The 2 cd set for The Complete Tony Bennett Bill Evans Recordings recently released from Concord Records provides 21 tracks on disc one from 1975’s Tony Bennett/Bill Evansalbum, as well as another full 20 tracks of ‘alternate takes’ on disc 2 for those real keeners who want to compare multiple versions of different songs. And actually, all joking aside these alternatives are much more diverse than you could imagine and surprisingly good to have. If you are already a Tony Bennett fan, you will, most assuredly, love this collection; however, if you are a Bill Evans fan who doesn’t necessarily embrace the musical chemistry that occurred when he and Bennett teamed up (and even if you don’t care for it, the magic has been documented too heavily to be denied) you might be disappointed. Evans’ piano playing by its very nature is so understated and sensitive, skittering across the surface like a water boatman and its fragile beauty is often overwhelmed by Tony’s trademark, belt-it-out delivery. Waltz for Debbie one of my own personal favourites, just withers away under Bennett’s strident take and I much prefer the piece sans vocals at all.
Bill Evans of course is known for the distinction of having been the only white guy in Miles Davis’ sextet and for his contributions to the highly acclaimed Kind of Blue album. Evans’ barely-there but sensitive, highly intelligent piano work (he often drew from the canon of classical composers for his source and inspiration) as well as an supernatural ability to improvise intuitively with other musicians made him a charismatic and respected musician. Sadly, like many other jazz musicians, Bill Evans personal life would be destroyed by ongoing drug addiction and he passed away in 1980.
Everyone knows Tony Bennett and even though he has become something of a lounge-lizard icon in recent years, it’s important to remember how coolly innovative and cutting-edge he really was when he first gained recognition in the early fifties. And let’s not forget that I Left My Heart in San Francisco held its own in the charts for nearly an entire year. Fast forward to 2008 when Bennett released a superb, swinging Christmas album A Swingin’ Christmas with the Count Basie Big Band – and hey, by the way, the guy is over 80 years old. Clearly, doing what you love – and doing it well – is good for the heart.
Check out the playlist below and sample a few to catch the vibe!