Original Jazz Classics Remasters: Bill Evans Trio, Wes Montgomery

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Of the latest batch of Original Jazz Classics reissued by Concord Music Group, two first hit records shops in the early ‘60s. Each benefits from 24-bit remastering by Joe Tarantino that restores sonic freshness to the original recordings. Newly written essays accompany the original album liner notes. The long-defunct jazz label Riverside Records celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and kudos are due to Concord Music Group for keeping that Riverside spirit alive. The following two albums were each originally produced by Riverside co-founder Orrin Keepnews.

As with its companion piece, the ballad collection Moon Beams, the tragic death of bass prodigy Scott LaFaro hangs over Bill Evans Trio’s How My Heart Sings!. These mid-1962 tracks are Evans’ first trio recordings to feature LaFaro’s replacement, Chuck Israels. Paul Motian remained behind the drum kit. The original album’s eight tunes are a mixture of standards (“Summertime,” “Ev’rything I Love”) and Evans compositions (“Walking Up,” “34 Skidoo,” “Show-Type Tune”). A previously-released bonus track, an alternate take of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” is joined by two additional bonus tunes exclusive to this reissue.

Evans’ solo isn’t as adventurous on the alternate take of his own “34 Skidoo,” one of the two “new” tracks. That’s not to say the alternate is without interest. Israels acquits himself nicely on both versions, each featuring a low-key, sympathetic bass solo. Cole Porter’s “Ev’rything I Love” is the other tune that now shows up twice. The album take features some of Evans’ most spritely, buoyantly lyrical playing on the album. On “Take 2,” he’s a little more languid, lending a subtly different mood to the newly unearthed alternate. Perhaps the most memorable performance on the album is its most commonly played tune, “Summertime.” This version positively percolates, with the new rhythm section gelling perfectly.

OJC So Much Guitar (200x200).jpgThough not billed as such, this reissue of So Much Guitar! is actually a Wes Montgomery twofer. The original eight-track album, released in 1961, is paired with the complete The Montgomery Brothers in Canada live release, also initially issued in 1961. That makes this particular Original Jazz Classics remaster a generous value. Montgomery’s guitar leads are dexterous as ever throughout the studio set, backed ably by a young Ron Carter on bass, Lex Humphries on drums, Hank Jones on piano, and Ray Barretto on congas. The live album finds Wes joined by brothers Buddy and Monk on vibes and bass, respectively. Paul Humphrey is on drums for this lively set recorded in Vancouver, B.C.

One only need absorb the opening and closing tracks of So Much Guitar! to appreciate the album’s variety. Montgomery’s “Twisted Blues” is a sizzling workout of an opener that makes room towards the end for choice riffing by Jones and Carter. The Mercer-Arlen standard “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” is the lengthiest piece, capturing the guitarist at his most gently melodic. Clocking in at just over two minutes, “While We’re Young” is a lovely solo guitar piece. Don’t underestimate the live tracks, all of which sound remarkable for their age. Most are standards, though the concluding “Beaux Arts” is an original by vibraphonist Buddy that’s a groove-oriented showcase for Wes’ guitar. For a staggering example of Buddy/Wes interplay, check the smoking take of Charlie Parker’s “Barbados.” This is two choice albums that together max out the capacity of the disc.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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