Bill Evans, Everybody Digs Bill Evans (1958)

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by S. Victor Aaron

The classic record showcasing the masterful piano of a just-maturing Bill Evans is back. More to the point, it returns in 24-bit remastered form as part of Orrin Keepnews’currently running “Keepnews Collection” reissue campaign, straight from the original producer of such notable jazz records by Chet Baker, Art Blakey, Joe Henderson (which was recently covered here), and this key album by Evans.

A rare Bill Evans record from the 1950’s (there’s only his debut album New Jazz Conceptions, Portrait In Jazz and the belatedly released On Green Dolphin Street to round out his solo output from this decade), he was already a fully-formed talent following his stint in the Miles Davis Septet.

Of course, every jazz fan today does dig Bill Evans, but back in 1958, little else but anybody who was a jazz somebody was aware of him and his immense ability. Fortunately, one of those “somebodies” was jazz producer, critic and Riverside Records co-founder Keepnews. As his producer, record company and friend, Keepnews often struggled to get a studio-shy Evans to cut some wax. The testimonials from jazz giants like Miles Davis, George Shearing and Ahmad Jamal right on the front album cover was his attempt to spread the word of this exciting new talent to the jazz-buying public so it wouldn’t quickly descend into oblivion like the critically well-received but poorly sold first effort.

It had been over two years since Evans’ lone release of the time and his recent departure from the Miles Septet, which immensely bolstered the blossoming piano player’s confidence, provided the right opportunity for Keepnews to cajole him into making that long-overdue second record. For these sessions, Evans chose fellow Davis Septet member Philly Joe Jones on drums and another “Jones,” Sam, on bass.

Bill came to know Sam through another Septet bandmember, Cannonball Adderley. Sam Jones, who had also played for Dizzy Gillespie, was a long time member of Cannon’s band because Adderley loved his steady playing and warm tone. Philly Joe is more widely recognized—a sort of legend among jazz drummers—and known for a more aggressive style of playing than his contemporaries of the time.

Unsurprisingly, the Joneses gave Evans solid support all throughout. There isn’t quite the magic with his rhythm section that Evans would achieve just a couple of years later with Motion and LaFaro, but these sessions offered a rare glimpse into how much his early playing still stood out even when he doesn’t have the benefit of a more familiar working band to enhance it.

Even as Evans was a “pretty” player who avoided rushing or stuffing his notes, Evans could swing and swing hard as he did on “Minority.” On this rendition of “Night And Day,” Bill is downright frisky, perhaps egged on by Philly Joe’s Latin-style percussion. The show tune “Young And Foolish” is trademark Evans in the way he phrases his notes in long, lyrical lines.

“Tenderly” gets my nod for the best track on here, simply because there was no pianist who could make a waltz sound as buoyant and melodic as Evans could, and he gives this tune the same kind of sublime treatment as he does his own standard “Waltz For Debby.”

The solo contemplative “Peace Piece,” one of Evans’ best known tunes, is here in original form. What is not as well known is that the tune is actually a reworking of Leonard Bernstein’s “Some Other Time,” and a version of that tune as it was played before it morphed into an Evans original is the bonus track on this release. As it turns out, the two songs aren’t much different from each other at all.

Ever much the promoter he is today as he was in 1958, Keepnews’ updated liner notes declares that Everybody Digs Bill Evans “might just possibly be my favorite Bill Evans album.” Personally, I think I’ll side with just about everyone else in calling those 1961 Village Vanguard sessions Evans’ most preferred recordings. Nevertheless, Everybody Digs Bill Evans contains all the reasons why the album’s title had over time changed from crafty marketing ploy into widely accepted consensus.

Purchase: Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill Evans

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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