Rifftides reader Mike Harris (more about him later) alerts us to a little-known piece of video catching Bill Evans in rehearsal for a 1966 Danish television broadcast. The 21-minute sequence lets us see and hear Evans and his trio preparing pieces he frequently included in his playlists: “Very Early,” “Who Can I Turn To,” “If You Could See Me Now” and, toward the end, “Five,” his rhythmically demanding original based on the “I Got Rhythm” chord progression. The trio includes bassist Eddie Gomez, who had recently joined Evans, and the young Danish drummer Alex Riel, whom Evans patiently instructs in the convolutions of “Five.” We don’t customarily post videos of this length, but we don’t often have this kind of opportunity to witness music being prepared.
Mike Harris, who tipped us to that video, is the dedicated Bill Evans fan who surreptitiously recorded the pianist at the Village Vanguard over nine years in the 1960s and ‘70s. In 1996, producer Orrin Keepnews and engineers Joe Tarantino Kirk Felton transformed the Harris tapes into the eight-CD Evans set The Secret Sessions. In those recordings, Evans is heard with bassists Gomez and Teddy Kotick and a variety of drummers including Philly Joe Jones, Jack DeJohnette, Eliot Zigmund and Marty Morell. Here is a lightly edited excerpt from my notes that box set:
It is impossible to know whether Bill Evans would have agreed to release of the Harris tapes, but in a Canadian interview a few months before he died, he made an observation that addressed the general proposition of unauthorized taping and of the contrast between live club performance and studio recordings.
“You’re never going to hear on record what you may hear live,” he said. “Our best performance is gone into the atmosphere. We never have have really gotten on record that special peak that happens fairly often. And there’s nothing like that physical contact with an audience.”