Alternative Explorations, or Adventures with Admiral Analog, Part 2 of 8
In this post, we discuss the second of eight great jazz records we picked up on an unexpected shopping trip to Admiral Analog's Audio Assortment in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
The Bill Evans Trio
In 1961, Bill Evans won the Billboard Jazz Critics Best Piano LP Poll for his album Explorations. He was still fresh off of his work with Miles Davis, as they recorded the indelible Kind of Blue in 1959. It was after the success of that album that Evans decided to spend more time as a bandleader, and while he assembled many groups over the next twenty years, his favorite format was undoubtedly the trio. The group playing on Evans' successful string of LPs for Riverside, which included Portrait in Jazz (1960), Explorations (1961), Sunday at the Village Vanguard (1961), and Waltz for Debby (1962), included drummer Paul Motian and bassist Scott LaFaro. It was less than two weeks after recording Waltz for Debby that LaFaro was tragically killed in a car accident, making listening to these albums even more emotional.
Upon its original release in the USA, Explorations featured a photograph of Bill Evans by American photographer Steve Schapiro, who is still working today. Schapiro is well-known for his work covering social justice movements, from the Civil Rights era of the 1960s to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations occurring now. Though he was fond of working in the streets as a photo journalist capturing leaders like MLK or Bobby Kennedy, he also received plenty of commercial portrait commissions for a wide range of personalities, including Andy Warhol, Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, and Barbara Streisand.
When Explorations was released overseas it featured a very different cover. Rather than use Schapiro's avant-garde portrait, the LP was branded with an image of Claude Monet's Path Under the Rose Trellises, Giverny (1920-22). The work was created at the artist's celebrated retreat, Giverny, where he painted so many of his memorable water landscapes just as his life was coming to a close (Monet died in 1926) and the Jazz Age was taking off. Evans was born three years after Monet's death and the men never knew each other. Yet stylistically they had much more in common than one might think. Monet is often credited with being one of the progenitors of Impressionism in the field of painting. But Impressionism was also a movement within music, and two of its most important composers—Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) and Claude Debussy (1862-1918)—were some of Evans' most cited influences. Knowing that, it only seems fitting that an Impressionist music fan such as Evans was given an Impressionist painting album cover.
You can find much more about Bill Evans, Steve Schapiro, and Claude Monet below.
All About Jazz provides an in-depth look at the life and technique of Bill Evans.
Steve Schapiro has his own website filled with biographical information, some of his most iconic photographs, and links to his books.
Claude Monet never used the internet, but you can still find out about his life and even order reproductions of his work at the online Claude Monet Gallery.