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Larry Kart

Further thoughts on the Resonance Bill Evans titles

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Many of of us have noticed Bill Evans' tendency to rush in his later years. This is particularly noticeable, I think, on the "Turn Out the Stars" Vanguard recordings from 1980, and I speculatively attributed this to Evans' use of cocaine at that point in his life. (How disturbing if at all, Evan's tendency to accelerate might be depends on the tastes and tolerance of the individual listener, of course, and I associated this in any case with Evans' cocaine use in that period of his career and life. )

Now, however, working my way through the two new Resonance releases -- "In London" from 1969 and "At the Top of the Gate" from 1968, both which in general I prefer musically to the "Turn Out the Stars" performances -- I find that the same tendency to rush crops up in '68-'69, a decade before "Turn Out the Stars." I don't have a metronome, but I would guess that some tracks (e.g. ""Waltz for Debby" and "Who Can I Turn To" on the "London" album) accelerate as much as 25 or 30 percent). How much difference that will make to you, if indeed I'm right about this,  is again up to you. I'm still trying to figure out whether this primarily was the result of Evans' musical-emotional impulses at the time or more a byproduct of drug use, as I think it was ten years further on). If it was the former, it feels like a sort of puzzle, if you will -- i.e. what was Evans thinking/feeling in '68, '69 that made acceleration more of a "choice" than an unavoidable symptom, as I think it probably was in 1980. Then there's the question of how much and why rushing matters aesthetically. Is it, as think it might be on the Resonance albums, somehow or in part expressive, a "window" into the working of Evans' soul at the time. Or is it, as I feel it to be on much of "Turn Out the Stars," merely or mostly a symptom that is no more expressive than, say, an irregular heartbeat.

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I've read complaints (possibly in customer reviews) that there was some rushing through songs on that '64 trio with Philly Joe. Some ascribe that to Jones pushing the tempo, but I'm not so sure. 

Have you also noticed any rushing during those final recorded performances from the Keystone Korner Last Waltz performances? I haven't listened to them so I don't know. 

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It's been a while since I've listened to this Last Waltz performances, which I recall finding much more successful that I feared they might be. Oddly enough perhaps I don't recall much rushing there --certainly not as much as on some tracks of "Turn Out the Stars." Not being a user of cocaine or methadone myself (thanks be), I don't know for sure how either of those drugs would affect someone's sense of tempo -- though I think, anecdotally, of the former as a stimulant and of the latter as a depressant.Taking both at the same time, which I think Evans might have done at times, and who know what you might get? Rushing with the Philly Joe of '64 on drums would be fairly inevitable. 

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FWIW, I think the final Keystone recordings are much more successful than the last ones from the Vanguard.  ... Not even close. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Interesting. I'll have to check out the Keystone material. 

Of the Resonance releases, I have the other 2 with DeJohnette - Some Other TIme (which has Jack extremely low in the mix, almost inaudible for most of the recording) and Another Time from Hilversum, which are both from June of '68 - a few months before the Lugoff's set. 

Another Time has "Who Can I Turn To" which is not on Some Other Time, and neither have "Waltz For Debby". I feel like I should revisit these to see if there's any noticeable rushing...haven't noticed before but my ear isn't exactly trained.  

Not a drug abuser, but I know and have known several. Yayo was big for many in college and it definitely effects future behavior for those who become addicted. I'd wager it definitely contributed to Bill rushing through songs - the brain manipulation would probably cut off or stop short any sort of empathy/synergy with band members along with the audience.  

 

Edit to add: Maybe the rushing has something to do with Morrell as drummer in a live setting as well? :shrug[1]:

Edited by Dub Modal

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I think he was just a twisted cat whose pocket changed as his character (and body) aged. I don't find the changes in the least attractive, but many others feel otherwise.

In the end, it is what it is, and now that he's been dead for so long, I doubt there's any further revelations forthcoming, necessary, or desirable.

If you like those records, there's plenty of them. Enjoy!

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20 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I think he was just a twisted cat whose pocket changed as his character (and body) aged. I don't find the changes in the least attractive, but many others feel otherwise.

In the end, it is what it is, and now that he's been dead for so long, I doubt there's any further revelations forthcoming, necessary, or desirable.

If you like those records, there's plenty of them. Enjoy!

 

Fwiw, I don't find the changes attractive either, but given that he was an artist of substance who was damaging/altering that substance in all the ways we know about "as his character (and body) aged," I find that there are times when I want to try to figure out what was going on there -- both in terms of what Evans gave us and also to help me better understand what other artists did or are doing to themselves along those lines.

