Bill Evans

Last updated

Bill Evans
Bill Evans (1961 publicity photo by Steve Schapiro).jpg
Evans in 1961
Background information
Birth nameWilliam John Evans
Born(1929-08-16)August 16, 1929
Plainfield, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedSeptember 15, 1980(1980-09-15) (aged 51)
New York City, U.S.
  • Musician
  • composer
  • arranger
  • conductor
Discography Bill Evans discography
Years active1950s–1980 [1]
Formerly of George Russell, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Philly Joe Jones, Scott LaFaro, Paul Motian, Eddie Gómez, Marty Morell, Tony Bennett, Jim Hall, Stan Getz, Monica Zetterlund, Chet Baker

William John Evans (August 16, 1929 – September 15, 1980) was an American jazz pianist and composer who worked primarily as the leader of his trio. [2] His use of impressionist harmony, block chords, innovative chord voicings, and trademark rhythmically independent, "singing" melodic lines continue to influence jazz pianists today.


Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, United States, he studied classical music at Southeastern Louisiana University and the Mannes School of Music, in New York City, where he majored in composition and received the Artist Diploma. In 1955, he moved to New York City, where he worked with bandleader and theorist George Russell. In 1958, Evans joined Miles Davis's sextet, which in 1959, then immersed in modal jazz, recorded Kind of Blue , the best-selling jazz album of all time. [3]

In late 1959, Evans left the Miles Davis band and began his career as a leader, with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, a group now regarded as a seminal modern jazz trio [ citation needed ]. In 1961, they recorded two albums during an engagement at New York's Village Vanguard jazz club, Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby ; a complete set of their Vanguard recordings on three CDs was issued decades later. However, ten days after this booking ended, LaFaro died in a car accident. After months without public performances, Evans reemerged with a new trio, featuring bassist Chuck Israels. In 1963, Evans recorded Conversations with Myself , a solo album produced with overdubbing technology. In 1966, he met bassist Eddie Gómez, with whom he worked for the next 11 years. During the mid-1970s Bill Evans collaborated with the singer Tony Bennett on two critically acclaimed albums: The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album (1975) and Together Again (1977).

Many of Evans's compositions, such as "Waltz for Debby" and "Time Remembered", have become standards, played and recorded by many artists. Evans received 31 Grammy nominations and seven awards, and was inducted into the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame. [4]


Early life

Evans grew up in North Plainfield, New Jersey, the son of Harry and Mary Evans (née Soroka). His father was of Welsh descent and ran a golf course; his mother was of Rusyn ancestry and descended from a family of coal miners. [5] [6] The marriage was stormy because of his father's heavy drinking, gambling, and abuse. [7] [8] Bill had a brother, Harry (Harold), two years his senior, with whom he was very close. [8]

Given Harry Evans Sr.'s destructive character, Mary Evans often left home with her sons to go to nearby Somerville, to stay with her sister Justine and the Epps family. There, Harry began piano lessons somewhere between ages 5 and 7 with local teacher Helen Leland. Bill was thought to be too young for lessons, but he began to play what he had heard during his brother's instruction, [9] [10] and soon both were taking piano lessons. [11]

Evans remembered Leland with affection for not insisting on a heavy technical approach, with scales and arpeggios. He quickly developed a fluent sight-reading ability, but Leland considered Harry a better pianist. [11] At the age of seven, Bill began violin lessons, and soon also flute and piccolo. He soon dropped those instruments, but it is believed they later influenced his keyboard style. He later named Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert as composers whose work he often played. [12] During high school, Evans came in contact with 20th-century music like Stravinsky's Petrushka, which he called a "tremendous experience", and Milhaud's Suite provençale , whose bitonal language he believed "opened him to new things." Around the same time came his first exposure to jazz, when at age 12 he heard Tommy Dorsey and Harry James's bands on the radio. At age 13, Bill stood in for a sick pianist in Buddy Valentino's rehearsal band, [13] where Harry was already playing the trumpet. [13] [14] Soon he began to perform for dances and weddings throughout New Jersey, playing music like boogie-woogie and polkas for $1 per hour. [15] Around this time, he met multi-instrumentalist Don Elliott, with whom he later recorded. Another important influence was bassist George Platt, who introduced Evans to the theory of harmony. [16]

Evans also listened to Earl Hines, Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Bud Powell, George Shearing, Stan Getz, and Nat King Cole among others. He particularly admired Cole. [17] Evans attended North Plainfield High School, graduating in 1946. [18]

One night I got really adventurous on "Tuxedo Junction" and I put in a little "ping!" you know, that wasn't written, and this was such an experience! To make music that wasn't indicated. That really got me into starting to want to think about how to make the music.

