Jazz

Haunting Explorations

01 SEP 11 CHRIS SLAWECKI

During the Bill Evans Trio's recording sessions for Explorations (1961), producer Orrin Keepnews was famously quoted for noting that pianist Evans, bassist Scott LaFaro, and drummer Paul Motian, were becoming "a three voice unit rather than a piano player and his accompanists." Explorations now maps uncharted ground with four bonus cuts, two previously unissued, as a new title in the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series.

Evans' piano touch makes every note on Explorations vibrate and shimmer. His exploration of the dark "Haunted Heart" is frighteningly beautiful. His sharp, crystalline piano tones ring out Miles Davis' "Nardis" like a singing bell, cast "Beautiful Love" in blue block chords, and gently swing the waltzing melody "Elsa." He guides Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is The Ocean?" into a light dance, softly nibbles on the ruminative "I Wish I Knew," and so cheerily throws off the shackles to skip through "Sweet & Lovely" that your ears might wonder if you're listening to a different pianist.

Just about every drum, bass, and piano solo is magnificent. Even so, Evans' music is not about virtuosity. It's about the expression and communication of a shared lyrical vision, and these explorations are visionary.

Believe it or not, Explorations -- the follow-up to their 1960 Portrait In Jazz debut-- was this historic trio's second, and final, studio recording: Sunday At The Village Vanguard and Waltz For Debby, both released later this same year, were live recordings. It was also one of Evans' personal favorite sessions with his greatest band.