2010 Tributes to Bill Evans (August 16, 1929 - September 15, 1980)


"It has been thirty years since the genius we knew as Bill Evans left the planet. His influence remains as unmistakable and indelible as though it was yesterday.

Bill continues to influence the best players left in his stead - everyone from Bill Charlap, Diana Krall and Fred Hirsch and beyond -- and too many others to name. This combination of talent, taste and genius is the secret formula for immortality. In popular culture, Bill remains a topic of continued and focused analysis.

Bill in many respects could be likened to a modern day inventor. His work contemplates where others have been and may not have existed if not for various influences. Nevertheless, Evans career demonstrated that he consistently found his own direction and did so in a unique and memorable way. He invented something new: his sound. Furthermore, Evans' new direction is “certifiably valid” -- by that I mean it has been tested by time - for over 50 years (of career and departure combined). The "testers" are both players and listeners who still enjoy and admire what this “Edison of the 88’s” did.

Bill Evans' music is accessible to people at multiple levels of musicality and it offers something fresh to all who lend their ears to his sound. Some hear harmonic blends, others like chord structures, his voicings, pedaling, etc.. Some like the sum of these parts and as Bill himself sometimes called his approach,"displacement" or playing around the melody.

When Bill discussed his playing style so honestly and openly with Marian McPartland on November 6, 1978 on her radio program , and talked about solo playing in particula,r he caused her to audibly "swoon“ when he played “The Touch Of Your Lips” demonstrating in the key of C, over a pedal point, how he set up a “plane” from which to springboard a tune and then played around that melody. Like so many tunes in Bills arsenal – where many saw the ordinary, Bill somehow managed to find something more profound. The tune became like a butterfly in his demonstration, and metamorphosed into something that swung; and yet he often moved freely from rubato playing to soaring and back again and did so naturally- as though it was always meant to be played just that way. Marian was irresistibly drawn into a duet with Bill – she is not unlike the rest of us. We all have the commonality of being listeners, and more serious or thoughtful listeners are still continually being drawn into Bills music. A great inventor discovers the indispensable, the "killer app", one could say. Bill's invention was music not just of the age -- but of the ages. Bill Evans may be gone 30 years but he still does "duets" - with those of his target audience, those listeners -- the ones who discern something different, wonderful and irresistible.

Everybody still digs Bill Evans."

-- Bruce Branigan


Seems like only yesterday Bill Evans was speaking at UNT (called NTSU back then) to all of us jazz students, Spring of 1980 (I think). During Q&A at the end, the girl sitting next to me asked him, "What's the best way to develop a sense of Time[musical time] ?" He answered, "Play with people. Lots of people say 'play with a metronome', but I think it's better for your time feel to play with as many people as possible. You'll see and hear how different people have different senses of time." I've never forgotten that. What he really turned me onto is that EVERY musician's interpretation is cool and valid, as long as he can relate to the other interpretations onstage. Really, he hipped me to the fact that we are all hip! All we have to do is realize it. Thanks, man!


-- Kenny Bergle


"In our ears and minds Bill Evans is one of the greatest artists in the history of jazz.
We both love classical and jazz music, and Evans combined these worlds in his art;
the perfect balance of intellect and passion.

After several years of hesitation – we braved up and felt ready to play and sing his compositions. “Playsong – the music of Bill Evans” was recorded in 2001. Much earlier Egil composed his tribute “Epilog” (string quartet, jazz quartet and song (Sheila Jordan).

The author Bill Zavatsky kindly gave him permission to use his wonderful poem Elegy for Bill Evans.

Bill Evans has left us,
but his art and spirit will stay.

With deep respect
--- Hilde Hefte & Egil Kapstad"

[Hilde Hefte is a well-known jazz singer from Norway] (website)



" Something in the atmosphere changed when Bill Evans played. The "heady wine" of his ballads (sometimes played more slowly than another pianist would dare attempt!) just puts me away; yet this man could also swing violently!

