Verve Records / Acoustic Sounds / UMe V6-8613/B0033124-01
Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ****½
Overall Enjoyment: ****½
When Verve Records and Acoustic Sounds reissued Bill Evans’s Trio 64 on vinyl in July 2021, it was originally intended to be released simultaneously with a second Evans title on Verve, Trio ’65. Supply chain issues, along with increased demand at pressing plants, caused schedule changes for many labels, and Verve was no exception. Trio ’65 was delayed, and finally made its appearance as part of the Verve / Acoustic Sounds reissue program on July 1, 2022, a year later than planned.
Evans recorded Trio ’65 in February 1965 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, with Chuck Israels on bass and Larry Bunker on drums. It was Evans’s second studio recording with a trio for Verve. Israels played on many of the pianist’s Verve sessions, but this was one of only two studio sessions Bunker did with Evans. The other was another Verve release, Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra (1966).
I have a CD copy of Trio ’65, reissued by Verve and Polygram Records in 1993. Suha Gur remastered the album for CD, while Ryan Smith remastered this new LP release from the original analog tapes. I compared the CD and the new pressing, beginning with the opening track: a John Carisi composition, “Israel.” Gur’s CD sounded very good to me, with none of the compression commonly used on CD releases in the ’90s, even for jazz reissues. It sounded balanced, warm, and musical.
When I turned to the vinyl reissue, my first impression was that Israels and Bunker were better served by Smith’s mastering on the Acoustic Sounds release. Individual notes on Israels’s bass lines were stated firmly, and I got a clearer picture of his technique and attack. His bass was more fully toned, open-sounding, and resonant during his solo. Bunker’s snare drum had a stronger, more three-dimensional ring to it; his kickdrum moved more air and generated a solid reverb echo.
Evans’s piano was more expansive on the new pressing. Individual notes on “Elsa” sounded out more energetically, and the chords accompanying melody lines sustained longer and were more sonorous. I was once again impressed by how clearly Israels’s playing rang out and the amount of energy he brought to the session. Small details of Bunker’s brushwork were also more audible, and I got a stronger impression of his quick responses to the changes by the other two musicians.
Evans had already played many of tunes on Trio ’65 on other sessions, but “Who Can I Turn To?” only debuted the previous year in the Anthony Newley / Leslie Bricusse musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd. Evans opens his version with a series of intervals and chords that state the opening theme, and this new pressing conveys more convincingly that he’s playing a full-sized acoustic instrument. The piano sounded larger and harmonically fuller than it did on the CD. Evans’s command of the instrument—his use of the piano pedals and his finely tuned intuition for when to use force and when to back off—was more evident.
The CD had a bit of distortion in the opening moments of “Who Can I Turn To?” that I could also hear when I streamed the song on Amazon Music. This new reissue did not have that issue, which led me to wonder if Smith had used a better, first-generation tape that Gur didn’t have access to.
Throughout this new pressing, I could hear variations in dynamics by all three players that made the music more thrilling. The increased amount of detail allowed me to appreciate the skill and attention each musician contributed to the session. I came away with a greater appreciation for Israels’s ongoing musical conversation with Evans during the album’s eight tracks, and of Bunker’s subtle interaction with the other two players. I could hear his cymbals clearly and visualize them on the soundstage more easily.
The vinyl and packaging for Trio ’65 were up to the standards of this series, although my LP had a very slight warp that didn’t affect play. The vinyl was as silent as I’ve come to expect from Quality Record Pressings. The LP was housed in a heavy cardboard cover, with tipped-on artwork, printed at Stoughton Printing. The image quality and color reproduction on my copy looked good, but I don’t have an original pressing to compare. The record was protected by a static-free inner sleeve.
As I noted at the beginning of this review, Verve and Acoustic Sounds reissued another Evans LP, Trio 64, last year. You can still find copies of that reissue at online retailers, and it has the same mastering and materials standards as Trio ’65. The lineup featured Gary Peacock on bass and Paul Motian on drums, and I’m tempted to say it’s the more essential Evans release of the two. Peacock and Motian were somewhat more experimental in their approaches and pushed Evans into some interesting territory.
On the other hand, the Israels/Bunker trio’s take on Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” demonstrated a flexible feel for time and mood, and Bunker’s role as timekeeper and colorist reminded me of the kind of playing Motian often did with Evans. Both of these releases present fine Evans outings for Verve, a label he would be with until the end of the ’60s. Even if you have clean original pressings, I’m willing to bet you’ll hear the improvements from Smith’s mastering. If, like me, you only have them on CD, don’t hesitate to pick up both well-done, beautifully packaged LPs.
. . . Joseph Taylor