Interview with Harry Evans. c. 1965. [12]

College, army, sabbatical year

I have always admired your [Magee's] teaching as that rare and amazing combination – exceptional knowledge combined with the ability to bring that same knowledge, that lies deep within the student, to life. You were certainly my biggest inspiration in college, and the seeds of the insights that you have sown, have in practice borne fruit many times over.

Bill Evans talking about Gretchen Magee [5]

After high school, in September 1946, Evans attended Southeastern Louisiana University on a flute scholarship. [19] [20] He studied classical piano interpretation with Louis P. Kohnop, John Venettozzi, and Ronald Stetzel. [21] A key figure in Evans's development was Gretchen Magee, whose methods of teaching left a big imprint on his compositional style.

Around his third year in college, Evans composed his first known tune, "Very Early". [15] Around that time he also composed a piece called "Peace Piece". [6] Years later, when asked to play it, he said it was a spontaneous improvisation and didn't know it. He was a founding member of SLU's Delta Omega chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, played quarterback for the fraternity's football team, and played in the college band. In 1950, he performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 on his senior recital, graduating with a Bachelor of Music in piano and a bachelor's in music education. Evans regarded his last three years in college as the happiest of his life. [22]

Program of Evans's graduation concert. April 24, 1950. Bill Evans Graduation Concert.jpg
Program of Evans's graduation concert. April 24, 1950.

During college, Evans met guitarist Mundell Lowe, and after graduating, they formed a trio with bassist Red Mitchell. The three relocated to New York City, but their inability to attract bookings prompted them to leave for Calumet City, Illinois. [23] In July 1950, Evans joined Herbie Fields's band, based in Chicago. During the summer, the band did a three-month tour backing Billie Holiday, including East Coast appearances at Harlem's Apollo Theater and shows in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. The band included trumpeter Jimmy Nottingham, trombonist Frank Rosolino and bassist Jim Aton. Upon its return to Chicago, Evans and Aton worked as a duo in clubs, often backing singer Lurlean Hunter. Shortly thereafter, Evans received his draft notice and entered the U.S. Army.

During his three-year (1951–54) period in the Army, [14] Evans played flute, piccolo, and piano in the Fifth U.S. Army Band at Fort Sheridan. He hosted a jazz program on the camp radio station and occasionally performed in Chicago clubs, where he met singer Lucy Reed, with whom he became friends and later recorded. He met singer and bassist Bill Scott and Chicago jazz pianist Sam Distefano (his bunkmate in their platoon), both of whom became Evans's close friends. Evans's stay in the Army was traumatic, however, and he had nightmares for years. As people criticized his musical conceptions and playing, he lost confidence for the first time. [24] Around 1953, Evans composed his best-known tune, "Waltz for Debby", for his young niece. [25] During this period, he began using recreational drugs, occasionally smoking marijuana. [26]

Evans was discharged from the Army in January 1954, and entered a period of seclusion triggered by the harsh criticism he had received. He took a sabbatical year and lived with his parents, where he set up a studio, acquired a grand piano and worked on his technique, believing he lacked the natural fluency of other musicians. He visited his brother, now in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, recently married and working as a conservatory teacher. [9]

Return to New York City

In July 1955, Evans returned to New York City and enrolled in the Mannes College of Music for a three-semester postgraduate course in music composition. He also wrote classical settings of poems by William Blake. Along with his studies, Evans played in low-profile "Tuxedo gigs" at the Friendship Club and the Roseland Ballroom, as well as Jewish weddings, intermission spots, and over-40 dances. Better opportunities also arose, such as playing solo opposite the Modern Jazz Quartet at the Village Vanguard, where one day he saw Miles Davis listening to him. During this period, Evans also met Thelonious Monk. [9]

Evans soon began to perform in Greenwich Village clubs with Don Elliott, Tony Scott, Mundell Lowe, and bandleader Jerry Wald. He may have played on some of Wald's discs, but his first proven Wald recording is Listen to the Music of Jerry Wald, which also featured his future drummer Paul Motian. [9]

