Resonance Records maven Zev Feldman is back with two crucial archival sets from Bill Evans, both from Buenos Aires in the 70’s: Morning Glory and Inner Spirit (see below). He was kind enough to take some questions over email.
Seattle Star: What was your background in jazz before you came to Resonance Records?
Zev Feldman: Before I came to Resonance Records, my job for the first fifteen years of my career was working in sales, marketing and promotion representing labels such as Verve, ECM, Antilles, Blue Thumb, GRP, Concord Music Group (including Fantasy and its family of labels) and many others, even including classical labels Deutsche Grammophon and Philips as well.
Seattle Star: How specifically did you come to start producing archival records, for Resonance and Blue Note?
Zev Feldman: I started producing archival for Resonance in 2010, when my mentor and co-president of the label George Klabin gave me a challenge that if I brought him recordings that have never been issued before and he loved them, then I could be the producer on them.
It was like adding fire to gasoline and I became inspired at that point to put forward my passion into producing. I like to say, you’ve gotta know where you been to know where you’re going, and I love the catalog side of the record business the most.
I was approached by Blue Note Records in 2018 because they were familiar with the production work I had been doing for Resonance and other labels like Elemental Music and Reel To Real Recordings. It’s been a great match so far, and we’ve done a lot of important work together. I’m very proud of this work, and it’s especially rewarding since they’re one of my favorite jazz labels of all time.
Seattle Star: What do your day-to-day duties at Resonance look like?
Zev Feldman: My day-to-day duties at Resonance include working in all aspects of the company, from production to marketing, promotion, spearheading the PR campaigns, overseeing package design, working with distribution, retail partners and the public. I get to be the face of the operation, which is very exciting. I’m living my dream every day.
Seattle Star: Had you worked on archival Bill Evans sets before? If so, which, and when were they released?
Zev Feldman: Bill Evans is a really important artist to me and our label. As such a huge fan, it’s been a pleasure and honor working with Evan Evans from the Bill Evans Estate since 2010. These two new releases from Buenos Aires are Resonance’s 7 and 8th Bill Evans productions, with the previous releases being Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate (2011), Some Other Time: The Lost Session from the Black Forest (2016), Another Time: The Hilversum Concert (2017), Evans in England (2018), Smile with Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance (2019) and Live at Ronnie Scott’s (2020). I also produced an archival Evans release on Elemental Music in 2021 called Behind the Dikes: The 1969 Netherlands Recordings.
Seattle Star: What were your first experiences listening to Bill Evans—which recordings, and which pieces, leapt out at you, and why?
Zev Feldman: My first experiences listening to Bill Evans came in the early 1990s. I purchased The Complete Fantasy Recordings box set and I gravitated towards the recordings with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell. I became an enormous fan of that trio, and I love the other rhythm sections as well, such as Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, Chuck Israels and Larry Bunker, and with Philly Joe Jones too.
Some of my personal favorite albums from that Fantasy era include The Tokyo Concert, Intuition, and Montreux III. I absolutely love the duets of Bill and Eddie together and those recordings are very special to me. It was a flip of the coin at the time, between buying the Fantasy or Riverside sets. I had money saved and ended up picking Fantasy. I’m glad I did!
Seattle Star: You go all over the world collecting archival tapes. How did you first come to learn about the two Buenos Aires sessions, and who turned them over to you?
Zev Feldman: In 2018, I was contacted by an Argentinian journalist named Roque Di Pietro, who was working with the engineer Carlos Melero who had an archive of many recordings he did in Argentina. Roque said he had the original tape reels for these Bill Evans concerts, which had been previously bootlegged. This provided us an opportunity to release these concerts officially for very first time. George Klabin [at Resonance Records] and I felt like it was righting the wrongs of past to officially release these Bill Evans recordings of him at his very best from two different eras. These are the only documented tours of Evans playing in Buenos Aires.
Seattle Star: What were your first thoughts upon hearing the two sets, how they compare and contrast? Had you heard the bootleg editions?