My very first exposure to Bill was in the Fall of 1974. I was beginning my senior year at Seton Hall University - working at the college radio station (WSOU FM). As the assistant Music Director, one of my jobs was to go through and "sort out" many of the LP's that we received at the station every week. These were "promo" copies, and many of them were real klunkers! Among the many albums that were piled in our record room was Bill's "Intuition"--- the duet project with bassist Eddie Gomez. In reviewing this album, I can't tell you why the phonograph needle dropped on "A Face Without a Name," but it did.( maybe the turntable's tone arm had a mind of its own--- kinda like iid there was a 1974 GPS system!) I was instantly intrigued with this man's touch and approach.My knowlege of jazz pianists- up to that point- was limited to owning a few albums by Teddy Wilson, Oscar, and Brubeck .I wanted to hear more of this Bill Evans fellow!

The next day I had no classes, so I went to my local record shop with the purpose of purchasing an album by this pianist about whom I had just learned. I went to the "Bill Evans" section, and they had three albums from which to choose.I chose "Explorations."(I don't remember what the other two were.) I went home... put the album on... and went into orbit! One of the tunes that really struck me was "How Deep Is the Ocean." I knew the song because I had a recording of it by Sinatra (and even one by Eddie Fisher!) When I heard Bill, Scotty,and Paul and their unbelievably hip, yet pure and honest performance, I was hooked! Even today, if I'm in a bad mood I'll put that track on and snap out of it in minute or so.

I can remember driving in the car with my wife Ginny and listening to a cassette tape of some of Bill's tunes made for me by the webmaster of this site, Jan Stevens. We were listening to "My Foolish Heart." My wife Ginny (who knows nothing about Jazz!) commented to me that : "this music makes a person feel good." I thought about what she said, and her simplistic, non-musical observation of Bill's music, and I said: "Yes, it does...doesn't it?"

-- Joe Caroselli , drummer and entertainer (website)


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"It is difficult to visualise Bill Evans other than seated at a Steinway and bent low in concentration. We tend to forget that even great artists also deal with the everyday features of life and are really quite normal and human like the rest of us.

My fond memory of Bill was seeing him walking down the lane to our cottage in Stoke Poges holding the hands of our two children who he would go to meet at the school gates. Five hours later, he would be starting the first set at Ronnie Scotts Club in London."

<--- Photo : Bill and wife Ellaine with our two children Karin and Michael at our cottage in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, UK in 1972.

--- Brian Hennessey (Evans historian, friend and archivist. Bill used to stay at his house at various times over the years when he was working in England.) (Website)

(Photo by Brian Hennessey, used by exclusive permission)




 

"Besides his amazing playing, Bill Evans' compositional legacy is set for centuries. Like all the masters -- Wagner, Chopin, Rachmaninov, et al, his music is timeless. One never gets tired of playing or practicing his works. And practice you must; it's demanding, both technically and musically. But it's well worth the effort."

-- Jack Reilly (pianist-composer) website


Bill Evans - Times Remembered

"It's been 30 years since Bill left us on Sept. 15, 1980. In the days leading up to that sad event, I found myself in the unlikely position of being the pianist in the Bill Evans Trio. It was Thursday, Sept. 11, 1980 that I got a call from Steve Getz asking if I could come down to Fat Tuesday's, a then thriving jazz club in Manhattan, to fill in for Bill with his trio (Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera). Bill wasn't feeling well, and decided to take the night off. I was cajoled by bassist Brian Bromberg who was over hanging out and playing, to take the gig.

When I walked into the club, I was met with a full house of anxiously waiting Evans fans. The announcement was made that Bill would not be appearing that evening due to illness, and that Andy LaVerne would be playing in his place. Expecting the audience to then get up and file out, they instead stayed put, and I proceeded to play the set to a very appreciative crowd. The chemistry with Marc and Joe was remarkable, and gave me an insight to Bill's enthusiasm for this trio. It was a very satisfying musical experience, and I was glad Brian convinced me to do it.

