Peter Johnson

*** Bill Evans ***

121 posts in this topic

Well, I was crate diggin' at the Philadelphia Record Exchange this afternoon and pulled out an original copy of Bill Evans "How my Heart Sings," a trio side with (what I believe to be) Bill Evans' working trio--Chuck Israels on bass and Paul Motian on drums.

I guess I've never paid close-enough attention to Evans' playing, either on Kind of Blue, his records as a leader or his solo outings.

Listening closely to How my Heart sings, I'm astounded by Evans' sly interpolation of quotes and improvisations on Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc and, most interestingly to me as a piano player, the too-underrated Ibert. He's an extraordinarily lyrical player, and I'm surprised (maybe I'm missing the discussions) to not hear more about him in these storied circles and elsewhere.

I'm listening to Walking Up at the moment, and if anyone here has listened to much Claude Bolling, it's clear that Evans had a direct influence on the pianists who came after him.

I'm going to revisit KOB this afternoon, and pull out Trio '64 and A Simple Matter of Conviction as well.

I'd like to learn more about Evans' music and background--help me navigate the wilds, as there's a lot of his music out there!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

David, from what you can remember, was his playing live significantly extended from his records? I get the sense that he could have improvised on some of these pieces all day (I'm still listening to How my Heart Sings), rather than the 4-6 minute constraints imposed by two 20-minute sides of wax.

Did you hear him primarily with a trio, or in larger group settings?

Are there any live recordings you would recommend?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been spending a fair bit of time recently listening to his Riverside stuff, and in particular the live sides.

What I have noticed several times (and this isn't something that is unique to Bill Evans) is that the audience seem so passé about it all.

I know it's all historical perspective and all that but you're sat just metres away from a legend (or three) and you insist on talking over it all --- Much of the listening was done on headphones and there is this one woman, at the VV, who is particularly audible!

I'm sure if many of the board members were there now, they'd be completely captivated.

Pretty irrelevant really...But he is a God.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Evans amazes me with his piano playing in a way that Tatum does (but a totally DIFFERENT way). . . I've done a lot of listening and amazing and I don't really understand his work but I love it. I can listen to about an hour a week! It's so dense and deep that that does it for me.

Going to have to get the Secret Sessions box one of these days indeed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recommend the Peter Pettinger biography, coincidentally titled "How My Heart Sings." Pettinger was a pianist and does a great job describing Evans' musical background.

Of course, if you haven't already, check out "Waltz for Debby" and "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" both live recordings from the VV.

"Portrait in Jazz" is a personal favorite from the VV/Lofaro trio's studio work.

I also really like "The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album" (1975). Also interesting from that era is "Affinity" with Toots Theilmans and lots of classic Evans time signature antics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter, though I've only read half of it so far, I think you'd enjoy the biography Minew mentions. It's well-written, and offers perspective and insight for both the musician and non-musician. Of particular interest to me were some passages on how Evans related to drummers, and how Jack DeJohnette, had he not been hired away by Miles, may have been the quintessential drummer (though Evans always listed Philly Joe as his favorite) for Evans.

Spring for Portrait in Jazz if you haven't already. There's the newish and domestic 20-bit remaster, and now there's also a hybrid SACD (haven't heard the latter). I have the Japanese 20-bit remaster, and it sounds like a beautiful woman is stroking your cheek while wearing a velvet glove. Well, something like that. I think that album will always be my favorite Evans record.

One other thing that occurred to me the other day — just a speculation, mind you. I don't think Kind of Blue could possibly have happened without Bill Evans. I suppose that could be said of all the guys on the gig, but without Evans ... it just wouldn't have sounded the same. I think his musical aesthetic is stamped indelibly all over that album, with the notable exception of course being "Freddie Freeloader." Even then, Wynton Kelly's playing, to my ears, seems to have changed some after having been exposed to Evans approach to harmony.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been on a big Evans kick, since picking up the Complete Verve Recordings box used at a great price. What a fantastic collection.

