Written by 8:16 am Audiophile Music, Audiophile, Audiophile News, Record Store Day, Vinyl

Record Store Day 2024 New Vinyl Preview: Diggin’ Bill Evans Four Ways Including With Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Tony Bennett and Trio On Beloved Sophomore Release.

Mark Smotroff explores four vinyl reissue featuring Bill Evans including his classic 2nd LP from 1959 in its original and sought after monaural mix.

By Mark Smotroff

Recently, many Bill Evans-related recordings have been released by both Universal Music and Craft Recordings, featuring the legendary and timelessly influential jazz pianist in paired-settings with equally iconic artists such as saxophonists Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz and singer Tony Bennett. But… the icing on the cake news is that for Record Store Day this year — which at the time of this writing is tomorrow, April 20th — a much anticipated audiophile edition of the highly desired, sought after monaural edition of one of Bill Evans’ most cherished albums, Everybody Digs Bill Evans, will be released in a limited run of 4500 copies. 

Following are a series of first impressions I’ve had from listening to these recordings, all of which are excellent in their own right, offering a great sounding versions of these recordings at a price point which may give vinyl collectors a moment of pause before spending hard earned cash on rare (and expensive) originals. 

All of these new editions are pressed on 180-gram vinyl, crafted at top manufacturing facilities such as QRP and RTI, with the LPs housed in audiophile grade plastic-lined inner-sleeves. Each features all analog “AAA” disc mastering by top engineers such as Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio and Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. 

All feature high quality cover designs that are as good — if not better — than the original editions and even the label designs are what I call “period accurate” to what the first editions. For newer collectors, this detailing is important to appreciate as designs frequently changed in subtle — and sometimes not so subtle ways — over the months and years after an initial release. Those seemingly “little” details often contribute massively to the overall aesthetic and appeal of an original pressing (and thus the increased value over time).

Everybody Digs Bill Evans
(Riverside / Craft Recordings)

There is no question as to the importance of this revered second album as a group leader by legendary pianist Bill Evans. Paraphrasing the words of many a vinyl collecting jazz fan: ‘Everybody Digs Bill Evans is a stone cold classic!’ 

Home to one of Evans’ most beloved original compositions, “Peace Piece,”  the underlying recording of Everybody Digs Bill Evans is beautiful and the performances exemplary. The new Craft Recordings reissue has been given the tender loving care treatment such a landmark release deserves with new “AAA” (ie. all analog) lacquers cut by by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio from the original master tapes. The 180-gram dark black and well centered vinyl is pressed at the respected RTI plant. The covers feature classic Stoughton® Tip-On Jacket style construction (ie. like the originals).

There are several reasons you’ll want to grab a copy of this limited run edition. While there have been no shortage of likely very fine reissues of this album previously — most of which I unfortunately do not own — and plenty of questionable “gray market” unofficial releases of dubious origin, early original pressings of this album are scarce. And the ones that are on the general used market are typically very expensive (justifiably) and inevitably in less than pristine condition (this album was enjoyed by its original owners and most copies you find are at minimum “well loved” if not downright poor shape)

The new 2024 RSD edition of the classic 1LP Everybody Digs Bill Evans even recreates the original 1959 label design with italicized title font and the absence of “INC” after the production company name.

For example, of the four 1959 copies for sale on the record collecting marketplace site Discogs (dot com) at the time of this writing, the selling prices ranged from about $200 to $400  for “VG” condition copies and about $90 for a “G” copy. There is only one copy of the uber-limited edition 2020 re-master from The Electric Recording Company and the seller is asking more than $700 for this sealed specimen. The 2004 Analogue Productions pressings are selling for between $250 and $350.  I’m sure they all sound amazing (and, no, I do not own those to be able compare / contrast)!  But for the far lower likely price of less than $50 on Record Store Day, most of us can finally enjoy a genuinely beautiful edition of this legendary album.

For those wondering how this new Craft Recordings edition of Everybody Digs Bill Evans stacks up to my early 1960s Riverside Records pressing, it has done really well.  It is arguably better as the vinyl is quieter and the mastering much more open — as beautiful as my old copy sounds, there is a certain boxiness to that pressing.  Save for inevitable degradation of the original master recording — magnetic tape deteriorates over time bit by bit, with each play — I almost see no reason to play my 1960s copy for now.  I will still keep it, however as well as my poor condition even earlier (not deep groove) copy. 

