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21 May 2008


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rob ewing

Green Dolphin Street is another often overlooked fantastic Bill Evans record with Chambers and Jones. Very much a swinging record. No watercolors.

Ethan Iverson

Nice call on Portrait In Jazz being the definitive Evans-LaFaro-Motian record: Paul Motian has told me that he personally thinks that is the best one!

I think that trio is overrated only in the sense that many want to consider the live Vanguard dates comparable to the complete works of William Shakespeare or something.

To this day, most mainstream discussion of Paul Motian highlights his work with Bill Evans, which I think misses the point of one of my favorite musicians. Of course, Paul sounds awesome on that Vanguard music with Evans and LaFaro (incredible cymbal work on the ballads) but it is Paul Motian with Keith Jarrett and his own magnificent bands that has the aggressive, revolutionary, influential, and complete Paul Motian.

However, recently Larry Grenadier was raving about a bootleg of Evans-LaFaro-Motian at Birdland in 1960 which is reportedly the very best of this trio. (I also don’t know the MIngus-Evans-Richmond you cite; I’d better seek it out.)


All unrepentant improvisors get a free pass from me. Eddie Gomez is, without a doubt, a true badass. I haven’t heard them in a long time but I used to adore how Gomez ruled in several pianoless settings with Bennie Wallace and Dannie Richmond. Nasheet Waits was telling me recently how much he dug playing with Gomez, and Billy Hart loves him too.


(If I hear another amateur rendition of “Gloria’s Step” I will expire.) Check Scott LaFaro on Hampton Hawes For Real! with Frank Butler. Impossibly swinging. On Ornette! LaFaro is molten ferocity, even playing the head of “W.R.U”(!). Both Jimmy Garrison and LaFaro work out surprisingly well with Ornette, but of course Charlie Haden is really the cat.


Marc Johnson always sounds good, but the Evans trio records with Joe LaBarbera are a bit hard for me. It’s not Johnson or LaBarbera’s fault: the coked-up piano player is rushing like a madman. (LaBarbera is underrated. I saw him with Hank Jones three years ago and he sounded GREAT.) Johnson on his own records, with John Abercrombie or John Scofield, or even with John Lewis are more my speed. I know every note of Second Sight (Johnson’s “Bass Desires” with Bill Frisell, Scofield, and Peter Erskine) and I am not the only one of my peer group influenced by that powerful record.


When listening to “Stella By Starlight” off of Miles Davis’ My Funny Valentine tonight I was once again struck by how much Herbie Hancock owes to Bill Evans.


Something that I should of included in my too-curt Evans’ assessment is how profound I think his rubato accompaniment behind Tony Bennett is. (There are two duo records.) Evans’ harmony here is never “stock”; each chord is created with passion. At times the piano seems lit from within.


Hey Ethan,

Thanks for stopping by! Great commentary, as always.

However, recently Larry Grenadier was raving about a bootleg of Evans-LaFaro-Motian at Birdland in 1960 which is reportedly the very best of this trio.

I did not know that such a thing existed. I will have to seek it out.

I don't think anyone would deny they are some truly beautiful moments on the '61 Vanguard sessions ("Milestones" is killing!) but the exalted status they now enjoy is a bit much. I also don't even think they're a particularly helpful place for young piano players to begin listening to Bill Evans.

I also don’t know the MIngus-Evans-Richmond you cite; I’d better seek it out.

East Coasting is kind of minor Mingus, but it's still an enjoyable record, beyond just the historical curiosity of hearing Bill Evans playing on a Mingus date. "West Coast Ghost" and "Celia" (Mingus's tune, not the Bud Powell tune) are both great. Apparently, Evans was called in as a last-minute sub for Wade Legge -- according to Pettinger, he got the call at 4 AM for a 10 AM session!

John Kerns

Rather late joining this discussion, but between Sunday at VV and Portrait in Jazz, I would choose the former, if only because it contains Miles' tune Solar, which is not just bebop, but also 12 bar and so can be considered "blues", and the primary reason Evans gets bashed by Stanley Crouch, Wynton Marsalis, and the rest is that he didn't play blues. (Stolen Moments from Oliver Nelson's Blues & the Abstract Truth is another example of sorts.)

On the other hand, When I Fall in Love from Portrait in Jazz is my single favorite Bill Evans track, so can't go wrong with either.

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