I also just picked up the Analogue Productions hybrid SACD of SUNDAY AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD. I wasn't disappointed - like all the other classic Riverside SACDs I've grabbed that this fine outfit has produced, this one sounds absolutely superb. It's frankly amazing how much better the sound quality is compared with even the regular CD layer on the hybrid, and certainly compared to the old OJC issue. This is the type of music that demands the ability to hear every nuance and detail, and Doug Sax has brought it all out of the shadows. A bit steeply priced, but worth it - I'll be picking up the WALTZ FOR DEBBY and PORTRAIT IN JAZZ SACDs very soon.

Edited by DrJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bill Evans pulls me in hook-line-and-sinker, more so than any other jazz pianist. His work w/ Miles, his early trio work and his later solo stuff remains fresh and alive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with Lon on this. I can only listen to a little bit at a time.

Monday I got in the mail to review the new VV secretly recorded Getting Sentimental from '78. I'll open it up in the next few days when I have a chance to listen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He's my all-time favorite pianist.

I think I have just about everything he recorded.

FOr me, Bil Evans is like potato chips - you hear one and you just have to hear some more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He´s in my top five jazz pianists list for sure! His playing is deep, intimist, lyrical. Not many pyrotechnics, only those you need to express your feelings.

It´s difficult to pick one album or one era. I love every recording by him that I have (many, many, too many I guess).

If I had to choose I´d pick his Riverside recordings, EVERY RIVERSIDE DISC IS WORTH: New jazz conceptions, Everybody digs BE, Portrait in jazz, Explorations, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Waltz for Debbie, How my heart sings!, Moonbeams, Interplay. I love his trio dates! (yes, Interplay is not a trio date, I know -Jim Hall and Freddie Hubbard are included- ).

From his late recordings, I enjoy especially his solo dates.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a wonderful article on Bill Evans in "International Piano" magazine (British-based). This magazine typically focuses on classical piano repetoire and pianists. It's great to see Evans given the same kind of attention as Murray Perahia, Andras Schiff, Mikhail Pletnev, et al. The article is by Andy Hamilton, who also writes for "Jazz Review," so some of you might know of him. Some excerpts:

One of the great artists of the improvised line, Evans improvised  thematically, 'rationally,' as he said:  'the science of building a line, if you can call it a science, is enough to occupy somebody for twelve lifetimes'. But his approach to harmony was probably his greatest gift to jazz improvisation...

A very thoughtful article and recommended.

Edited by Leeway

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Clem, you misread my post. The author of the article did not compare Evans to Perahia, Schiff, or Pletnev. I cited them as examples of the sort of figures usually written about in the magazine. I consider it admirable that Evans is viewed by the magazine's editors as of the calibre of such pianists to deserve the same sort of consideration.

You obviously have strong opinions about classical pianists; to each his own. As you like Pletnev, there happens to be a gushing, glowing article about him in the same (current) issue as the Evans article. So admiring, that you might even blush. Odd though that they focus on his conducting work with the Russian Natl Orch; my guess is that Pletnev hasn't been wowing critics lately with his solo performances. He seems to be taking the same route as Vladmir Ashkenazy; when you can't play any more, you conduct.

I recognize that , for some reason, it has become fashionable in some quarters to knock Perahia, but I think his recent work, especially with ASMF, has been superb. Read the current Gramaphone (yeah, Brits again) for a good article on Perahia. I think Schiff is viewed very well by critics and artists alike; he is a more apt comparison to Evans than most other classical pianists.

There are many other fine classical pianists performing today, including Uchida (I think her Schubert is superb), and Brendel (I do like him better in his earlier work for Vox and Vanguard), and many, many others.

As for other comparisons between classical and jazz pianists that you cite: why not. Could be interesting!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you heard Valery Afannassiev in D. 960 (ECM version, not Denon)? Andreas Staier on Teldec?

No, but I'll certainly give them a try on your recommendation.

