In Good Company is the working title for Bill Evans’ next album, currently in the final production phase. It will be the third solo project for this noted banjo picker, educator and entrepreneur, whose earlier releases include Native & Fine and Bill Evans Plays Banjo.
The second round of tracking sessions wrapped up last week in Nashville at Rec Room Studio, with Ben Surratt engineering and Stephen Mougin producing. Evans brought in some top pickers like Missy Raines, David Grier, Matt Flinner, and Tim O’Brien to assist.
The track he is particularly excited about from the Nashville sessions is a performance of the John Martyn song Walk on the Water featuring the Infamous Stringdusters.
Evans tells us that he has hoped for a chance to get the ‘Dusters in the studio with him for some time, and said of the song they cut…
“John Martyn is one of those slightly under-the-radar English singer/songwriters that came along around the same time as Van Morrison, Richard Thompson and others in the early 1970’s. I discovered the song after [Stringdusters’ banjo player] Chris Pandolfi had brought the Stringdusters on board in terms of their willingness to record with me. I knew that I wanted a vocal number and I went searching for a good track that they could adapt to their unique sound and rhythmic feel. I had been listening to a recently released Johh Martyn tribute album featuring Beck, the Swell Season and others and when I got to Walk To The Water, I knew that this was the track we would record. And the Stringdusters loved it.
Travis Book is singing lead, Andy Hall tenor and yours truly on baritone. I had the basic idea for the arrangement and riff that is heard throughout the tune. Producer Stephen Mougin refined my ideas, and then the Stringdusters took off and ran with it all.”
This session also made for an interesting reunion of sorts, as Pandolfi had been a student of Bill’s prior to the band’s meteoric rise, and both play banjo on the cut.
Other tracks were cut back in July Fantasy Studios at Berkeley, CA. This time Tom Size engineered and Darol Anger produced. Fantasy has quite a pedigree, and the room in which they tracked had previously been used to record Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Santana, The Grateful Dead, and Sly & The Family Stone. Bill got a special kick out of seeing that the grand piano in the room had once belonged to jazz piano icon Bill Evans (no relation).
Players on the California sessions included Darol Anger, Todd Phillips, Mike Marshall, David Grier, and Tristan and Tashina Clarridge from The Bee Eaters.
One cut from these sessions is especially intriguing: a twelve minute long Beatles medley, consisting of five separate tracks that play straight through. Bill described it as being composed of progressive bluegrass and string textures.
Another highlight from the album for Evans is They Say You’re Never Lonely In Louisville, a song of his recorded with daughter Corey on drums. She is the recipient of an award at the 2010 Essentially Ellington Festival at Lincoln Center, New York City, a high school jazz band festival. Wynton Marsalis serves as the artistic director, and presented Corey with her award.
The record should be available in February of 2012 on Evan’s own Native and Fine Records. In the meantime, Bill continues his very full schedule of teaching, playing with Steve Smith, Chris Sanders and Hard Road, and presenting his “Banjo In America” tour.
Find out more about all his many endeavors at www.billevansbanjo.com.