Pianist Bill Evans’ musically fruitful 1969 appearances in the Netherlands produced a trove of masterfully played records, which finally will receive authorized release on Elemental Music’s Behind the Dikes: The 1969 Netherlands Recordings. The album title is borrowed from Dutch producer Michiel de Ruyter’s (an original co-producer on these March 26, 1969 recordings) LP series Jazz Behind The Dikes on Philips in the 1950s.
Drawn from two March 1969 sessions in Hilversum — one at KRO Studio 1and the other at the famed VARA Studio 8 with the Metropole Orkest — and a date at the RAI Congrescentrum in Amsterdam that November, the collection will be initially released on Record Store Day (July 17) as a three-LP set, mastered at 33 1/3 RPM by Bernie Grundman and pressed at Standard Vinyl in Toronto, Canada. It will subsequently be issued on July 23rd as a two-CD package and as a digital download.
Produced in conjunction with the Bill Evans Estate and the Dutch producer and researcher Frank Jochemsen, the album is the first Evans project to be issued by Elemental Music, founded in 2013 by Spanish producer Jordi Soley and Resonance Records co-president Zev Feldman. Feldman, known as “the Jazz Detective” for his archival archaeological work, has made unearthing unheard and rare recordings by jazz giant Evans something of a personal specialty.
In 2020, Resonance released Live at Ronnie Scott’s, a previously unissued live recording of Evans’ short-lived 1968 trio featuring bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette. (Another live date from the same venue, Evans in England, came out the previous year.) The same band was featured on two previous, widely acclaimed Resonance releases, Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest (2016) and Another Time (2018); the latter was recorded at the Netherlands Radio Union’s famed Hilversum studio. Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate, released in 2012, was the company’s first Evans title.
Behind the Dikes co-producer Feldman says of the new Elemental title, “These recordings capture Evans at his very best, with his longest standing trio. I’m so happy to be working once again with Evan Evans and the Bill Evans Estate, Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell to officially present more music from Evans as part of his grand recorded legacy. It’s also a thrill to be joining forces once again with my co-producer Frank Jochemsen, who, with the support of Soley and executive producer Carlos Agustin from Elemental, was able to locate the original tape reels at the Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid in Amsterdam. I was also happy to assemble my creative production team that works with me on all my Resonance Records releases. I wanted this release to have the same style and feel and receive the same level of love and attention as those did. I think we achieved that here.”
Though the music on Behind the Dikes has never before received a legitimate release, some of it may be familiar to Evans aficionados as it has circulated in unofficial bootlegs. Noting his receipt of a tape from Hilversum in his 1998 biography Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings, Peter Pettinger wrote, “The group was in top form and very well recorded; like many European radio tapings, the session would make a fine CD.” The wait for an official release is now over.
Evans’ first Netherlands appearance of 1969 was at Hilversum on March 25, where he recorded “Granados” and “Pavane” – two classical adaptations originally arranged by Claus Ogerman for the 1966 Verve album Bill Evans Trio With Symphony Orchestra – backed by the Metropole Orkest, a 50-piece unit operated by Dutch public broadcaster NRU. The following night, Evans, Gomez, and Morell went to KRO Studio 1 in Hilversum, where they played the 14 numbers that serve as the core of the present album. On November 28, the trio performed six tunes at the RAI Congrescentrum as part of a multi-group show mounted in Amsterdam by the European Broadcast Union (EBU)
In his notes for Behind the Dikes, critic and historian Bert Vuijsje, who witnessed Evans’ 1969 Amsterdam show notes the formidable impression that the pianist left on jazz in his country: “Bill Evans made his live debut in the Netherlands relatively late in life but had a considerable impact on the Dutch jazz scene. His new sound was a significant influence on a whole generation of pianists, most of whom had previously played in the styles of Bud Powell, Horace Silver and Oscar Peterson.”
Among the Dutch players whose work bears the Evans imprint is Jan Huydts, who attended the March concert in Hilversum. He writes, “On my first LP Trio Conception, which I recorded in Berlin in 1963, I start ‘Autumn Leaves’ with a real Bill Evans-like intro. His harmonies were exceptional, of course…. He knew the jazz tradition and added his own harmonies. Ravel, Debussy, even Stravinsky, everything came into play.”
Marty Morell, whose seven-year tenure with Evans was the longest of any drummer, notes that overseas audiences were as affected by the pianist just as profoundly as musicians: “The audiences absolutely loved Bill. Bill could do no wrong. Bill could play three, four notes and the people would just fall over. Bill was totally, totally loved anywhere we played in Europe. Anywhere in the world, actually. The audiences were always, always extremely receptive. And you could feel the love coming from the audience.”
Eddie Gomez also speaks warmly to Feldman of his experience: “It was a very special time in my life and Bill’s music is embedded in me. There aren’t too many artists, very few, that touch me so deeply. And I’m not talking about my participation. I’m talking about how just Bill and his music could touch me so deeply, consistently, in so many ways.”
In his own interview with Feldman, the celebrated contemporary pianist Vijay Iyer offers his praise of Behind the Dikes: “It’s really a splendid document. It’s amazing to hear the band and its element over these multiple nights and hearing them stretch out and take some chances. Especially since it’s live, they’re trying to reach people. It’s not just, ‘Hey, look at what I can do.’ No. They’re trying to build something consistent, to sculpt an experience for everybody in the room, and that’s a challenge.”
RELEASE DATE: July 17th and 23rd, 2021