Record of the Day: Bill Evans, "New Conversations"

Record of the Day: Bill Evans, “New Conversations”

Bill Evans
New Conversations (Cd Warner Bros. 2-3177)

In 1963 Bill Evans recorded an entire album made using the overdubbing technique, superimposing several pianos in a fascinating dialogue with himself aptly titled “Conversations with Myself” and unanimously judged among his masterpieces. In 1967 another album made in the same way followed, “Further Conversations”, also a favorite of the pianist's fans.

A very different fate has inexplicably befallen this “New Conversations”, from 1978, which closes this trilogy by also adding the soft voice of the Fender Rhodes electric piano. Rarely cited by critics and historiographers, the album is a work of art with a beauty that is difficult to describe, where Evans expresses all his pianistic and compositional genius in songs with a warm expressiveness, demonstrating a piano touch and an ability for improvisational construction that have few equals in the world.

Notice how Evans manages to articulate the different piano voices with absolute naturalness, so much so that it makes one think of a dialogue
simultaneously rather than overdubs. The themes composed for the occasion are unforgettable, from “Song
for Helene” to “Remembering The Rain”, “For Nenette” and “Maxine”, as are the versions of Ellington's “Reflections in D” and the Broadway classic “I Love My Wife”.

Unlike other albums, albeit magnificent, of these years (such as “Affinity” and “You Must Believe in Spring”) which often reflected the internal and physical torment that gripped Evans in the last period of his life, “New Conversations” shines of a serene light where the demons that the pianist injected into his veins (and the long series of personal losses that struck him then) are sublimated and transfigured into a crystalline dimension of extraordinary purity.
Helene Keane's production is perfect, with an enveloping general sound that gives an atmosphere of authentic intimacy where every slightest dynamic variegation evoked by Evans' hands finds the right resonance and is carefully highlighted.

The lesson of Debussy and Ravel, two founding pillars of Evans' language, is here now transformed into a personal language which for years had risen to levels of absolute expressive maturity reaching truly moving heights of beauty.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.