In early 1955, singer Lucy Reed moved to New York City to play at the Village Vanguard and The Blue Angel, and in August she recorded The Singing Reed with a four-piece group that included Evans. During this period, he met two of Reed's friends: manager Helen Keane, who became his agent seven years later, and George Russell, with whom he soon worked. That year, he recorded with guitarist Dick Garcia on A Message from Garcia for the Dawn label. In parallel, Evans kept up his work with Scott, playing in Preview's Modern Jazz Club in Chicago during December 1956–January 1957, and recording The Complete Tony Scott. After the Complete sessions, Scott left for a long overseas tour. [9]

Debut album New Jazz Conceptions

In September 1956, producer Orrin Keepnews was convinced to record the reluctant Evans by a demo tape Mundell Lowe played to him over the phone. The result was his debut album, New Jazz Conceptions , featuring the original versions of "Waltz for Debby" and "Five". [9] Eleven songs were recorded in the first session, including Evans' original composition "Waltz for Debby", which would prove to be his most recognized and recorded composition. [27] The album began Evans's relationship with Riverside Records, and also marked the formation of the first Bill Evans trio with Teddy Kotick (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). Allmusic critic Scott Yanow said about the album: "Bill Evans' debut as a leader found the 27-year-old pianist already sounding much different than the usual Bud Powell-influenced keyboardists of the time... A strong start to a rather significant career." [28] David Rickert of All About Jazz noted the influence of Bud Powell and wrote "Even at this stage he had the chops to make this a good piano jazz album, but in the end it's not a very good Bill Evans album... There are glimpses of the later trademarks of Evans' style..." [29] Although a critical success that gained positive reviews in DownBeat and Metronome magazines, New Jazz Conceptions was initially a financial failure, selling only 800 copies the first year. "Five" was for some time Evans's trio farewell tune during performances. [9] After the album's release, Evans spent much time studying J. S. Bach's music to improve his technique. [30]

Work with George Russell

It was one of those magic moments in your life when you expect a horror story, and the doors of heaven open up. I knew there and then he wasn't going to get away.

George Russell upon hearing Bill Evans for the first time. [9]

Evans met composer George Russell during his tenure with Lucy Reed. Russell's first impression of Evans was negative ("this is going to be like pulling teeth all day"), but when he secretly heard Evans play, he completely changed his mind. [9] Russell was then developing his magnum opus, the treatise Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization , in which he argued that the Lydian mode was more compatible with tonality than the major scale used in most music. This was groundbreaking in jazz, and soon influenced musicians like Miles Davis. Evans, who was already acquainted with these ideas, began to work with Russell in 1956. [9]

By this time, RCA Victor had begun a series of recordings called Jazz Workshop, and soon Russell, through the intervention of Hal McKusick and Jack Lewis, gained his own record date titled The Jazz Workshop and released in 1957. At that time, Russell assembled trumpeter Art Farmer, guitarist Barry Galbraith, bassist Milt Hinton and Bill Evans on piano for three recording dates, along with several rehearsal sessions. Initially, for these sessions, only the bassist was given a written part, while the rest were left, and, according to Farmer, "took the parts at home and tried to come to terms with them". The album took a year to make, and was successful enough to enable Russell to escape his penurious lifestyle. [9] Evans performed a significant solo in "Concerto for Billy the Kid". [14]

In 1957, Russell was one of six composers (three jazz, three classical) Brandeis University commissioned to write a piece for its Festival of the Creative Arts in the context of the first experiments in third stream jazz. Russell wrote a suite for orchestra, "All About Rosie", that featured Evans, among other soloists. [30] "All About Rosie" has been cited as one of the few convincing examples of composed polyphony in jazz. [31] A week before the festival, the piece was previewed on TV, and Evans's performance was deemed "legendary" in jazz circles. During the festival performance, on June 6, Evans became acquainted with Chuck Israels, who became his bassist years later. [32] During the Brandeis Festival, guitarist Joe Puma invited Evans to play on the album Joe Puma/Jazz. [33]

Chet Baker worked with Bill Evans on his album Chet in 1958-1959. Chet Baker (1955 portrait).jpg
Chet Baker worked with Bill Evans on his album Chet in 1958–1959.

That year, Evans also met bassist Scott LaFaro while auditioning him for a place in an ensemble led by trumpeter Chet Baker, and was impressed. LaFaro joined his trio three years later. [34]

Evans also performed on albums by Charles Mingus, Oliver Nelson, Tony Scott, Eddie Costa and Art Farmer.

Work with Miles Davis, Everybody Digs Bill Evans, and Kind of Blue

Miles Davis in 1955, three years before meeting Evans. Miles Davis by Palumbo.jpg
Miles Davis in 1955, three years before meeting Evans.

