Backward Glances #4:


“Backward Glances” – #4

 All my LP records were in storage in NJ beginning in 1994, and I have recently been reunited with the survivors here in Oz after a depressing trip to The States in late 2016. Ergo, this occasional series as a celebration of being able to hear some of my favorite music again!

Another Alan Douglas production from 1962 for United Artists also comes to mind as quite worthy! This was an intelligent meeting of two musical minds (Jim Hall and Bill Evans) who had not done so as a duo as far as I know. The package is encased in top drawer album art, but it is unfortunately totally ruined by a full page of so-called “notes” essay in absolute throwaway gibberish by one “Barry J. Titus”, which he sums up by his inserting “I don’t know what to say” near the end of his wasted babbling[1]. (Oh, really?) In such cases, the intelligent thing to do would be to cleverly remain silent and follow the dictum that less is more in such cases. If one has nothing notable or informational to say, say nothing… he did not do that, and, so, he wasted the bonus space of the double-fold package!

I always thought that the cover photo art (a woman floating in still water with face out, taken from underwater) was appropriate to the title and the feel of the album. My partner has been grossed out by it and interprets it as a floating female corpse and totally anti-feminist. I suppose that one sees what one sees, and then one takes whatever that image is to them away with them. It’s just an album of jazz piano/guitar duets, not some massive political statement, folks! The music is what’s of import here.

Aside from that hoo-ha, what we have to hand is the Bill Evans & Jim Hall LP “Undercurrent” (United Artists – UAJ 14003) to consider for its musical value. Jim was always one musician worth paying attention to as he often pushed into unusual and challenging areas of musical performance. Witness his work in Sonny Rollins’ unexpected “post-bridge” quartet, or the group he later co-lead with Art Farmer (ca. ’62/’63) on Atlantic Records. Bill Evans first came to our major notice as a result of his time with a Miles Davis quintet, then his Riverside Records albums, and he never left center stage after that! Each here has their own “sound” on their respective instruments, yet they manage to blend beautifully throughout. These guys were pros in all ways.

Their choice of repertoire was three “standards” (“My Funny Valentine”, “I Hear a Rhapsody”, “Darn That Dream”) a Hall original (“Romaine”), a song I’d never heard of (Dream Gypsy” by singer Judith Veevers , plus John Lewis’ “Skating in Central Park”. Whatever, the playing is deep, wide, and beautiful throughout, with the Lewis piece being the standout track for me. The album is readily available via the internet in many forms, including a version with a couple of alternative versions from the session of “Valentine”, and “Romain”, plus additional versions of “Stairway to the Stars” and “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”. Whatever your choice, ignore the original “notes” and enjoy the musical notes put forth by these two giants of jazz. You will not be disappointed. The Blue Note CD from 2002 has two alternate takes and two additional songs on it… nothing tastes good like good taste – nothing tastes good like good taste über alles; this has it in spades! Lovely and thoughtful music through and through!

PETER B. LOWRY                                                                         Sydney 2018

[1] Is this meant to be humorous? If so, it’s not even close to jocular, much less funny. WASTED SPACE!

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