I’ve been having a lot of conversations with myself after the Recording Academy left Creed Taylor out of the “In Memoriam” segment of the 65th GRAMMY Awards show on sunday. It is not just disappointing, it’s unforgiveable. Which is the reason the following was posted 12-hours late. More on that later.

On February 6th, 1963, 60-years ago today Bill Evans finally started recording his GRAMMY award winning album “Conversations With Myself” at Webster Hall in New York. It earned Evans his first GRAMMY in 1964 for “Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group”. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2000.

Press play and read on.

The 1963 album was one of a kind, a completely overdubbed album. Bill Evans overdubbed second and third piano parts onto the first, improvised with multi-tracking. The recording wasn’t straight forward though, neither was working with Bill.

There had been many uses of overdubbing before, according to Wikipedia, Les Paul had used it as a technique as early as 1930[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overdubbing. In 1957, Taylor had convinced Dave Lambert and John Hendricks to record a complete album of Basie vocalese tracks. The original recording just didn’t work. Dave Lambert suggested multi-tracking and Creed agreed. The final album takes had to be re-recorded and Taylor spent 3-months with engineer Ira Greenbaum working on the tapes and reducing tape hiss[2]https://www.jazzwax.com/2020/07/annie-ross-1930-2020.html[3]https://www.jazzwax.com/2009/07/interview-jon-hendricks-part-2.html. The album was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1998[4]https://www.grammy.com/awards/hall-of-fame-award#s.

Evans had been recording with Orin Keepnews and Riverside. In 1961 he released two albums “Sunday At The Village Vanguard” and “Waltz For Debbie” which flagged Evans as a real talent. Sadly soon after, Evans bassist Scott LaFaro died shortly after the sessions in a car wreck. According to Adam Gopnik, after Lafaro’s death, “Bill Evans became numb with grief; it took him months to recover”[5]https://web.archive.org/web/20210706225817/https://www.billevanswebpages.com/gopnik.html. It took more than a year for Evans to return with a new trio, and in the interim he made a number of other recordings.

Taylor approached Evans with a Verve contract in 1962, after Evans had recorded on key jazz albums for Taylor at his new label Impulse! while still contracted to Riverside. The first was Oliver Nelson’s “Blues And The Abstract Truth”[6]https://www.discogs.com/master/56196-Oliver-Nelson-The-Blues-And-The-Abstract-Truth and both “The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones”[7]https://www.discogs.com/master/273442-The-Incredible-Kai-Winding-Trombones-The-Incredible-Kai-Winding-Trombones and J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding’s “The Great Kai & J.J.”[8]https://www.discogs.com/master/164874-JJ-Johnson-Kai-Winding-The-Great-Kai-J-J. Shortly after releasing “Conversations With Myself”, Creed left Impulse! to head-up the Verve label.

What made “Conversations With Myself” a remarkable and ground breaking album was not simply the concept, which had been Evans, but also the technical issues and financial cost. It also turned out that Evans had to breathe in unison with himself for the overdubbing. Remarkable. The total number of studio hours were immense[9]Friends Along the Way – Gene Lees.  Yale University Press – ISBN 0-300-09967-3 just as with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Creed for the second time showed himself to be a daring and original producer.

The original recordings were made at 30-frames-per-second (fps) rather than the industry standard of 15fps. This was done at the suggestion of Gene Lees[10]Friends Along the Way – Gene Lees.  Yale University Press – ISBN 0-300-09967-3. Taylor understood the ability of the piano to quickly respond to and accurately produce rapid changes in sound volume or pitch and decided to try it. The only problem with this approach is it doubled the amount of tape, also increasing the challenges of synchronizing the overdubs, as well as the time needed to edit the final masters.

Despite this, once the engineering team had worked through the issues, Taylor would note that Evans went on to record all the foundation tracks to a time within a second or so of each other. They finished just one track on February 6th “N.Y.C.’s No Lark” – Pettinger in his autobiography of Evans, points out this is an anagram for Sonny Clarke[11]Bill Evans: How My Heart Signs – Peter Pettinger – Yale University Press – ISBN 0-300-07193. Clarke had died on January 13th, official cause heart attack, likely cause was a heroin overdose[12]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonny_Clark.