In February 1958, at Miles Davis's urging, Russell drove Evans over to the Colony Club in Brooklyn, to play with Davis' sextet. At this time, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones were the other members of Davis' group. Red Garland had recently been fired, and Evans knew he was not merely filling in for one night but auditioning to become the group's regular pianist. By the end of the night, Davis told Evans that he would be playing their next engagement in Philadelphia. [35] [36] The band had been known for playing a mixture of jazz standards and bebop originals, but by the time Evans arrived, Davis had begun his venture into modal jazz, having just released his album Milestones .

Evans formally joined the Miles Davis group in April 1958. The band appeared in radio broadcasts on Saturday nights and, on May 3, the new formation made its first broadcast from Café Bohemia (its usual locale). The live radio appearance that was broadcast on May 17, 1958, and also released on the album titled Makin' Wax, is known as the earliest documented evidence of the collaboration between Bill Evans and Miles Davis. [37] By mid-May, Jimmy Cobb replaced Philly Joe Jones, with whom Evans had developed a close friendship. On May 26, Evans made his first studio recordings with Davis, which were first issued as part of Jazz Track, [38] and later reissued on 1958 Miles .

A performance of the Ballets Africains from Guinea in 1958 sparked Davis' interest in modal music. This music stayed for long periods of time on a single chord, weaving in and out of consonance and dissonance. [39] Another influence was George Russell's treatise. Both influences coalesced in Davis' conception of modal jazz offering an alternative to chord changes and major/minor key relationships, relying instead on a series of modal scales. He realized that Evans, who had worked with Russell, could follow him into modal music. At the same time, Evans introduced Davis to twentieth-century classical composers such as Sergei Rachmaninoff, Maurice Ravel, and Aram Khachaturian. [14]

The band's mostly black followers did not react favourably to the replacement of Garland with a white musician. [9] [35] Davis used to tease him and Evans's sensitivity perhaps let it get to him. However, the band began to find a new, smoother groove, as Adderley recalled: "When he started to use Bill, Miles changed his style from very hard to a softer approach." [35]

Bill had this quiet fire that I loved on piano. The way he approached it, the sound he got was like crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall. I had to change the way the band sounded again for Bill's style by playing different tunes, softer ones at first.

Miles Davis [40]

In July 1958, Evans appeared as a sideman on Adderley's album Portrait of Cannonball , featuring the first performance of "Nardis", specially written by Davis for the session. While Davis was not very satisfied with the performance, he said that from then on, Evans was the only one to play it in the way he wanted. The piece came to be associated with Evans's future trios, which played it frequently. [9]

By the end of the summer, Davis knew Evans was quickly approaching his full professional development; and that he would soon decide to leave Davis' group. [35] This year, Evans won the DownBeat International Critics' Poll for his work with Davis and his album New Jazz Conceptions. [41]

In September 1958, Evans recorded as a sideman in Art Farmer's album Modern Art , also featuring Benny Golson. All three had won the DownBeat poll. [41] Later, Evans deemed this record as one of his favorites. During this period, despite all the successes, Evans was visiting a psychiatrist, as he was unsure whether he wanted to continue as a pianist. [42]

Evans left Davis' sextet in November 1958 and stayed with his parents in Florida and his brother in Louisiana. While he was burned out, one of the main reasons for leaving was his father's illness. [42] During this sojourn, the always self-critical Evans suddenly felt his playing had improved. "While I was staying with my brother in Baton Rouge, I remember finding that somehow I had reached a new level of expression in my playing. It had come almost automatically, and I was very anxious about it, afraid I might lose it." [42]

Shortly after, he moved back to New York, and in December Evans recorded the trio album Everybody Digs Bill Evans for Riverside Records with bassist Sam Jones and drummer Philly Joe Jones. This was Evans's second album as a leader, the first since New Jazz Conceptions, recorded two years earlier. While producer Orrin Keepnews had many times tried to persuade Evans to make a second trio recording, the pianist felt he had nothing new to say ... until then. He had also been too busy traveling with Davis to make a record. [43]

Evans built "Peace Piece" on a simple one-bar ostinato left-hand figure in C major. Over this static harmonic frame, he freely improvised melodies. Bill Evans Peace Piece.png
Evans built "Peace Piece" on a simple one-bar ostinato left-hand figure in C major. Over this static harmonic frame, he freely improvised melodies.

