Bill Evans – Touch

Bill Evans - TouchBill Evans
by J. Barrett

It starts soft, and quickly grows on you. Happy voices ring out as keyboards grow thick. A soprano wends upward, gentle as the wind. And then it gets good. Evans picks up a tenor and gets gritty as the skyline shimmers behind him. A piano starts in the lounge, with bluesy fun on the solo. The soprano comes back, and we are whisked home. “Wild Ride” it’s called, but it’s more of a joy ride!

The sound throughout is thick, and Evans is often heard on multiple horns. “In Your Heart” is a great example: the soprano is mournful and wispy, the tenor down to earth – surging as the other soars. Guitars enter and leave, and the voices make a brief appearance. At times it’s a little dense, but the sound is intriguing.

More so is “Dixie Hop”, where many sounds form an unbreakable groove. The bass is fuzzy, the drums hard. Evans shouts tart little phrases; Wallace Roney answers with a wisecracking mute. They keep getting faster, and a wah-wah guitar joins in. The angular theme is sneaky, sort of an acid bop. Evans’ solo sounds like a clarinet, joined by propulsive piano. We then get a string section: snaky guitar on the left, echoes on the right, and wah-wah between. Roney darts slyly on his tiny bit, shades of Dizzy with a bit of Miles. Don’t know where this part of Dixie this is, but it’s a-hoppin’ all right!

From “Dixie” we go further south. It’s not a samba, but “Girl by the Sea” sounds vaguely Brazilian, with Lee Ritenour’s guitar rolling like the waves. The drum rocks gentle, the soprano flies, and the rhythm’s a warm breeze, blowing her hair. The voices help greatly, as does the arrangement – the band is the star. You wish you could watch the sea – and the girl – forever. But no– we return to the city. It’s called “Nashville Cowboys”, but bass and chorus tell us we’re further north. The tenor has that early-morning haze, and the piano slowly comes to life. The urban groove at full strength, Bill begins to strut, with a throaty swagger I love. The voices and the soprano return, and they ride into the sunset.

“Touch” is many things: massed Evanses on the chorus, dueling influences in the background (here a Cuban piano, there a circus guitar.) It’s a bit of light funk with a nice feel; Bill’s solo is thoughtful, a high soprano without the “wimpy” connotations. “Little Hands” is the smoothest thing here, Evans floating over piano musings. Guitars shimmer, and the piano sparkles like on “Wild Ride”. It’s a goodnight kiss, and quite warm.

“Back to the Wall” brings us taut bass, edgy tenor, guitars out of SHAFT, ominous chanting, and the return of Wallace Roney. Evans blows true against the splashy drums – an amazing series of high wails, low honks, and late-night growls. At once it grows quiet, and Roney creeps in. He’s open and bright, with round notes that look like Miles. He then takes the mute and dances with Evans, doing the Dixie Hop all over again. With a shout it’s over, and it would be a great ending, but?

“Country Mile” is dessert. Tough bass and tribal drums form a mood, to which Bill adds the tone of a flute. The gentle funk deepens, with the soprano gaining an edge. Adam Rogers gets intense, a rock solo slowly escalating to metal intensity. The voices are put to good use, a looping chant with deep roots. Evans adds his voice to theirs, a drifting reed among the villagers. Beautiful. In a rush of chords it’s over – almost. After a silence, there’s a second version. The vocals are more prominent, and put through a Vocoder – their impact is blunted. Rogers’ solo is more controlled, intense without histrionics. Evans has a tenor on this one, with a nice squawk; Vinnie Colaiuta pounds a storm in his brief solo. Roney seems to be in the theme but does not solo – a cause for despair. The solos are better here, but the techno-vocals hurt – the right version came first. It’s a fine effort, with many moods and a whole lot of sound. He says “I wrote music that I also like to listen to.” True indeed; I think you’ll like listening too!

Rating : *** ¾. The tunes are good, and I like it whenever Evans plays tenor. Roney is amazing – his cameos are edged in gold. I like “Dixie Hop”, “Girl by the Sea”, “Nashville Cowboys”, “Back to the Wall”, and both “Country Miles”.

Songs: One Wild Ride; In Your Heart; Remembering Those Times; Dixie Hop; Girl by the Sea; Nashville Cowboys; Touch; Little Hands Little Feet; Skippin’; Back to the Wall; Country Mile.

Musicians: Bill Evans (soprano and tenor saxes); Wallace Roney (trumpet); Lee Ritenour, Chuck Loeb, Dean Brown, Adam Rogers (guitars); Vinnie Colaiuta, Lionel Cordew, or Zach Danziger (drums); Jim Beard or Henry Hey (keyboards); Victor Bailey, Tim Lefebvre, or Mark Egan (bass); Manolo Badrena (percussion), and others.

For more info, visit the Zebra Records Web Site.