I was planning on going down to the club the next night to see Bill, and thank him for the opportunity. Later the next day, the call came in again from Steve (then manager of Fat Tuesday's) to please come and sub for Bill again. Same scenario, packed house, exciting music. This scene repeated till the final night of the gig, Sunday, Sept. 14. I was feeling really good about the experience, and expecting that Bill would be up and around the next day.

This elation was followed by the sadness, shock and despair of hearing of Bill's passing the very next day, Monday, Sept. 15. Next thing I remember is playing at the memorial service for Bill at St. Peter's in Manhattan. From there I took part in more Evans tributes spanning several years; A Simple Matter of Conviction (concert at Carnegie Recital Hall), Liquid Silver, Bill Evans A Tribute, Bill Evans: Person We Knew (with Larry Schneider), Universal Mind (with Richie Beirach),Timeline (with John Abercrombie), various concerts including an appearance at The Bill Evans Festival at Southeastern Louisiana University (Bill's alma mater), Bill Evans 80th. Birthday Commoration (Cornelia Street Cafe), a cameo in a French documentary about Bill, a panel discussion for the liner notes of The Complete Bill Evans on Verve, dozens of Keyboard and other magazine articles as well as Bill Evans 19 Compositions for Solo Piano.

In the ensuing 30 years, not a day has gone by without me thinking about or listening to Bill Evans, he's had a profound effect on the direction my life has taken. Thinking of the legions of jazz pianists who admired and were influenced by Bill, myself among them, it's a tribute to Bill's creativity, musicality, focus, concept, and individualism that none of us could ever be mistaken for Bill. Having had the privilege of private lessons with Bill, as well as some precious hang time with him over the years, I can say that Bill Evans achieved his goal of finding his own voice, which in turn propelled each of us to seek out ours."

-- Andy LaVerne (pianist, educator, and recording artist ( Website)



I'm a lifelong Evans aficionado since 1965, when he performed for the first time in The Netherlands, in the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with his neoclassical architecture and his famous acoustics. Just in that concert hall, where I often listened to classical pianists performing impressionistic piano music like Ravel and Debussy. And as an unexpected musical sequel I attended this concert of Bill Evans with Chuck Israels and Larry Bunker -- piano jazz with an introspective lyricism and classical impressionistic flourishes.

His unique harmonic approach, his exceptional touch, and his unhurried improvisation along with an analytical perfection was impressive and gorgeous. Bill Evans performed more than twenty sessions in The Netherlands during his musical career. I collected everything about him and attended his concerts in The Netherlands and all over Europe. In July 1980, when I went to London to attend a congress, Bill Evans played, coincidentally, for a week in Ronnie Scott's Club with Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera. I have never visited the congress. It was the last time that I heard him live playing "Turn Out The Stars" with his characteristic posture behind the piano, hunching down with his face close to the keys, his head bent to his inventions, as if lost in prayer to the muse. When I was on holiday on the Mediterranean in France it was a shock to me that I learned from the newspaper that he was deceased on September 15, 1980, during his very last one-week gig at "Fat Tuesday's" in NYC.

I think his most beautiful and most appropriate composition is the deeply felt ballad "Time Remembered". A modal song without a single harmonic cadence but a variety of shifting harmonies where you get a feeling of floating from one tonality to the next, with chord succession without a primary key, a melody comprised of unresolved melodic tensions, a remarkable characteristic of the music of Ravel and Debussy. Here is the last strophe of the striking lyrics of "Time Remembered" by Paul Lewis:

Remember spring as you sleep through the iron days of winter.

How then could we repay you?

In your moment on earth, you taught us to believe in spring.

And when your heart went still,

What did you find there, Bill?

Play just one line.

Show us what lies beyond remembered time.