One of the pieces to appear on the album was Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time". Evans started to play an introduction using an ostinato figure. However, according to Keepnews, who was present, the pianist spontaneously started to improvise over that harmonic frame, creating the recording that would be named "Peace Piece". According to Evans: "What happened was that I started to play the introduction, and it started to get so much of its own feeling and identity that I just figured, well, I'll keep going." However, Gretchen Magee claims that the piece had been penned as an exercise during his college years, while Peri Cousins says that he would often play the piece at home. [44]

Evans returned to the Davis sextet in early 1959, at the trumpeter's request, to record Kind of Blue , often considered the best-selling jazz album of all time. [3] [45]

As usual, during the sessions of Kind of Blue, Miles Davis called for almost no rehearsal and the musicians had little idea what they were to record. Davis had given the band only sketches of scales and melody lines on which to improvise. Once the musicians were assembled, Davis gave brief instructions for each piece and then set about taping the sextet in studio. [46]

During the creative process of Kind of Blue, Davis handed Evans a piece of paper with two chords—G minor and A augmented—and asked "What would you do with that?" Evans spent the next night writing what would become "Blue in Green". However, when the album came out, the song was attributed exclusively to Davis. When Evans suggested he might deserve a share of the royalties, Davis offered him a check for $25. [9] [47] Evans also penned the liner notes for Kind of Blue, comparing jazz improvisation to Japanese visual art. [46] By the fall of 1959, Evans had started his own trio with Jimmy Garrison and Kenny Dennis, but it was short-lived. [34]

Sometime during the late 1950s, most probably before joining Miles Davis, Evans began using heroin. Philly Joe Jones has been cited as an especially bad influence in this aspect. [9] [48] Although Davis seems to have tried to help Evans kick his addiction, he did not succeed.

Evans's first long-term romance was with a black woman named Peri Cousins (for whom "Peri's Scope" was named), during the second half of the 1950s. The couple had problems booking in hotels during Evans's gigs, since most of them did not allow inter-racial couples. By the turn of the decade, Evans had met a waitress named Ellaine Schultz, who would become his partner for twelve years. [48]

Jack DeJohnette performed with Bill Evans trio at Montreux Jazz Festival and other events Jack DeJohnette.jpg
Jack DeJohnette performed with Bill Evans trio at Montreux Jazz Festival and other events
Joe LaBarbera performed with Bill Evans trio in 1979-1980 Joe LaBarbera.jpg
Joe LaBarbera performed with Bill Evans trio in 1979–1980
Chuck Israels performed with Bill Evans trio in 1962-1966 Chuck Israels.jpg
Chuck Israels performed with Bill Evans trio in 1962–1966
Eddie Gomez performed with Bill Evans trio in 1964-1974 Eddie1.png
Eddie Gomez performed with Bill Evans trio in 1964–1974
1956with Teddy Kotick (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1958with Sam Jones (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums) (studio group only)
1959with Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums) (studio group only)
1960–1961with Scott LaFaro (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1962with Chuck Israels (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1962with Monty Budwig (bass), Shelly Manne (drums) (studio group only)
1963–1965with Chuck Israels (bass), Larry Bunker (drums)
1964with Gary Peacock (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1966with Chuck Israels (bass), Arnold Wise (drums)
1966with Eddie Gómez (bass), Shelly Manne (drums) (studio group only)
1967with Eddie Gómez (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)
1967-1968with Eddie Gómez (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums)
1968–1974with Eddie Gómez (bass), Marty Morell (drums)
1976–1977with Eddie Gómez (bass), Eliot Zigmund (drums)
1978with Michael Moore (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)
1979–1980with Marc Johnson (bass), Joe LaBarbera (drums)

Trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian

We needed people that were interested in each other, so that we could spend a year or two just growing, without ambitions, just allowing the music to grow. And allowing our talents to merge in a very natural way.

Evans in interview with George Clabin, 1966 [34]

In mid-1959, Evans was performing at Basin Street East, and was visited by bassist Scott LaFaro, who was playing with singer and pianist Bobby Scott at a club around the corner. [49] LaFaro expressed interest in forming a trio, and suggested Paul Motian, who had appeared on Evans's album New Jazz Conceptions, as the drummer for the new group. [34] The trio with LaFaro and Motian became one of the most celebrated piano trios in jazz[ example needed ]. With this group Evans's focus settled on traditional jazz standards and original compositions, with an added emphasis on interplay among band members. Evans and LaFaro would achieve a high level of musical empathy[ further explanation needed ]. In December 1959 the band recorded its first album, Portrait in Jazz for Riverside Records.

