Few musicians seemed less likely to make an impact on the New York jazz scene in the late Fifties than Bill Evans(1929-80), whose introspective solos and delicate touch were far removed from what was commonly considered "hard bop." Yet Evans was indeed heard, and quickly became one of the most influential musicians on any instrument of the last 40 years.
In 1955 Bill began working and recording with Tony Scott and George Russell. His subtly swinging, lucidly constructed solos with these leaders quickly attracted attention, and provided Evans with an opportunity to begin recording under his own name; but he was modest regarding his gifts, and for a time was reluctant to push himself into the limelight. All this changed after he spent several months during 1958 in Miles Davis's band, where he played alongside John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley as well as the trumpeter and became a central figure in Davis's shift to modal improvisation.
The period with Davis allowed Evans to organise his own trio, which featured bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian by the end of 1959. These three players developed a new and more interactive approach to trio playing, one in which all instruments carried melodic responsibilities and functioned as equal voices.
Portrait in Jazz was Bill Evans’ third album as a leader, following ‘New Jazz Conceptions’ (1956) and ‘Everybody Digs Bill Evans’ (1958). It was also Evans’ first album with the talented bassist Scott La Faro.
Their superb chemistry is evident from the very first tune and Evans was surely aware of that. As opposed to his previous albums, no solo piano selections were included here and the trio is heard throughout the whole album. The Evans-La Faro collaboration would reach a climax with their June 1961 club recordings at the Village Vanguard in New York. La Faro would die in a car accident soon after (on July 6, 1961), at the age of 25.
The repertoire here consists basically of standards (all of them treated in Evans’ very personal style) plus two originals: ‘Peri’s Scope’ - premiered on ‘Portrait In Jazz’, Evans wouldn’t record it again until 1967 - and ‘Blue In Green’, first recorded earlier that year with Miles Davis on ‘Kind Of Blue’.
CD in mini LP sleeve.