As for Thibaudet, I suppose you know that he has done a Bill Evans album, "Conversations with Bill Evans." I have not heard it, but am interested in doing so. At the least, I think it's a cool idea. Thibaudet also has a complete Satie box set out. How about this for a crossover idea: Evans Plays Satie. (did Evans ever do a Satie piece?) I think that would be a fascinating union of musical minds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Evans played Satie's Gymnopedie on the Herbie Mann/Bill Evans NIRVANA album on Atlantic

Thanks. I have that album on vinyl (was it ever released on CD?), but haven't listened to it in a while. Need to dig it out and give it a listen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Probably shouldn't mention it here, but on the other hand maybe I should. My book -- to be published in fall 2004 by Yale U. Press -- includes a longish piece I wrote about Evans for the Chicago Tribune back in 1983 that takes a basically negative stance toward his post-Vanguard work. Added to this is a new long epilogue that looks at the large number of Evans recordings issued since then ("Turn Out the Stars," etc.) and reaches a similar conclusion. I'll mention the title of the book, but unfortunately I can only do that phonetically right now because the two keys at the far left of the bottom line of my keyboard quit working the other day (the ones to the left of "c"). Phonetically, then, it's "Jass In Search of Itself." (OK, restrain yourselves.)

BTW, does anyone have a remedy for the keys-that-quit problem. Don't recall spilling any gunk there, but if I did, is there a safe, simple remedy? Or do I need a new keyboard?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Evans played Satie's Gymnopedie on the Herbie Mann/Bill Evans NIRVANA album on Atlantic

Thanks. I have that album on vinyl (was it ever released on CD?), but haven't listened to it in a while. Need to dig it out and give it a listen.

Yes, it is on CD. I only recently got it. It's either Atlantic or Rhino, probably Rhino. And probably OOP.

ubu

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Evans played Satie's Gymnopedie on the Herbie Mann/Bill Evans NIRVANA album on Atlantic

Thanks. I have that album on vinyl (was it ever released on CD?), but haven't listened to it in a while. Need to dig it out and give it a listen.

Yes, it is on CD. I only recently got it. It's either Atlantic or Rhino, probably Rhino. And probably OOP.

ubu

For those interested, it´s available at buy.com for $13.98

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

B000025L08.03.LZZZZZZZ.jpg

Amazon Germany has it for EURO 9,99.

This is the Rhino/Warner pressing.

Amazon.com has it for US $ 17,98 !!! (Koch issue)

The Rhino site doesn't list it any more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Bill Evans I like the most besides the trio with LaFaro and Motian is the earlier sessions where he plays with more rhythmic Verve, like the George Russell RCA and Hal McKusick Decca sides. It seems he wasn't interested in pursuing that direction as intesively as other aspects of his playing, as he asked Orrin Keepnews to hold back a Riverside session with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe that swung like mad, "but there wasn't much happening on other levels", as he is quoted in the Riverside box set.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Bill Evans I like the most besides the trio with LaFaro and Motian is the earlier sessions where he plays with more rhythmic Verve, like the George Russell RCA and Hal McKusick Decca sides. It seems he wasn't interested in pursuing that direction as intesively as other aspects of his playing, as he asked Orrin Keepnews to hold back a Riverside session with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe that swung like mad, "but there wasn't much happening on other levels", as he is quoted in the Riverside box set.

Mike, so you might like the last box set available, the Warner one. I think Evans gained some momentum there again, before his death.

I did not yet find the time to explore it in its entirety, but I loved the parts of it I heard so far.

ubu

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really like Bill Evans, he was truly fantastic pianist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Count me in as an Evans fan. :tup

The early trio dates with LaFaro and Motian are my favorites, but it's all good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I alone in thinking that Evans played "differently" when there were horns around than when in a trio, duet, or solo setting, especially as the years passed? Myself, I prefer it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I alone in thinking that Evans played "differently" when there were horns around than when in a trio, duet, or solo setting, especially as the years passed? Myself, I prefer it.

I think you are correct, there is a clear difference.

Edited by catesta

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.