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Nirvana by Herbie Mann & The Bill Evans Trio

When the first sessions for this album were held in December of 1961, Bill Evans had recently emerged from his seclusion following the death of bassist Scott LaFaro earlier in the year, and Herbie Mann was just back from a Brazilian tour that was the acme of his exploration of the rhythms of the South American country. Both were in transitional periods, Evans working a new bassist, Chuck Israels, into his trio (drummer Paul Motian was a holdover from the previous lineup) and Mann in search of new musical realms to explore. The result was Nirvana, completed and released in 1962 and unavailable on CD until now.

Mann has cited Evans as his favorite pianist, and his 1995 tribute to Evans, Peace Pieces, stands as one of the highlights of his career. In a way, the two albums are bookends, Nirvana being the last straight ahead album Mann recorded until he returned to Evans' music nearly a quarter century later. Interestingly, there is no Evans material on Nirvana, which includes a pair of Mann originals, a pair of standards and Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie."

While the Trio was still finding its way at the time of these recordings, all the players were of the first caliber and the promise of great music to come was apparent. If there was any flaw in their effort here, it may be in Israels' occasionally overplaying in an effort to establish his voice in a new context, but his mastery of his instrument is such that that's a problem that hardly diminishes the result. Mann is superb throughout, and his mid-tempo bop take of Cole Porter's "I Love You" should be heard by anyone whose exposure is limited to his pop and soul material of later years.

The album is diminished only by the poor recording quality of Evans' piano. Koch Jazz reissues have been consistently reliable in my experience, so I'm inclined to attribute the flaw to an uncorrectable problem with the source. That may explain the extended delay in the reissue of this material, but better a flawed recording of Bill Evans than none, and the other instruments are hardly affected. This is a fine addition to the catalog for Evans completists and for Herbie Mann fans in general.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Herbie Mann & The Bill Evans Trio
  • CD Title: Nirvana
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Reissue Original Release: 1962
  • Record Label: Koch
  • Tracks: Nirvana, Gymnopedie, I Love You, Willow Weep For Me, Lover Man, Cashmere
  • Musicians: Herbie Mann (flute), Bill Evans (piano), Chuck Israels (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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