For an artist of the stature of Bill Evans -- a pianist of such influence that he still has a following, reaching new generations nearly 40 years after his death -- a new release from the archives is a very happy occurrence. This new album released by Resonance Records on Record Store Day contains terrific previously unreleased live performances, presented in the highest possible quality.
The music on this meticulously curated set -- spread over two LPs or CDs - was recorded by a now legendary fan on professional grade portable equipment from the audience. It sounds pretty tremendous considering its roots.
Bill Evans - Evans In England is, however, recorded in monaural and not "mixed" through the soundboard (if you will). Purist audiophiles may well rejoice over this release because in many ways it's the ultimate listening experience, capturing the sound of the club, the ascendant band and the vibe of the moment with the most minimal of technological intrusion.
Kudos to archival jazz detective and Resonance Records' driving force, Zev Feldman, for getting the scoop on these recordings made by this hard-core fan in 1969 who was following around Bill Evans's tours -- much in the way that Dead Heads documented performances by The Grateful Dead year after year. "Tapers," as they are sometimes called, are a unique breed driven to preserve the moment for posterity, with or without the artist's approval.
From the copious liner notes to Bill Evans - Evans In England we learn that this was recorded with a single Beyer Dynamic microphone at a table in front of the stage, the mic placed on the floor between the piano and the bass, connected to a Uher tape recorder resting on the knees of the recordist, covered with a table cloth! Eventually, apparently, Mr. Evans got to know this ardent fan and allowed him to record his shows for years to come.
Bill Evans - Evans In England sounds real good, but it has a distinct flavor to it. Given the high quality of the microphone and recorder, I suspect it is the location of the mic that resulted in this remarkably well balanced and full bodied yet curiously boxy sounding recording. If the mic had been positioned higher up in the club, it would have probably captured more of the club's sheen and the sparkle of the instruments in it (note: I am not complaining here, just acknowledging the likely challenges inherent in making the recording).
Bill Evans - Evans In England joins a special category of now-classic fan-driven recordings of famous musicians that have become an essential part of the artist's legacy. From the Charlie Parker recordings made by Dean Benedetti eventually released on the Mosaic Records label to the amazing 1940 recordings of Duke Ellington and his band at a creative peak in Fargo North Dakota, recordings like this are essential for getting the complete picture of the artist. Many artists now officially release their own live and archival recordings including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, The Who and The Grateful Dead.
The thick, dead quiet 180 gram black vinyl (mastered by Bernie Grundman and pressed at RTI) goes along way toward presenting this music in its best possible light.
Bill Evans - Evans In England is a fine release and solid addition to the Resonance Records catalog of previously unreleased archival recordings by legendary artists of significant influence.
Now the only challenge you have, Dear Reader, is finding a copy! Given that Bill Evans - Evans In England was released for Record Store Day in a fairly limited quantity of 2000, you may have to dig around a little bit to find an LP copy. The CD is readily available (click any of the album title links in this article to jump to it on Amazon).
If you like Bill Evans' music, the search for a copy of Bill Evans - Evans In England on vinyl will be worth your efforts and the CD will probably serve you equally well in the interim. Happy hunting!