Bill Evans Moon Beams – Superb on the Right OJC Pressing

More Bill Evans

More Moon Beams

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this is one of the better copies of Bill Evans’ 1962 classic to ever hit the site
  • Full-bodied and warm, exactly the way vintage analog should sound, yet as clear and as open as any pressing you’ve heard (or your money back)
  • The first album Evans recorded after Scott LaFaro’s death and it is deeply immersive experience
  • Allmusic raves it’s “…so well paced and sequenced the record feels like a dream … Moonbeams was a startling return to the recording sphere and a major advancement in his development as a leader.”
  • Great sound for this rockin’ soul album with two live tracks. Just listen to the drums on Black-Eyed Blues — the way the percussion and bass mingle sonically with Alan White’s skins takes this listener right into the room where the magic happened.

Moon Beams is one of the best sounding Bill Evans records we’ve ever played. You can see why we chose it to be the first OJC Hot Stamper of his to hit the site back in 2015. Play It Might As Well Be Spring for the kind of sublime musical experience you only find on 20th century analog.

Both sides are Tubey Magical, rich, open, spacious and tonally correct. We’ve never heard the record sound better, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing Bill Evans’ albums since the ’80s when they were first reissued in their current form.

These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

A Piano Trio Jazz Classic

What the best sides of this Bill Evans album have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1962
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the concert venue

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing each pressing against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Top Quality Mastering

George Horn was doing brilliant work for Fantasy all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record — certainly not as good sounding as this one — these days tells me that in fact, I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years.

Original Vs. Reissue

The original Riverside pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth.

Some of you may have discovered that the original Bill Evans records on Riverside are mostly awful sounding — I can’t recall ever hearing one sound better than mediocre — so we are not the least bit worried that this OJC won’t beat the pants off of the original, any reissue you may have, and of course the Analogue Productions 45.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Re: Person I Knew 
Polka Dots And Moonbeams 
I Fall In Love Too Easy 
Stairway To The Stars

Side Two

If You Could See Me Now 
It Might As Well Be Spring 
In Love In Vain 
Very Early 

AMG Review

Moonbeams was the first recording Bill Evans made after the death of his musical right arm, bassist Scott LaFaro. Indeed, in LaFaro, Evans found a counterpart rather than a sideman, and the music they made together over four albums showed it. Bassist Chuck Israels from Cecil Taylor and Bud Powell’s bands took his place in the band with Evans and drummer Paul Motian and Evans recorded the only possible response to the loss of LaFaro — an album of ballads.

The irony on this recording is that, despite material that was so natural for Evans to play, particularly with his trademark impressionistic sound collage style, is that other than as a sideman almost ten years before, he has never been more assertive than on Moonbeams. It is as if, with the death of LaFaro, Evans’ safety net was gone and he had to lead the trio alone.

And he does first and foremost by abandoning the impressionism in favor of a more rhythmic and muscular approach to harmony. The set opens with an Evans original, “RE: Person I Knew,” a modal study that looks back to his days he spent with Miles Davis. There is perhaps the signature jazz rendition of “Stairway to the Stars,” with its loping yet halting melody line and solo that is heightened by Motian’s gorgeous brush accents in the bridge section.

Other selections are so well paced and sequenced the record feels like a dream, with the lovely stuttering arpeggios that fall in “If You Could See Me Now,” and the cascading interplay between Evan’s chords and Israel’s punctuation in “It Might As Well Be Spring,” a tune Evans played for the rest of his life. The set concludes with a waltz in “Very Early,” that is played at that proper tempo with great taste and delicate elegance throughout, there is no temptation by the rhythm section to charge it up or to elongate the harmonic architecture by means of juggling intervals.

Moonbeams was a startling return to the recording sphere and a major advancement in his development as a leader.

George Horn and The Original Jazz Classic Series

George Horn was doing brilliant work for Fantasy all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music.

That was the ’80s. In the ’90s a fellow from Kansas hired a mastering engineer of great renown from the Los Angeles area to improve upon the work that George Horn had done. To my never-ending consternation, most audiophile reviewers, including a rather famous one we’ve mentioned on this site a time or two, thought Sax and the Kansan had succeeded in doing just that. I held at the time and still hold to this day quite the opposite opinion — those remastered records are not only awful sounding, but fundamentally wrong sounding.

Hey, here’s a question for you. When was the last time you read a word about those Heavy Vinyl pressings from the ’90s, so badly mastered by Doug Sax. With no real presence and bloated bass, they’re pure audiophile “smile curve” trash of the worst kind.

They’ve rather fallen from favor, have they not? I wonder why. Could it be that they were as ridiculously bad as I said they were back in 1995, and it just took the rest of the world a little longer to recognize that fact? Perhaps audiophiles are making progress. It’s just taking them a long, long time. Hey, it took me a long, long time, so who am I to talk?