Bill Evans – Quintessence

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound can be found on both sides of this wonderful Bill Evans album, a Better Records favorite since we first heard it some years ago
  • Evans is joined by an all-star lineup of Harold Land, Kenny Burrell, Ray Brown and the great Philly Joe Jones
  • Sonic highlights include a breathy, full sax; a big, solid piano; well-defined acoustic bass; and guitar tone that’s tubey and warm
  • “Most of pianist Bill Evans’ recordings were in a trio format, making this quintet date a nice change of pace… the results are quite tasteful and explorative in a subtle way.”

There aren’t too many ’70s jazz records that sound like this. The music is wonderful as well, and Evans is joined by an all-star lineup of Harold Land, Kenny Burrell, Ray Brown and the great Philly Joe Jones.

We were shocked to hear how good this album can sound on the right pressing. It has that natural, realistic feel that you get on the best Contemporary recordings. We don’t know what more you could do to make this music sound any better than it does on our best copies.

The sax is breathy and full, the piano is big and solid, the acoustic bass is well-defined with real weight and the guitar tone is tubey and warm. Hard to imagine that there are too many audiophiles with a substantial number of jazz records in their collection that sound as good as this (our own Hot Stampers excluded of course)!

What this amazing Fantasy recording from 1977 has 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 pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes as late as 1977
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

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 qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings 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.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We Listen For on Quintessence

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Sweet Dulcinea
Martina
Second Time Around

Side Two

A Child Is Born
Bass Face

AMG  Review

Most of pianist Bill Evans’ recordings were in a trio format, making this quintet date a nice change of pace. Evans’ all-star group consists of tenor saxophonist Harold Land, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Philly Joe Jones and the results are quite tasteful and explorative in a subtle way. This version of Thad Jones’ “A Child Is Born” is most memorable.