Verve Records was founded by Norman Granz (Pablo Records and Jazz At The Philharmonic) in 1956. The Verve catalog grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s to include most of the major artists in jazz. Granz sold Verve in 1961 and Creed Taylor, who was successively producer of Bethlehem , Impulse and CTI Records, was appointed as producer. He brought the bossa nova to America with Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd and Astrud Gilberto. Several arrangers of note worked for the Verve label in the 1960s, including Claus Ogerman who arranged and conducted the album Bill Evans With Symphony Orchestra. In 1962 Bill Evans opened negotiations with Creed Taylor to join his label. This cooperation resulted in a superb production of more than fifteen albums in eight years.
Creed Taylor was largely responsible for transforming Bill Evans from an insider’s favorite to a pianist of much wider acclaim and stature. He was encouraged by Creed Taylor to continue to record in more varied formats: with Gary McFarland’s big band, the full-orchestra arrangements of Claus Ogerman, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, flutist Jeremy Steig and a reunion with guitarist Jim Hall. The most remarkable, unusual and groundbreaking of these experiments was the album Conversations With Myself, a session where Bill Evans overdubbed second and third piano parts onto the first, playing and improvising with multi-tracked versions of himself, ‘triple play’. In the opinion of Creed Taylor the overdubbed album was his most favorite Verve release of Bill Evans. The album won in 1963 several awards: a Grammy Award, Japanese Swing Journal Award, English Melody Maker Award and a Scandinavian Edison Award. Steve Larson wrote an article Composition versus improvisation about the album in the Journal of Music Theory 49 (2): 241. 2005. The Verve albums such as Trio ’64, Trio ’65, Bill Evans With Symphony Orchestra, Bill Evans At Town Hall, Intermodulation, A Simple Matter of Conviction and others were packaged as high-end jazz recordings designed to enhance and popularize the artist’s persona and mystique.
Bill Evans At Town Hall Vol. 1 (Verve V6 8683) was recorded live at Town Hall, New York in 1966. It is Bill Evans last album with Chuck Israel on bass and the only official release of his trio with drummer Arnold Wise. Arnie Wise: “Chuck started playing with Bill Evans in 1961, and I joined them in 1966. What I didn’t like about it was the money because Bill didn’t pay much. Also I’ve always been a shy person, and I guess I had stage fright, so to play in front of thousands and thousands of people was difficult. At the Town Hall concert in 1966 when I sat down I said, “Oh, my God” because my foot was shaking and it was my high hat foot. But it was incredible playing with Bill, and I felt honored to be part of that music”. The concert was supposed to have a second album with the Evans trio and a big band under the direction of Al Cohn but has never been released, possibly because of criticism (see the text block on the left by John Wilson, New York Times, 1966). The most memorable piece is the 14-minute “Solo – In Memory of His Father,” who died three days before the performance.
This requiem is an extensive unaccompanied exploration, including a delicate, Satie-coloured “Prologue” and an impressionistic and haunting “Epilogue”. The central section consisted of “Story Line” and “Turn Out the Stars”, which would become one of Evans most well-known songs. The entire “In Memory” suite was performed only once again by Evans on TV, in 1968, in memory of Robert Kennedy. Pascal Wetzel, a French pianist and teacher, made for more than 35 years note-for-note transcriptions of compositions and standards played by Bill Evans. Besides Bill Evans at Town Hall (TRO, 2004) another three books of his work on Bill Evans’ music have been released at this time, three of them being devoted to his own compositions, following a book of standards: The Artistry of Bill Evans (CPP/Belwin, 1989), Bill Evans Fake Book (TRO, 1996), ) and The Mastery of Bill Evans (TRO, 2006). Below the first line of the original score.
Several albums during the Verve period are recorded by Bill Evans at Webster Hall in New York: Conversations With Myself (1963), Plays the Theme from the VIPs (1963), The Gary McFarland Orchestra – Special Guest Soloist: Bill Evans (1963), Trio‘64 (1963), Further Conversations With Myself (1967), Alone (1968), and What’s New (1969) with flutist Jeremy Steig.
For a detailed discography of Bill Evans recordings refer to The Bill Evans Webpages created by Jan Stevens: “Bill Evans – The Complete Catalogue Of Recordings 1954 through 1980″.
Conversations With Myself
The V.I.P.s Theme
Bill Evans&Gary; McFarland
Waltz For Debby
Stan Getz & Bill Evans
Bill Evans Trio Live
A Simple Matter Of Conviction
With Symphony Orchestra
Bill Evans At Townhall
California Here I Come
At The Montreux Festival
From Left To Right
THE BILL EVANS TRIO
THE SIDEMEN DURING THE VERVE YEARS
Paul Motian (1959-1964)
Drummer Paul Motian (1931) has been a professional musician since 1954. Paul Motian performed and recorded in the early period of his career with Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Thelonious Monk, Carla Bley, Charlie Haden and Don Cherry. But he became well known as the drummer in the Bill Evans trio (1959-64), initially alongside bassist Scott LaFaro and later Chuck Israels. With Bill Evans, he developed a way of playing that mirrored the pianist’s phrasing and approach. He recorded Portrait in Jazz, Explorations, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Waltz for Debby, How My Heart Sings, Moonbeams and Trio 64. After Scott LaFaro’s tragic death the dynamic of the Evans trio changed and the restless Motian, left the trio and subsequently he played with pianists Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett. Later with his own group he has recorded tributes to Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans.