My best old copy seems to be a 1961-65 era pressing, “deep groove” on label and with the “INC” designation after the production company name. 

What else can I say? This is one of the “must get” releases for Record Store Day this year, at least for fans of classic mid-century jazz in general and Bill Evans specifically. 

Essential listening. 

Cannonball Adderley With Bill Evans: Know What I Mean?
(Riverside / Craft Recordings)

The short review here is that this reissue of the 1962 collaboration between Cannonball Adderley and pianist Bill Evans sounds wonderful. The new Craft Recordings edition is part of its “Original Jazz Classics” (OJC) series and is made from new all-analog lacquers cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio. 

The new release sounds warmer and richer sounding than the 1980s-era OJC edition which I owned. The cover art is much much better, too, recreating the look and feel of the original editions.  

Cannonball Adderley’s lush tones play beautifully against Bill Evans’ piano work as they tackle some of his compositions including the classic “Waltz For Debby” and the title track, “Know What I Mean?” Backed sympathetically by the rhythm section from the Modern Jazz Quartet — Percy Heath on bass, Connie Kay on drums — this fairly priced 2024 reissue of a 1962 classic is a must get if you are fans of either of the featured artists. 

The Tony Bennett Bill Evans Album
(Fantasy/Original Jazz Classics/Craft Recordings)

One of my favorite artist collaborations ever can be found in the stellar recordings of Bill Evans with singer Tony Bennett. I have reviewed these recordings previously here on Audiophile Review, so rather than recap it all I’ll just give you a link back to my coverage of the comprehensive 4LP set (click here).

As nice as that big boxed set is, it is for the completist who needs / wants all the alternate takes and such. Having this music restored and presented in its original form and sounding better than the earliest editions  from the 1970s is a good thing in my book. That said, this reissue of this first in the duo’s collaborative albums tops the fidelity of the (I’m pretty sure digitally remastered) version which was included in the 4LP boxed set which Craft Recordings’ parent company Concord Music issued in 2015.  

Newly remastered from the original analog master tapes, again by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, and pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI, this is another winner in Craft Recordings’ Original Jazz Classics series.  

My only disappointment is that I have to wait for the second volume — which contains my favorite from their collaboration, “Make Someone Happy” — to be released. Hopefully, sooner than later!   

Stan Getz & Bill Evans: Previously Unreleased Recordings
(Verve / Acoustic Sounds)

On one hand I was a bit surprised to see this album reissued in its original form, as it was something of a lackluster, workman-like series with somewhat uninspired cover art design. 

Giving this rather dull cover art the fancy laminated gatefold treatment — which the Verve / Acoustic Sounds series reissues are renown — may seem on the surface like a bit of overkill. 

But at the end of the day it comes down to the music and any session that has Getz and Evans backed by the likes of Ron Carter and Elvin Jones can’t be all bad. In fact, its quite good. Great even!  Are there really any bad Bill Evans recordings?   

The back story is fascinating to consider as these 1963 recordings went unreleased for more than 10 years until its 1974 release. From official press materials we learn: 

“Stan Getz’s and Bill Evans’ one and only studio collaboration, recorded in 1964 but not released until 1973 as the understatedly titled Previously Unreleased Recordings, was released February 23. Evans and Getz are about as close as musicians can get in terms of artistry, musical philosophy and technique and these sessions, recorded in 1964 with drummer Elvin Jones and bassists Ron Carter (day one, side one) and Richard Davis (day two, side two), are a perfect blending of their strong individual styles and collaborative sensibilities—with both artists at the peak of their creative powers. Despite the more than compelling results, it’s likely this album was shelved after Getz soared to global popularity on the bossa nova wave fueled by his monumental Getz/Gilberto album released earlier that same year as this is a departure from the smooth samba jazz he helped pioneer.”

This Verve/Acoustic Sounds release is — as to be expected at this stage — excellent, featuring remastering by Ryan Smith of Sterling Sound. The fidelity is terrific — save for a drop out or two which is inevitable on older tapes. The 180-gram pressing made at QRP is top notch. A must have for Getz and Evans fans, for sure. 

[Mark Smotroff has been reviewing music at AudiophileReview for many years but can also be found at AnalogPlanet.com. In the past he has written for Sound & Vision, DISCoveries, EQ, Mix and many more.  An avid vinyl collector and music enthusiast who has also worked in marketing communications for decades you can learn  more about his background at LinkedIn.]

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