day meet up between the 21st Century Musical Alchemist from Resonance Records, producer Zev Feldman, and The Son of The Wizard (who had sadly passed away by then). Inquiring about unreleased sessions, The Wizard’s Son magically produced these archival Bill Evans recordings for The Alchemist, revealing this lost gem of jazz history, which have now been lovingly released on CD and vinyl LPs by Resonance Records.
Ok, so in all seriousness, Dear Readers, the performances and and recording quality on this never before released album called Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest are exemplary, capturing Evans at an important crossroads in his playing style. Of course the big question remains as to why these recordings weren’t released previously.
Apparently, no one really knows.
But we can speculate and as with anything in history there are probably multiple answers to that question including contractual issues of the performers to other recording labels, touring schedules with other bands (thus this trio wouldn’t have been able to tour to support the album’s release). Also, there may have perhaps even been some fear of conflicting with other releases (such as the sublime aforementioned Oscar Peterson series).
Also, given the timing of the recording and a potential release schedule in 1968 or 1969, it might well have simply been a business decision that this music was not the most cutting edge session to be putting out at that time. I mean, consider those turbulent times, with Miles Davis stretching out and going funky electric as well as early jazz-rock fusion albums from upstarts like Charles Lloyd, Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea and others.
This is not a knock on the quality of the music here, mind you. But it is the music of a passing wave of jazz played beautifully and recorded in spectacular fashion. It contains great interpretations of standards such as “My Funny Valentine,” “These Foolish Things” and “Lover Man.” There are songs from Broadway and Hollywood (“What Kind of Fool am I?,” “Baubles, Bangles & Beads,” “On Green Dolphin Street”).
But, this is not In A Silent Way or even Maiden Voyage, folks. Its fine fine stuff, but I’m offering up some perspective so you know what to expect…
Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest was issued on Record Store Day this year by Resonance Records and it is a beautiful package. Lush black and white photography from the period grace the high quality gatefold cardboard cover and album-sized booklet (with informative essays and interviews). The vinyl pressings are 180 grams thick, dark and perfectly centered. Dead quiet, for sure. The latter being an essential factor for reproducing piano based music on vinyl — for me at least, as few things in pre-recorded sound are more annoying to my ear than an off center LP of lush piano tones wavering in and out.
So, yes, this album is an audiophile joy in that sense. I’m not going to go into the nuance of the performances which are all quite lovely. And frankly, I’m still immersing myself in them. Thus far the versions of “Baubles, Bangles & Beads” and “These Foolish Things” have planted their ear-worm in me, prompting me to play the set several times in a start-to-finish manner.
You’ll no doubt find your own favorites.
If the two LP version of Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest is too pricey for you — and you’ll have to check around your favorite stores and on line to find a copy as it was a very limited edition run apparently — there is a fine sounding two CD set more commonly available.
Either way you go, this is sublime music which all Bill Evans fans should hear.
I think The Wizard would like that…