Chuck Israels (1961-1966)
Bassist Chuck Israels (1936) studied cello and bass. His musical training took place at the High School of Performing Arts in New York and the City Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. He has worked with Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, J. J. Johnson, John Coltrane, and many others. Chuck Israels is best known for his work with the Bill Evans Trio from 1961 through 1966. In 1961, on returning from an European tour, Chuck was asked to join the Bill Evans Trio, filling in the role vacated by the tragic accidental death of bassist Scott Lafaro. The next five years Chuck developed a strong relationship within the Bill Evans trio with the drummers Paul Motian and Larry Bunker. Among Chuck’s many recordings, some outstanding ones include many recordings with the Bill Evans Trio, including Moonbeams, How My Heart sings, The Town Hall Concert, Trio ’65, Time Remembered and Live at Shelley’s Manne Hole.
Larry Bunker (1963-1965)
Eddie Gomez (1966-1977)
Drummer Larry Bunker (1928–2005) taught himself to play the drums along with piano. He was a central figure on the West Coast jazz scene and performed with Shorty Rogers, Stan Getz and Barney Kessel .He recorded with Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee. He was drummer in one of the first groups of Art Pepper and Gerry Mulligan. From 1963 to 1965, he was, after Paul Motian left the trio, intermittently, the drummer in the Bill Evans trio, fitting well into the pianist’s superintuitive settings.
Bassist Eddie Gomez (1944), born in Puerto Rico, emigrated at a young age to the United States and graduated from Juilliard in 1963. He is perhaps most notable for his work done with the Bill Evans trio from 1966 to 1977. He would spend a total of eleven years with the Bill Evans Trio, which included performances throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, as well as dozens of recordings. He performaned with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Marian McPartland, Paul Bley, Wayne Shorter, Steve Gadd, Jeremy Steig, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Al Foster and Chick Corea.
Arnold Wise (1966)
Shelly Manne (1962 and 1966)
Arnold Wise is tastefully supportive drummer. He has recorded with the Bill Evans Trio, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and The Claude Bolling Trio. A seasoned professional, he has also performed with Jimmy Giuffre, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins and The Monty Alexander Trio. He has recently recorded an album with bassist, Chuck Israels and pianist Jon Mayer. The only release of the Bill Evans trio with drummer Arnold Wise was “Bill Evans At Town Hall”, otherwise he only appears on a some “Secret Sessions” tracks.
Shelly Manne (1920-1984) was regarded as a most versatile and musical drummer, he was a founding father of the West Coast jazz scene in the 1950s. Manne possessed a phenomenal technique, which he channeled into some of the most creative, lyrical drumming ever heard. His solos were unique, sometimes humorous, and above all else, musical. From 1960 to 1972 Manne operated his own nightclub, Shelly’s Manne-Hole, in Hollywood. Manne worked with Stan Kenton, also touring with Jazz at the Philharmonic and gigging with Woody Herman. After leaving Kenton, Manne moved to Los Angeles where he became the most in-demand of all jazz drummers. He began recording as a leader on a regular basis starting in 1953 when he first put together the quintet Shelly Manne and His Men. He plays on “Empathy” and “A Simple Matter of Conviction”.
Monty Budwig (1962)
Gary Peacock (1964)
Monty Budwig (1926-1992) is a very valuable bassist who on the West Coast was part of a countless number of recordings sessions (including a few dozen for the Concord label in the 1970’s and 80’s), Monty Budwig could always be relied upon to swing a band, take melodic solos and play the perfect note for the right situation while being content to remain in the background. Budwig played bass while in high school. In 1954 he moved to Los Angeles where he eventually became a fixture in the studios and was greatly in demand for West Coast-style jazz groups. Among Budwig’s many musical experiences were playing with Barney Kessel, the Red Norvo Trio, Zoot Sims, Woody Herman’s Orchestra, Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers, Terry Gibbs, Benny Goodman, Carmen McRae, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, the Lighthouse All Stars in the 1980’s. He plays only on the album “Empathy”.
Gary Peacock’s (1935) musical career has spanned many musical styles and decades. Born in Idaho, Peacock became serious about music when he was 13, and played drums and piano before recognizing the acoustic bass as his true instrument. Since 1957, he has played and recorded with both “mainstream” and “avant-garde” jazz luminaries, including Art Pepper, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Albert Ayler, Paul Bley, Jimmy Giuffre, Jan Garbarek, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, and Herbie Hancock. He has also ventured into world music, recording with both guitarist Laurendo Almeida and sitarist Ravi Shankar. He plays only on the album “Trio ’64”.