After he played his last haunting chord, "Time" stopped after 51 years for Bill, but his work – put in jazz and music – has an endless aura.

-- Dr.Rob Rijneke (website: www.billevans.nl)



"Getting Bill Evans took a while, I would say for me from the 1st time I heard his music, about 20 years. I had been listening to a lot of jazz piano, but nothing by Evans until my brother suggested to pick up “Everyone Digs Bill Evans”. As I was listening, like dropping a bag of groceries, I could finally “hear” how deep and beautiful his piano really was. Now I can’t get enough. And it seems like an art also to really get him."

-- Max Frazee



"One of the many great memories I have of the role of Evans' music in my life took place in July of 1966, when my wife Ev and I were preparing to depart on our honeymoon trip to Europe. On this particular night, as we were getting up to leave the Village Vanguard, Bill walked us over to the long stairway leading up to the street and, standing at the bottom of the stairs with glass in hand, offered his best wishes for our trip.

At this time, I was seriously obsessed with one of his iconic tunes, "Time Remembered," both in my head and at the keyboard, where I was trying to work out an arrangement that could begin to do it justice. It was a song which, the first time I ever heard it, gave me the eerie sensation that I had heard it before, even in a sense that I had always known it. This was an experience that I had had only once before, on first hearing Rachmaninoff's Second Concerto when I was 16 years old. Who knows, I used to wonder, perhaps a common Russian genetic-heritage thing??

In any event, as we wended our way through Europe, I naturally sought out any available keyboard as the opportunity arose , in order to try out whatever new ideas had occurred to me for this song, which continued to haunt me. When we got to Copenhagen, we made sure to drop by the Montmartre jazz club, where we had the opportunity to hear the great (and very young) bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen playing along with the house band. This rather large club was jammed to the rafters with enthusiastic fans, and I could see why Bill had recommended it to us as the prime jazz venue to take in (along with The Golden Circle in Stockholm).

In this one, out of the hundreds of possible examples which come to mind, I am continually struck by the extent to which Bill's music was able to affect, to literally infuse the lives of so many others with a unique, enduring, and benevolent magic which shall, I am sure, never be fully explicable. In this, as in so many respects, Bill's life exemplified Rachmaninoff's dictum that "Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music!"

-- Mike Harris ("Secret Sessions" album)



"I had only heard Evans' album "Live in Tokyo" sometime in the early seventies,, and liked it a lot, but didn't consider myself really a fan, until years later when a friend asked if I had ever heard the album "New Conversations". He told me Bill had triple-tracked himself playing piano and sometimes electric piano. Not knowing how that could possibly sound too good, I was curious and went out and bought it. I was enthralled at the level of genius and how this man could actually have musical dialogues with himself of such a high order. It's a superbly interesting album, and I still listen to that album every very few weeks, and it still kills me every time. I was hooked. Since then, I've picked up most all of the others."

--- Joseph P. Wright



I had the great fortune of playing at the Top of the Gate in NYC during the mid 60's on Monday nights with my army buddy, dear friend and great singer Stan Edwards. It was on one of those Mondays we split sets with the Bill Evans Trio, and his greatness has stayed with me right up to the present. He told me that as a musician it's not what you play, but how you play it. I've lived that in my own piano playing no matter what style or circumstance. Bill had a great sense of humor, laughing about our mutual musical experiences in New Jersey where both of us grew up. For me, no one has ever touched me musically and emotionally like Bill, and I lament the noise that passes for so much so called jazz that permeates the airwaves today. Bill wore his inner feelings in his music, no "hey man I'm hip, see my toolbox full of well rehearsed stuff" He was, and is all that represents timeless art.


-- Joel Zelnik, pianist (website)


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"To me, Bill's music is of the purest kind. Subtle and sad are the emotions that speak to me when I listen. However complex it may be, the end result seems simple, true and beautiful..."

-- Steve Blanco, pianist (website)



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