The original Bill Evans Trio, featuring Bill on piano, Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums, was on the verge of greatness when tragedy struck. In July 1961 LaFaro was killed in a car accident, an event that took an enormous emotional toll on Evans, who withdrew from all work for nearly a year as he struggled to come to terms with the loss of his musical counterpart. When he eventually reconvened in the studio in May 1962 with Chuck Israels as a replacement bassist, it was to record Moon Beams, something of a ballad collection.
It has been said that there was a certain irony in recording such a collection; the material is so natural for Bill Evans, particularly with his trademark impressionistic sound collage style, yet he had never sounded quite so assertive on a recording. It was almost as though that with the loss of LaFaro and an obvious counterpoint within the group, Evans now had to lead the trio on his own. One thing Bill Evans had done ever since he departed Miles Davis group in order to form his own trio was choose superb material, and Moon Beams is no exception.
His own compositions both open and close the album, with Re: The Person I Knew, which might appear to an homage to LaFaro but is in fact an anagram of the name of the albums producer (Orrin Keepnews, although with a switch in tense to know rather than knew) being joined by Very Early, something of a waltz. No doubt a difficult album for Bill Evans to record, in light of LaFaros untimely death, Moon Beams was a startling return to recording and a major advancement in his development as a leader.
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