Bill Evans Trio for the BBC in 1965
by Tim Lake
Bill Evans' influence on jazz is huge, not least in what he achieved with Miles Davis on Kind of Blue (1959). Outside of that, he redefined what a piano trio could be, turning it into a chamber group rather than simply a vehicle to showcase his talents. It was partly his way of playing that drew on impressionist era classical music, but it was also the whole aesthetic he brought to the trio that made it into a cohesive organism. As Humphrey Lyttelton says in the video each instrument in this trio is equally important.
Evans' reputation grew with the Portrait in Jazz (1959) trio album featuring Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. The same trio reached dizzying heights with Sunday at the Village Vanguaguard (1961) and Waltz for Debby (1962). Unfortunately, LaFaro died tragically and it was a while before Evans formed another trio.
This video features Evans' working trio from the mid-1960s, with Chuck Israels and drummer Larry Bunker on drums. They didn't record much of note, but they had a successful European tour in 1965 of which this date for the BBC was part. They mostly play interpretations of standards with Evans' signature Five, Nardis and Waltz for Debby sprinkled in. I really like the version of Summertime.
It's a tight swinging set in the Evans style. Larry Bunker, on listening to this, is a criminally unknown drummer. He is both smooth, swinging, creative and responsive to Evans rhythmic twists and turns. Despite playing most of the set on brushes, he is able to add weight to the proceedings and drops some great solo breaks. There is some nice trading with Israels on Isreal.
Not as groundbreaking as Evans' early piano trio work or perhaps some of his later trios, but this is worth a listen, especially for any jazz drummers interested in how to play in a piano trio. Which is all jazz drummers! A great set.