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I just don't care.

"What was going on there"? He was a fucked-up dude and his piano playing changed. That's about all there is to know afaic. That and i don't like the way it changed.

If the music engaged me, I might, but it doesn't. If anything, it repels me (not repulse, repel, as in reflexively pushes me in the opposite direction of where it is)). I can tell what he was, and what he became. His choices, and if I feel a need to figure out why a once-attractive person goes into that zone, I don't need to look as far away as Bill Evans to find case studies.

It is what it is. People are alive, they make choices, they change as they do, and then they die. Can't/don't/won't care about every individual as that happens, just some.

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Late Bill Evans = Weekend at Bernie's of jazz?

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I still like most of it.

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6 minutes ago, jlhoots said:

I still like most of it.

Same here. 

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3 minutes ago, jlhoots said:

I still like most of it.

Yeah, me too. 

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Posted (edited)

Personally, I like the more intense he got as the Turn Out The Stars box set shows.   That's because I like really aggressive playing which has always been my taste since I was a kid, hence latching to Jimmy Smith early on, Blakey, more recently, Hiromi... etc. That said I also love more reflective playing too.

Edited by CJ Shearn

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I don't know if it's accurate to equate playing on top of the beat with "aggressive". Wynton Kelley played on top of the beat and nobody thinks of him as "aggressive"?

Later Evans, it's not a question of aggression, necessarily, it's just that the motherfucker rushes. He doesn't just play on top of the beat, the plays ahead of it. For anybody else that would be a disqualifying trait, but for whatever reason there are plenty of people who aren't bothered by it when Bill Evans does it, so...He got into that habit at some point in the 60s, then it took root and grew. I'm loathe to equate it with simple drug use, but the question of psycho-neuro changes are real enough, changes both mental and physical. And it also raises the question of whether or not that was his natural self to begin with, if maybe the reason he was so chill to begin with was peer-pressure to not play so goddamn rush-y?

But - unless any of us were there, none of us will really have any insight into the truth of what it was, and those who were...well, what's the old saying, gentlemen don't tell? And that applies to ladies as well. People.

The whole thing seems sordid to me, actually, and there's not the music to make up for it, not for me. Same thing with the whole Chet Baker thing, but at least Bill Evans at one point had a vision.

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Posted (edited)

Evans rushed also when playing solo in the mid 60s (see clip from 1966 below) . That would have been well before his cocaine period, so I assume that he just had a tendency to rush for most of his career. 

Personally, I think rushing might be distracting, but how much so depends on the context. Aside from the accelerated tempo, I like his playing in this clip. 

 

For reference, he's going from 148 to 188 BPM in two minutes (31 percent increase). 

Edited by Daniel A

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The only "late" Evans I have is "the Last Waltz" box. I bought it 12 years ago and can't remember listening. When I "jones" for some Bill I always gravitate to the early Riversides.

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53 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I don't know if it's accurate to equate playing on top of the beat with "aggressive". Wynton Kelley played on top of the beat and nobody thinks of him as "aggressive"?

Later Evans, it's not a question of aggression, necessarily, it's just that the motherfucker rushes. He doesn't just play on top of the beat, the plays ahead of it. For anybody else that would be a disqualifying trait, but for whatever reason there are plenty of people who aren't bothered by it when Bill Evans does it, so...He got into that habit at some point in the 60s, then it took root and grew. I'm loathe to equate it with simple drug use, but the question of psycho-neuro changes are real enough, changes both mental and physical. And it also raises the question of whether or not that was his natural self to begin with, if maybe the reason he was so chill to begin with was peer-pressure to not play so goddamn rush-y?

But - unless any of us were there, none of us will really have any insight into the truth of what it was, and those who were...well, what's the old saying, gentlemen don't tell? And that applies to ladies as well. People.

The whole thing seems sordid to me, actually, and there's not the music to make up for it, not for me. Same thing with the whole Chet Baker thing, but at least Bill Evans at one point had a vision.

Interesting points.  Yes later Evans is ahead of the beat, but I don't personally find that a problem.  Maybe because I'm of a generation where it's more common? IDK.

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On top of the beat and ahead of the beat are two entirely different places....especially when it's not really  part of a manipulation.

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

I don't know if it's accurate to equate playing on top of the beat with "aggressive". Wynton Kelley played on top of the beat and nobody thinks of him as "aggressive"?

