One of Bill Evans' Final Live Concerts Gets Double 45 ORG Treatment

While a great deal of attention rightly gets paid to Bill Evans' legendary Village Vanguard recordings early in his career, this superb set recorded in Paris, France shortly before his passing is equally worthy both musically and sonically.

Originally issued in 1983 in two editions on Elektra/Musician (E1-60164/E1-60311) the source is a superb Radio France recording of a performance at l'space Cardin in Paris on November 26th 1979 featuring young bassist Marc Alan Johnson (26 at the time) and drummer Joe LaBarbera (then 30), both of whom have gone on to have very successful careers.

Evans died less than a year later on September 15th, 1980 but he was in fine form here and the trio, which had been together for around ten months, was arguably as fine as any group with which Evans was associated.

He'd lost bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund about a year earlier. Johnson joined while Philly Joe Jones had taken over on drums but when he left Evans started looking for a replacement. He tried out LaBarbera at a Village Vanguard gig and the new trio was born. Evans felt this new trio was "karmic" and meant to be. The security gave Evans the confidence to explore in ways he hadn't for some time.

Evans' playing here is more fiery and percussive than on the early Riverside recordings, particularly the Village Vanguard sessions, where his introspective, low key approach continues to inspire listeners and musicians alike. Yet the Evans "essence" remains intact, making this concert as vital and essential as any he'd recorded in his career.

The tunes are not presented in the original playing order. Instead this first edition concentrates on romantic themes opening with Paul Simon's "I Do it For Your Love". Other selections are Michelle LeGrande's "Noelle's Theme", "My Romance", "I Loves You Porgy", and "Beautiful Love".

Elektra/Musician was an imprint started in 1982 by the late Bruce Lundvall (who lived down the block from me--something I unfortunately didn't find out about until he was too ill to be interviewed, but we did speak twice) shortly after he left Columbia to become president of Elektra Records.

While the producer of this concert is listed as Yyes Abiteboul, he was actually the recording engineer. The producer was André Francis (see the recent "Larry Young In Paris" review).

Columbia Records veteran recording engineer Frank Laico (who recorded Tony Bennett, Miles Davis and dozens of others for Columbia and other labels) remixed the original multitrack tapes for the original release. Those tapes were used here as well but the sound here on double 45 mastered by Bernie Grundman kills the original.

While we all wait for reissues of the early career original Village Vanguard sessions (one from Mobile Fidelity and one from Analogue Productions), this first edition of what turned out to be one of Evans' final live performances, is currently available and very highly recommended for both music and sound. Edition Two has yet to be released.

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Kyomiaudio's picture

Hi Michael, the edition one is one of my favorite Bill Evans live recordings. I have the original Japanese pressings of both and they are superb - it would be interesting to see if Bernie Grundman kills them as well. George.

AndreC.'s picture

Hi Kyomiaudio,

could you give us a result what will be better... Japanese Pressing or the new 45er ... ?

Kyomiaudio's picture

Will do, as soon as I get the new 45 in my hands.

Grant M's picture

Might be worth mentioning the other 2x45 set of volume 2 of the same concert is coming from ORG on the schedule for June.

john75's picture

Vol. 1 was released by ORG in the summer of 2016 and they do not seem to have released anything since. Their website is down and announced reissues (Coltrane Plays the Blues) are being pushed forward every month in the release schedules. I hope they'll continue but I'm not sure.

Rudy's picture

I bought my first ORG pressing at AXPONA last year (the loads-of-fun Bernie 45RPM remaster of the Rosemary Clooney/Perez Prado A Touch of Tabasco), and shortly thereafter bought maybe three or four more. But I also did not see any newer releases on their web site at the time either. I certainly hope they do stick around. Their work is stellar, and they have interesting titles to offer.

MonicaR351's picture

Great review, I agree with you on everything basically. This album is just something... I can listen to it all day. It is easily my favourite music of all time.