"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!
our ears and minds Bill Evans is one of the greatest artists in the history
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).
Evans has left us,
[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!
-- Joe Caroselli , drummer and entertainer (website)
"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.)
by Brian Hennessey, used by exclusive permission)
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."
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 (
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.
he played his last haunting chord, "Time" stopped after 51 years
for Bill, but his work – put in jazz and music – has an endless
Dr.Rob Rijneke (website: www.billevans.nl)
Mike Harris ("Secret Sessions" album)
Joseph P. Wright
-- Steve Blanco, pianist (website)