Later Evans, it's not a question of aggression, necessarily, it's just that the motherfucker rushes. He doesn't just play on top of the beat, the plays ahead of it. For anybody else that would be a disqualifying trait, but for whatever reason there are plenty of people who aren't bothered by it when Bill Evans does it, so...He got into that habit at some point in the 60s, then it took root and grew. I'm loathe to equate it with simple drug use, but the question of psycho-neuro changes are real enough, changes both mental and physical. And it also raises the question of whether or not that was his natural self to begin with, if maybe the reason he was so chill to begin with was peer-pressure to not play so goddamn rush-y?

But - unless any of us were there, none of us will really have any insight into the truth of what it was, and those who were...well, what's the old saying, gentlemen don't tell? And that applies to ladies as well. People.

The whole thing seems sordid to me, actually, and there's not the music to make up for it, not for me. Same thing with the whole Chet Baker thing, but at least Bill Evans at one point had a vision.

About Chet -- allowing for times when he was totally out of it, arguably he got better as he got older, which seems miraculous if you go by the way he looked.

BTW, as Jim says, playing on top of the beat and rushing are not the same thing. One could play right on top of the beat and never deviate a hair tempo-wise. IIRC Shelly Manne was known for never rushing one bit.

A while ago sgcim posted about pianist John Mehegan who notoriously rushed and a bassist who took revenge by deliberately doing the same thing to him on a gig to the point where Mehegan couldn't keep up and then asking "So how do you like it?"

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8 hours ago, JSngry said:

I think he was just a twisted cat whose pocket changed as his character (and body) aged.

Not to mention the leisure suit, which had more to do with it than anything, IMO. 

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

On top of the beat and ahead of the beat are two entirely different places....especially when it's not really  part of a manipulation.

Can you explain how so? I'd like to learn about this... if we use Jimmy Smith as a base since he's one of my favs.. wouldn't he play on top or slightly ahead? Hank obviously plays way behind

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The 1960s is the missing link for Bill Evans.  He no longer sounds like 1950s Bill Evans, but he had not yet started to rock the leisure suit look, which we all find very sessy.

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30 minutes ago, CJ Shearn said:

Can you explain how so? I'd like to learn about this... if we use Jimmy Smith as a base since he's one of my favs.. wouldn't he play on top or slightly ahead? Hank obviously plays way behind

It's a matter of pocket, which, I know, no objective measurement about that, but sorry Digitals, there are things in between that you haven't gotten to yet.

The word "pocket", you think about the implications of that word, it's something that is enclosed, finite, but with a lot of room on all sides, it can even bulge, it can fold up on itself, it's pretty damn flexible, a pocket is,, but when something comes out of your pocket, it's no longer there, it's someplace else altogether. It's gone from one place to another. When you're in the pocket, you can be an infinite # of places, but when you're OUT of the pocket, no matter where else you might be, you are NOT in the pocket.

Time/pockets, yes, it is subjective to a certain extent, but at some point...if it comes out, it's just not in there any more. Something's gone wrong. On top of the pocket, good, deep in the pocket, hey. OUT of the pocket, though, UH-oh.

I started out saying that Bill Evans' pocket changed, and it sure did. I don't know that he ever lost it relative to within himself, he was too much a musician for that to happen, but something happened for some reason, and he definitely started playing with a pocket that was arguably too far ahead of the group's established beat that it was ..unpleasant.

I get that there are many respectable opinions who either don't hear this, or aren't bothered by it, or actually even like it, so, you know something for every taste and all that. What i do hear is the harmony, that could be pretty interesting, but that time....it displeases me in a basic way.

But that's just me, right?

Above all else, though - if you want to learn about time - don't rely just on a metronome or any other measuring device that is so freaking literal. You need that, but not just that. Time is not a literal thing, it's a constant, you can never go where time is not. So pay attention to the in-betweens, the seemingly irregular, not everything lines up in standard measurable symmetries. time is a WHOLE, not a part. Nobody can get it all at once, because if you did, WHOAH!, right? But be open to time as a concept, a process, not just a measurement.

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51 minutes ago, Teasing the Korean said:

The 1960s is the missing link for Bill Evans.  He no longer sounds like 1950s Bill Evans, but he had not yet started to rock the leisure suit look, which we all find very sessy.

What does "sessy"mean?

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Posted (edited)

15 minutes ago, Larry Kart said:

What does "sessy"mean?

If you gotta ask...

Oh, come on, you know...

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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