His 1973-1979 recordings for Fantasy have often been underrated in favor of his earlier work, but this incredible 9-CD set proves that the pianist/composer/improviser never lost his touch. These 98 selections taken from 11 sessions include nine tracks from a previously unreleased 1976 concert with his trio, plus as a special bonus, the box winds down with Evans' appearance on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz radio program! A few of the songs: Nobody Else but Me; Reflections in D (live); My Foolish Heart; The Touch of Your Lips; A House Is Not a Home; Sugar Plum (live), and more.
Given the peerless depth of Bill Evans's work for Riverside in the early 1960s (collected in its entirety on The Complete Riverside Recordings
) followed by some similarly stellar outings on Verve (collected on the mammoth 18-CD Complete Bill Evans on Verve
), it's understandable that the pianist's work from the 1970s might get short shrift. Understandable, but not justified, as this nine-CD set illustrates. Evans's years at Fantasy brought forth some monuments, including his first session of duets with Tony Bennett. His solo and trio work continues to develop over the course of these sessions, all of them corrected for chronology, ignoring earlier albums' track orders. His group playing also shows development, intensified refinement, and an acute collective sense that seems to grow and absorb whoever is on the gig. Tenor saxophonist Harold Land makes a fine showing, as does the underrated, dynamic duo of Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. Sure, Evans makes the ill-considered stumble of trying to get a Fender Rhodes to reflect his sense of touch and phrasing, but he shows again and again why he is so magnificent a composer, improviser, and group-leading thinker. As he neared his death in 1980, his flow of ideas seems--at least in hindsight--irrepressible, and for that reason, fascinating. --Andrew Bartlett