In early 1960, the trio began a tour that brought them to Boston, San Francisco (at Jazz Workshop), and Chicago (at the Sutherland Lounge). After returning to New York in February, the band performed at Town Hall on a multi-artist bill, and then began a residency at Birdland. While the trio did not produce any studio records in 1960, two bootleg recordings from radio broadcasts from April and May were illegally released in the early 1970s, which infuriated Evans. [50] Later, they would be posthumously issued as The 1960 Birdland Sessions. [9]

In parallel with his trio work, Evans kept working as a backing musician for other bandleaders. In 1960, he performed on singer Frank Minion's album The Soft Land of Make Believe, featuring versions of the Kind of Blue compositions "Flamenco Sketches" and "So What" with added lyrics. That year, he also recorded The Soul of Jazz Percussion, with Philly Joe Jones and Chambers. [9]

In May 1960, the trio performed at one of the Jazz Profiles concerts, a series organized by Charles Schwartz. Around this time, Evans hired Monte Kay as his manager. During one of his concerts at the Jazz Gallery, Evans contracted hepatitis, and went to his parents' house in Florida to recuperate. During this time period, Evans also participated in the recordings The Great Kai & J. J. and The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones for Impulse! Records. In May and August 1960, Evans appeared on George Russell's album Jazz in the Space Age. In late 1960, he performed on Jazz Abstractions, an album recorded under the leadership of Gunther Schuller and John Lewis. [9]

Evans' trio with Motian and LaFaro recorded Explorations in February 1961, the group's second and final studio album. According to Orrin Keepnews, the atmosphere during the recording sessions was tense, Evans and LaFaro having had an argument over extra-musical matters. Additionally, Evans was suffering at the session from headaches, and LaFaro was playing with a loaned bass. [9] The disc features the Evans' first trio version of "Nardis", the Miles Davis piece Evans had recorded with Cannonball Adderley for Adderley's Portrait of Cannonball album in 1958. Apart from "Nardis" and "Elsa", the album consisted of jazz standards. After the recording sessions, Evans was initially unwilling to release the album, believing the trio had played badly. However, upon hearing the recording, he changed his mind, and later thought of it in very positive terms. [34] In February 1961, shortly after the Explorations sessions, he appeared as a sideman in Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth .

In late June 1961, Riverside recorded Evans' trio live at the Village Vanguard, which resulted in the albums Sunday at the Village Vanguard , and Waltz for Debby. (Further recordings from this performance were issued in 1984 as More From The Vanguard.) [51] [52] Evans later showed special satisfaction with these recordings, seeing them as the culmination of the musical interplay of his trio. [34]

After LaFaro's death

The death of 25-year-old LaFaro in a car accident, ten days after the Vanguard performances, devastated Evans. He did not record or perform in public again for several months.

In October 1961, persuaded by his producer Orrin Keepnews, Evans returned to the musical scene on the Mark Murphy album Rah . With new bassist Chuck Israels, they recorded in December a session for Nirvana , with flautist Herbie Mann. [5] In April and May 1962, Evans completed the duo album, Undercurrent , with guitarist Jim Hall.

When he re-formed his trio in 1962, two albums, Moon Beams and How My Heart Sings! resulted. In 1963, at the beginning of his association with Verve, he recorded Conversations with Myself , an album which featured overdubbing, layering up to three individual tracks of piano for each song. The album won him his first Grammy award. [53]

Evans's heroin addiction increased following LaFaro's death. His girlfriend Ellaine Schultz was also an addict. Evans habitually had to borrow money from friends, and eventually, his electricity and telephone services were shut down. Evans said: "You don't understand. It's like death and transfiguration. Every day you wake in pain like death and then you go out and score, and that is transfiguration. Each day becomes all of life in microcosm." [14] [54]

Evans never allowed heroin to interfere with his musical discipline, according to a 2010 BBC record review article which contrasts Evans's addiction with that of Chet Baker. [55] On one occasion while injecting heroin, Evans hit a nerve and temporarily disabled it, performing a full week's engagement at the Village Vanguard virtually one-handed. [9] During this time, Helen Keane began having an important influence, as she gave significant assistance helping to maintain Evans's career despite his self-destructive lifestyle, and the two developed a strong friendship. [48]

