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Since using bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian
in his Jazz trio configuration between 1959 and 1961,
pianist Bill Evans continued performing with this preferred
format until his untimely death. As a bandleader, Evans
embraced the freedom and flexibility that was available
without horns, thereby bringing forward the technical
and melodic possibilities of the double bass, and allowing
it to engage in contrapuntal dialogues with the piano.
From then on, the bass player in a Jazz trio was liberated.

“Bill Evans Trio: The Oslo Concerts” is a 73-minute DVD
of performances recorded in 1966 and 1980, and
released by the Shanachie label during 2007. The 1966
concert was filmed in black and white, at the Oslo Munch
Museum. This 30-minute set of seven songs included
such favorites as “Stella by Starlight” and “Autumn Leaves,”
and featured bassist Eddie Gomez (1944 – ) and drummer
Alex Riel (1940 – ).

Shot before a polite but appreciative audience, Evans’
subtle vocal lead-ins, melodic figures of irregular lengths
and his light, lyric touch were evident. Riel’s use of brushes
throughout the set provided tasteful accompaniment.

Although I appreciated the freedom that Evans (1929-1980)
granted his players, I found Gomez to be overly concerned
with performing lightning-fast runs, often providing an
abundance of extraneous noise from the sounds of the
strings slapping against the fingerboard. I also noticed
that the actual pitch of his notes tended to fall by
the wayside.

The second concert from 1980 was filmed at the
Molde Jazz Festival. It was slightly longer and featured
bassist Marc Johnson (1953 – ) and drummer
Joe LaBarbera (1948 – ). The four songs performed
during this set were “The Person I Knew,”
“Days of Wine and Roses,” “Your Story,” and “Nardis.”
I liked Johnson’s bass playing much more, and found
it imaginative with better intonation. Stylistically, there
were few if any differences between this concert and
the earlier one; although, Evans did play longer solos.
The DVD also contained an informative interview with Evans.

These concerts are documented performances by one
of the most influential Jazz musicians of his generation,
performing with his preferred, three-man configuration.