Bill Evans: Evans In England / Wes Montgomery: Back On Indiana Avenue

Hot on the heels of last year’s revelatory Eric Dolphy release, Resonance Records returns this spring with two essential sets of previously unheard jazz bliss, all presented with characteristic care and love.

First up, we’ve got Evans In England, a double-disc collection that captures Bill Evans with his longtime rhythm section of bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell at Ronnie Scott’s in London at the tail end of 1969. These are audience recordings, but they’re shockingly clear and intimate — as good as “amateur” tapes get, really. And the performances are absolutely great. Evans, unlike his peers at the time, wasn’t interested in modernizing his sound, sticking to the straight-ahead piano trio approach and standards-heavy repertoire that was his bread and butter. But it’d be a mistake to call the music on Evans In England “conservative;” masterful is more like it. The interplay between the musicians crackles as Evans lets his imagination run wild over the keys. He never needed electricity to set off sparks.

Next, we head back to legendary guitarist Wes Montgomery’s pre-fame days on Back On Indiana Avenue, which collects more than two hours of recordings made by fan and fellow musician Carroll Decamp. Resonance has dug deep into this era on previous Montgomery releases, but it doesn’t seem like the well has run dry yet. There’s amazing stuff here, from informal house jams to studio sessions that illustrate Wes’ early prowess. Particularly strong are the piano quartets that kick the set off, with Montgomery leading a small group through a handful of whip-smart tunes – the version of Miles Davis’ then brand-new “So What” is a complete delight, with plenty of Montgomery’s typically dazzling licks. words / t wilcox

Related: Eric Dolphy: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions