It's a good thing the tapes were rolling while Bill Evans was in residence at San Francisco's Keystone Korner during the fortnight before his death. Otherwise we wouldn't have The Last Waltz, an eight-CD set of previously unreleased material that documents the legendary pianist in a sustained burst of ebullient retrospection. In reimagining 35 tunes that encompass the full span of his career (we hear six completely distinctive versions of "Nardis" and three of "Turn Out the Stars," to name a few), Evans plays with astonishing technical virtuosity at the service of emotional projection, incessantly inventing vivid melodies, conveying his unique voicings with a subtle touch, linking choruses with deliberately evolving motifs that tell transcendent stories; you sense the urgency of an inflamed spirit who knows he has only so much time to say his piece, reaching out to the listener through every phrase. A miraculous sequence in the middle of disk 5, from a midweek Thursday, can stand for the gems to be found throughout this final masterpiece -- Evans probes every pore of "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," develops counterpoint of Tatumesque rhythmic complexity on "Like Someone in Love," limns pure melodic contours on "Your Story," and sets forth unbelievably inventive progressions on "Someday My Prince Will Come". bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe Labarbera, Evans's colleagues for the last three years of his life, unfailingly complement and comment upon the dying master's turns of phrase, epitomizing the notion of the trio as an equilateral triangle. It's hard to choose between this and Turn Out the Stars: Final Village Vanguard Recordings, the 1999 Warner Brothers box set of previously unissued recordings by this trio from a few months before; for the consistent passion of the music, The Last Waltz gets the edge if you can buy only one.