In summer 1963, Evans and Schultz left their flat in New York and settled in his parents' home in Florida, where, it seems, they quit the habit for some time. [9] Even though never legally married, Bill and Ellaine were, in all other respects, husband and wife. At that time, Schultz meant everything to Evans, and was the only person with whom he felt genuine comfort. [9]

Although he recorded many albums for Verve, their artistic quality has typically been viewed as uneven. Despite Israels' fast development and the creativity of new drummer Larry Bunker, the album Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra , featuring Gabriel Fauré's Pavane and works of other classical composers arranged by Claus Ogerman, divided critical opinion. Some recordings in unusual contexts were made, such as a concert recording with a big-band recorded at Town Hall, New York that was never issued owing to Evans's dissatisfaction with it (although the more successful jazz trio portion of the concert was released). Live recordings and bootleg radio broadcasts from this time period represent some of the trio's better work.

In 1965, the trio with Chuck Israels and Larry Bunker went on a well-received European tour.

Bill Evans meets Eddie Gómez

In 1966, Bill Evans met Puerto-Rico born, Juilliard-graduated bassist Eddie Gómez. In what turned out to be an eleven-year stay, Gómez sparked new developments in Evans's trio conception. One of the most significant releases during this period is Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival (1968), which won him his second Grammy award. [53] It has remained a critical favorite, and is one of two albums Evans made with drummer Jack DeJohnette.

Other highlights from this period include "Solo – In Memory of His Father" from Bill Evans at Town Hall (1966), which also introduced "Turn Out the Stars"; a second pairing with guitarist Jim Hall, Intermodulation (1966); and the solo album Alone (1968, featuring a 14-minute version of "Never Let Me Go"), that won his third Grammy award. [53]

In 1968, drummer Marty Morell joined the trio and remained until 1975, when he retired to family life. This was Evans's most stable, longest-lasting group. Evans had overcome his heroin habit and was entering a period of personal stability.

Between 1969 and 1970, Evans recorded From Left to Right , featuring his first use of electric piano.

Between May and June 1971, Evans recorded The Bill Evans Album , which won two Grammy awards. [53] This all-originals album (four new), also featured alternation between acoustic and electric piano. One of these was "Comrade Conrad", a tune that had originated as a Crest toothpaste jingle and had later been reelaborated and dedicated to Conrad Mendenhall, a friend who had died in a car accident. [56]

Other albums included The Tokyo Concert (1973); Since We Met (1974); and But Beautiful (1974; released in 1996), featuring the trio plus saxophonist Stan Getz in live performances from the Netherlands and Belgium. Morell was an energetic, straight-ahead drummer, unlike many of the trio's former percussionists, and many critics feel that this was a period of little growth for Evans. After Morell left, Evans and Gómez recorded two duo albums, Intuition and Montreux III .

In the early 1970s, Evans was caught at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport with a suitcase containing heroin. Although the police put him in jail for the night, he was not charged. However, both he and Ellaine had to begin methadone treatment. [48] [57]

In 1973, while working in Redondo Beach, California, Evans met and fell in love with Nenette Zazzara, despite his long-term relationship with Ellaine Schultz. [9] When Evans broke the news to Schultz she pretended to understand but then committed suicide by throwing herself under a subway train. Evans's relatives believe that Schultz's infertility, coupled with Bill's desire to have a son, may have influenced those events. [8] As a result, Evans went back on heroin for a while before resuming methadone treatment. In August 1973, Evans married Nenette, and, in 1975, they had a child, Evan. The new family, which also included Evans's stepdaughter Maxine, lived in a large house in Closter, New Jersey. [9] Both remained very close until his death. [9] Nenette and Bill remained married until Evans's death in 1980.

In 1974, Bill Evans recorded a multimovement jazz concerto written for him by Claus Ogerman entitled Symbiosis.

Collaboration with Tony Bennett

There is an intriguing juxtaposition of opposites running through the music—Bennett the expansive, heart on sleeve, vibrato man, Evans the inward looking aesthete—which makes for charged listening, if charged is an adjective which can be applied to something so relaxed. And the projects were genuinely collaborative, with the artists on an equal footing: Evans solos wonderfully throughout and Together Again actually starts with a solo piano piece, "The Bad And The Beautiful", put there at Bennett's suggestion to emphasize that this wasn't just a vocalist-with-accompanist affair. ...By the time Bennett and Evans made the second album they'd been performing live together for a year and their partnership, comfortable enough though it was on the first album, is noticeably better oiled.

