QRP-Pressed 180g Vinyl Reissue of Bill Evans Trio’s Trio ’65 Does Full Justice to a Laid Back, Forward-Leaning & Quite Dynamic Recording

When I saw one of the latest Acoustic Sounds Series reissues of a mid-1960s Bill Evans Trio album — namely, June 1965’s Trio ’65 — I had to pause for a moment and think: Do I really need this one in my collection?

Said moment lasted about 5 seconds, as I quickly remembered that (a) there are not really any bad Bill Evans records, and (b) finding clean originals of many of his albums is not an easy task on the used market.

From a collector’s perspective, the Bill Evans Verve Records era seems to be not as highly sought after as his work on Riverside. But that doesn’t make them any less good. In fact, some of my favorite Bill Evans recordings are on Verve — including the much overlooked and often dismissed album, 1966’s Bill Evans Trio With Symphony Orchestra.

But right before that, Evans issued a sweet little nugget in Trio ’65, and it is oddly enough not one of those albums you see around much out in the wilds of collecting (i.e., at flea markets, thrifts, and garage/estate sales). In fact, you don’t really see it popping up in collectors’ shops all that much either.

Indeed, a quick check of online marketplaces like Discogs reveals only six copies of the original available, and none in greater than VG-plus condition. Even though it is not a super-in-demand record, prices are up around $60 for those copies. The 2013 ORG 2LP 45rpm reissue is selling for upwards of $200 on Discogs and Popsike. (And no, I don’t have a copy of that one, sorry to say.)

Which leads us to the question of whether you need this reissue or not in your collection to begin with. Hence, I offer two immediate answers: (a) yes, and (b) of course you do, why not?

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The liner notes go a long way toward explaining the intent of Trio ’65, showcasing an artist in a growth phase: “This is not to say the music here is more creative than any of his past efforts. But, on this album he has managed to couple the potent Evans originality with a clarity of expression which is a delight to hear.”

Indeed, we’re treated here to fine renditions by one of Evans’ great trios with Chuck Israels on bass and Larry Bunker on drums, who had been recording with him since 1961. They break out many classics like “Israel” (from the legendary February 1957 Miles Davis collection, Birth of the Cool), Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight,” and George and Ira Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”

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This recording is one of the better Rudy Van Gelder efforts I’ve heard, with the piano sounding quite rich and open in the center of the stereo mix. The bass and drums are soft-panned into the right and left channels on either side of Evans in the soundstage. The way the piano is captured here is significant for me, as I’m often disappointed by RVG’s approach to the instrument.

All that said, I’m really enjoying the overall vibe of this set, which feels laid back yet forward-leaning. The band is tight and on the same page with Evans, wrapped around him like a comforting kid leather glove. In short, Trio ’65 is a great misty Sunday morning introspective jazz album, if you know what I mean.

According to the official press release on this series, all albums in the Acoustic Sounds Series are mastered in stereo from original analog tapes by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound. The 180g vinyl pressing — manufactured at Quality Record Pressing (QRP) — is dead-quiet and perfectly centered. I can’t underscore the importance of this latter factor enough, as many people seem to be nonplussed about it. [Not me! –MM] It is especially important for an album of piano-based music where any wavering of the grooves can result in pure notes swaying in and out of tune. That is a big no-no in my book.

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A tip that may be obvious to most everyone here — but one I think is worth bringing up for newer readers, collectors, and aspiring critical listeners alike — is this: make sure your stylus is really clean and your listening surface static-free, especially when playing this album. Trio ’65 is a quite dynamic recording, and piano is one of the more challenging instruments to reproduce accurately on vinyl, especially in a relatively sparse trio setting like this.

At one point, I was hearing some wee, wee, teensy bits of distortion, a couple exceedingly brief intermittent moments (on “If You Could See Me Now” and “’Round Midnight”). The cause for this might have been any number of things, such as the so-called “break-in period” some albums seem to require.

After going back and really giving my stylus a good cleaning (I’m using a Goldring 2400 cartridge fitted with a 2100 replacement stylus on a Music Hall MMF 7.1 turntable, thanks for asking!), as well as zapping the disc with my trusty Zerostat anti-static gun, it was far less of an issue — so, hopefully, whatever I was hearing continues working its way out over time. Point is, there is a lot of big piano sound to reproduce here, and with such a spare trio arrangement every little nuance is out in the open, and naked in the spotlight.

That said, some of you might well enjoy Trio ’65 as a demo disc, come to think of it. And did I also mention it sounds great when played loud?

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Trio ’65 comes packaged in a very high-quality, glossy, laminated tip-on gatefold jacket. The press release says it is “replicating” the original packaging, but the reality is, these are actually much, much nicer than most original Verve Records covers I have seen. And, of course, the vinyl comes to you wrapped in a crisp audiophile-grade plastic inner sleeve, plus the cover is bagged in a loose-fitting plastic outer sleeve for safe archiving in your collection. This is a classy production!

Given the relative scarcity of original pressings, you’d be wise to pick up a copy of this fine reissue if you are a Bill Evans fan, or even if you are just putting your toes into his rich, rewarding waters. Trio ’65 is a welcome addition to my Bill Evans collection, I can tell you that. More than ever, hearing this trio sounding so lovely makes me yearn for a proper, complete remix of the underappreciated (and awkwardly mixed) follow-up to this album, the aforementioned 1966 release, Bill Evans Trio With Symphony Orchestra. Until that dream comes true, Trio ’65 will keep me very contented indeed.

(Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for AudiophileReview.com, among others, and you can see more of his impressive C.V. at LinkedIn.)

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COMMENTS
jazz's picture

Original, ORG 45 and AP 33. All seem to have slightly different characteristics depending on the track you compare, but finally the ORG rules for more extended and better resolved highs, a better overall balance of instruments and more air and extension on the stage. The AP often seems to have a slightly too pronounced bass in the overall balance and is certainly more dynamic and richer sounding than the original. The original has a bit better definition on top than the AP and often more air around the piano than both others, but the ORG, although the least focus on the piano, convinces with well integrated bass, tonal coherence, flow, airy soundstage and top end openness. On some (not all) tracks the original”s piano sound wins over the two others, mostly the AP’s dynamics and richer sound wins over the original but overall and mostly, the ORG’s coherence, soundstage air and flow wins over both others. All three sound different, but all are great and we’re not talking about huge differences.

The tonality topics could be perceived differently on different setups, the soundstage air characteristics rather not.

AnalogJ's picture

I found this pressing to be somewhat lacking in presence compared to the best of RVG recordings. I don't have another of this album with which to compare, so I'm comparing it to other of his work. RVG has never been great at capturing a piano, but the bass and drums aren't as weighty as with other of the Verve reissue series or Blue Note recordings I have.

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