''Complete Bill Evans on Verve'' has unique packaging of unfinished steel

Martha Stewart might say rust is a bad thing, right? I mean, my dad didn’t spend hours on weekends sanding and painting lawn furniture so it would rust. Nonetheless, my copy of The Complete Bill Evans on Verve is rusting. And that’s okay…because it’s supposed to. It says so right on the packaging: ”This box is made of unfinished steel. It is intended to age over time.” Cool.

In the wasteland of oversize, poorly designed boxed sets, this collected works of the great jazz pianist is a masterpiece of understated elegance — both visually stunning and extremely efficient (fitting 18 CDs and a 160-page book in the space of six standard jewel cases). ”The whole thing came out of studying Bill’s music and his personality,” says designer Patricia Lie. ”The package seems simple when you first look at it, but the more you get into it, the more intricate it becomes.”

The outer casing is a construction of raw steel, the inner casing injection-molded plastic, and the discs are stored in silk-screened vellum. As beautiful and unique as it is, this is my first rusting boxed set, so naturally I’m curious…. Will it ever stop, or will it just waste away to nothing, like my first swing set? ”It’s just going to have a coating of rust on the surface. If you really wanted to stop it, you could lacquer it or coat it…but we didn’t make it for that purpose,” Lie says.

What were initial reactions to it? ”People compared it to a Veg-O-Matic slicer, and there were a lot of tetanus jokes.”

Is it worth the $288 price tag? That’s something you’ll have to ask yourself. Certainly, the music is (269 tracks and more than 21 hours, featuring Evans with fellow jazz masters Jim Hall, Stan Getz, and Philly Joe Jones). And, of course, if you’re looking for that special something for the metallurgical engineer/jazz fan on your list (and who isn’t?), then this is the stocking stuffer. Just be sure he or she was recently inoculated.