For the recording of the “Spartacus Love Theme” from Alex North’s score to Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 blockbuster, Evans struggled with this track as he’d seen the film original with Scott LaFaro. “Evans made a half dozen or so versions of the foundation track until he was satisfied, aware that the other tracks depended on it.”[13]Bill Evans: How My Heart Signs – Peter Pottinger – Yale University Press – ISBN 0-300-07193. Pottinger also notes that the “monumental venture was a feat of endurance from the ailing pianist. He began to suffer from heroin withdrawal during the sessions”, but his resolve saw him through.

Evans would join Creed Taylor at Verve in late 1963, where he would record “Trio 64″[14]https://www.discogs.com/master/68362-Bill-Evans-Trio-64 and “Trio ’65″[15]https://www.discogs.com/master/245399-Bill-Evans-Trio-Trio-65 for which Evans was nominated for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance – Small Group Or Soloist With Small Group; also “Intermodulation”[16]https://www.discogs.com/master/178731-Bill-Evans-Jim-Hall-Intermodulation with Jim Hall with be GRAMMY nominated for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance – Group Or Soloist With Group.

Taylor would move on to A&M to start his CTI productions in 1967. Creed and Gene Lees encouraged Helen Keane, Bill Evans manager to “produce” Evans at that time[17]Friends Along the Way – Gene Lees.  Yale University Press – ISBN 0-300-09967-3 and Keane would produce “Further Conversations With Myself”[18]https://www.discogs.com/master/178734-Bill-Evans-Further-Conversations-With-Myself for Verve which was also GRAMMY nominated for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Small Group Or Soloist With Small Group.

It is common for people to assume the Evans “Montreux II (Live) album[19]https://www.discogs.com/master/218896-Bill-Evans-Montreux-II, released as one of the first five albums on the newly independent CTI was produced by Creed. It was not, it was produced by Helen Keane, Creed merely asked Rudy Van Gelder to clean up the recordings and make a master. The albums original pressings and sleeves have no Creed Taylor signature on the sleeve or labels.

Creed said multiple times that it was his favorite from all the albums he had recorded with Evans[20]https://www.jazzwax.com/2008/11/interview-cre-3.html. It is also my favorite and I’m disappointed I cannot share the continuous mix of the album that I made. It has already been subjected to 2x DMC take-down notices one via Mixcloud and the second via YouTube. A Third may result in prosecution. While my continuous mix doesn’t add or change Evens music, It think it does make it even more remarkable, a genius at work.

Bill Evans was continually growing and changing his style. Bill Evans won 7-Grammy awards, and was nominated 14 times.

Updates:
8th Feb. 2023 Added Trio ’65 and additional GRAMMY details.
8th Feb. 2023 9am. Corrected Pettinger spelling, other minor typos

4 Replies to “OTD: Conversations With Myself”

  1. It just shows how divorced what passes as the music business is from the history of American music. There’s probably no one left on the Grammy awards that has any knowledge of jazz beyond stereotypical figureheads of the music such as Wynton Marsalis, etc..

    1. Thanks Steve, I’m sure there is much more at play in their consideration over who to include in on the memorial wall, and I’m not an insider and am not party to that, I just hope they didn’t just forget him.

      I have a couple of things I’m working on and will create a new post when I have some news.

      ++Mark.
      https://ctproduced.com

      1. Yes, being a musician, I tend to consider the musical aspects of it first, but the “other considerations” you mentioned I’m sure bear more weight than the musical considerations…unfortunately.

        1. I’ve been working in this quite a bit since writing this, I’ll have an update soon. Net, net, they didn’t forget Creed, they mostly don’t know what he achieved.

          In some ways that ironic, since the President of the Recording Academy is Harvey Mason Jr. whose father recorded for Creed and as CTI was going broke, ended up as part of a lawsuit to retain the Seawind masters, it’s hard to imagine he forget 😉

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