Bill Evans: Stuttgart, 1979

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The last two months of 1979 were murder on pianist Bill Evans. He was on tour in Europe with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera, booked into a different city each night. He also had a cold and looked haggard. Nevertheless, on November 26, he performed a spectacular concert at Espace Pierre Cardin in Paris. The results would appear on the two Paris Concert albums. Four days later, the trio was at Casale Monferratoin in Piedmont, Italy. Some nights on the tour, Evans was spectacular. On other nights, his playing was rushed or murky. One suspects that how he played had much to do with the quality of the piano on stage.

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On December 3, 1979, Bill Evans was in Stuttgart, Germany. He performed at the Liederhalle as part of the Treffpunkt Jazz Festival. Completed in 1956, the Liederhalle was and is considered one of Germany’s most extraordinary arts buildings of the 1950s. The original hall was destroyed during the war.

The Evans concert was taped and broadcast on SDR, the German radio station. The next day, Evans moved on to Lyon, France. Years later, the tape somehow made its way to Japan, where it was released as Bill Evans: Treffpunkt Jazz Festival 1979, a bootleg. It is extremely rare.

The tracks, in order of recording, are Noëlle’s Theme (piano solo), All of You, All Mine (Minha), Nardis, Re: Person I Knew, Laurie, I Loves You Porgy (piano solo), Up With the Lark (omit LaBarbera), Suicide Is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H) and But Beautiful.

This recording rivals Evans’s Paris Concert and, in places, exceeds it. Evans’s pacing is terrific, his tone is moving and his fingering is magical. It’s easily one of his finest live recordings. The Liederhalle must have had some piano.

Last week, Dave Thompson drew my attention to the fact that the individual tracks from this concert were up at YouTube. Here are all 10, in the order in which they were performed:

Here’s Noëlle’s Theme

Here’s All of You…

Here’s All Mine (Minha)…

Here’s Nardis…

Here’s Re: Person I Knew

Here’s Laurie…

Here’s I Loves You Porgy…

Here’s Up With the Lark…

Here’s Suicide Is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H)…

And here’s But Beautiful

      

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