Zev Feldman: I had heard both bootleg editions before and was a fan of the music on both releases. George Klabin and I both felt that these were wonderful recordings and should have an official release so we can do the music justice with a deluxe presentation all around and of course pay all the musicians.
Seattle Star: Evans cut the 1973 set at the Teatro Gran Rex, and the 1979 set at the Teatro General San Martín. How do the two venues compare and contrast with each other?
Zev Feldman: The Gran Rex was a movie theater, and the General San Martín is an opera house. It’s clear from listening to the recordings that there were enthusiastic audiences at each concert, and they were very excited to have Bill Evans in Buenos Aires. His music reaches the farthest corners of world, and this is a shining example of that.
Seattle Star: What specifically did you have to do technically, preparing the sets for official release?
Zev Feldman: According to my executive producer and engineer on the project, George Klabin: “The tapes were in very good condition. Not a lot of work was needed as far as audio dropouts or noise, but they did require some equalization.”
Seattle Star: The editions feature two different rhythm sections. Who were the sidemen on each set, and how did they figure in the different manifestations of Evans’ trio vision?
Zev Feldman: Bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell are on Morning Glory from 1973, and bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera are on Inner Spirit from 1979. They are all masters and played important roles in these two great trios. Both trios worked together incredibly well. They each have their own unique style, recipe and chemistry that gives the music a different feel on each set.
Seattle Star: On the 1979 set, I’m hearing a harder, heavier attack from Evans on piano; and Marc Johnson more aggressive on bass than Eddie Gomez had been. Were these particular to the show, or general traits from this late-phase trio?
Zev Feldman: I would leave it to each listener to draw their own conclusions about Evans’ approach. For me, these are important recordings that document different periods in Bill’s discography. It’s hard for me to answer such a specific question about style and technique like this. I like to let the scholars like Marc Myers, who wrote the excellent liner notes for each release, get into specifics about the music.
Seattle Star: Apart from what I’ve noted above, what were the biggest differences between these two trios?
Zev Feldman: Again, for me it’s just a different sound, chemistry, and stylistic approach. Evans played the same repertoire night after night, and I’m always amazed at the way he gave each performance a special energy and unique feel.
Seattle Star: Who were the most important people in bringing these sets to legal release and how?
Zev Feldman: Without the support of [Bill Evans’ son] Evan Evans from the Bill Evans Estate, and all the musicians, these releases simply wouldn’t be possible.
Seattle Star: Do you have a personal preference between the sets? If so, which, and why?
Zev Feldman: I love them both. They’re both very important trios in the Evans discography and give us a taste of what Evans was doing in the 1970s. I’ve always loved these trios and these very much.
Seattle Star: Do you have a personal favorite phase in Evans’ career? If so, which, and why?
Zev Feldman: Yes, the Eddie Gomez/Marty Morell period is my personal favorite because those are the first recording I heard when I was so taken by Evans’ music and spent countless hours listening to their recordings.
Seattle Star: Did you ever get to meet Bill Evans, or see him perform?
Zev Feldman: No, unfortunately I never had a chance to see him live; however, aside from Marty Morell, I’ve seen all of the other sidemen play in concert. I’m big fans of their music, even outside of Bill Evans. I won’t lie, the first time I had a chance to speak to Eddie Gomez was a big thrill for me (and it still is when I speak to him today).
I feel the same way about Marc Johnson, who I saw in the 1990s, when I was working sales on his Verve release, The Sound of Summer Running. I saw Joe LaBarbera when he was on tour with the late Bud Shank. Talking to Marty was, and is, equally a big kick for me. It’s all deeply personal. This cast of players is very exciting and meaningful to me.
Seattle Star: What’s in the future for Resonance, this year? Anything else from Bill Evans?
Zev Feldman: We have lots of projects in the works at Resonance, but I must save a little excitement for when we’re ready to let the word out. We’ll be making announcements soon enough. Stay tuned!