— Chris May on The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings [58]

During the mid-1970s Bill Evans collaborated with the singer Tony Bennett on two critically acclaimed albums: The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album (1975) and Together Again (1977). It was Tony Bennett who initiated the collaboration with Bill Evans. The two musicians had mutual respect for each other's talent. Bennett and Evans performed together for about two years. Although Evans was using cocaine regularly during this period, he was reported sober when recording the albums with Bennett. [58]

Both Bennett and Evans stated that it was not just a singer with accompanist affair, but rather a mutually stimulated creative effort to enhance some well known hits with a new twist on familiar melodies and harmonies. Harmonically sophisticated piano arrangements by Evans and his extended piano solos were encouraged by Bennett to emphasize equally valuable input from both musicians. Bennett and Evans recorded the first album in four studio sessions in June 1975, and the second album in four studio sessions in September 1976. Between the two recordings, Bennett and Evans performed live as a duo, featuring songs from their recordings including "But Beautiful", "Days of Wine and Roses", "Dream Dancing".

Last years

In 1975, Morell was replaced by drummer Eliot Zigmund. Several collaborations followed, and it was not until 1977 that the trio was able to record an album together. Both I Will Say Goodbye (Evans's last album for Fantasy Records) and You Must Believe in Spring (for Warner Bros.) highlighted changes that would become significant in the last stage of Evans's life. A greater emphasis was placed on group improvisation and interaction, and new harmonic experiments were attempted.

Evans performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival with his trio consisting of Marc Johnson, bass, and Philly Joe Jones, drums, July 13, 1978. Bill Evans.jpg
Evans performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival with his trio consisting of Marc Johnson, bass, and Philly Joe Jones, drums, July 13, 1978.

Gómez and Zigmund left Evans in 1978. Evans then asked Philly Joe Jones, the drummer he considered his "all-time favorite drummer", to fill in. Several bassists were tried, with Michael Moore staying the longest. Evans finally settled on Marc Johnson on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. This trio would be Evans's last. In April 1979, Evans met Laurie Verchomin, a Canadian waitress (later, a writer) with whom he had a relationship until his death. Verchomin was 28 years younger. [48]

At the beginning of a several-week tour of the trio through the Pacific Northwest in the spring of 1979, Evans learned that his brother, Harry, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, had died by suicide at age 52. [8] [14] [48] This news shocked him deeply, and some of the concerts had to be canceled. His friends and relatives believe that this event precipitated his own death the following year. [8] [48]

Marc Johnson recalled: "This fateful trip marks ... the beginning of the end. Bill's willingness to play and work decreased noticeably after the death of Harry, actually it was just the music itself that held him upright. He fulfilled his obligations because he needed money, but these were the few moments in his life when he felt comfortable—the times in between must have been depressing, and he barely showed a willingness to live." [5]

In August 1979, Evans recorded his last studio album, We Will Meet Again , featuring a composition of the same name written for his brother. The album won a Grammy award posthumously in 1981, along with I Will Say Goodbye. [53]

Drug addiction and death

Evans is buried at Roselawn Memorial Park and Mausoleum, Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, Section 161, Plot K. Bill Evans's tombstone.jpg
Evans is buried at Roselawn Memorial Park and Mausoleum, Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, Section 161, Plot K.

During the late 1970s, Evans kicked his heroin habit, with the help of methadone, only to become addicted to cocaine. He started with one gram per weekend, but later started taking several grams daily. [48] His brother Harry's suicide may have also influenced his emotional state after 1979. His sister-in-law Pat Evans has stated that she knew Bill would not last long after Harry's death and she wondered if that is what prompted her to buy three plots in a Baton Rouge Cemetery, where Harry was interred. [8] It has been documented that he voluntarily quit his treatment for chronic hepatitis. [8] Laurie Verchomin has claimed that Evans was clear in mind that he would die in a short time. [48]

On September 15, 1980, Evans, who had been in bed for several days with stomach pains at his home in Fort Lee, was accompanied by Joe LaBarbera and Verchomin to the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he died that afternoon. [48] The cause of death was a combination of peptic ulcer, cirrhosis, bronchial pneumonia, and untreated hepatitis. [9] Evans's friend Gene Lees described Evans's struggle with drugs as "the longest suicide in history". [9]

He was interred in Baton Rouge, next to his brother Harry. Services were held in Manhattan on Friday, September 19. [59] A tribute, planned by producer Orrin Keepnews and Tom Bradshaw, was held on the following Monday, September 22, at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. [60] Fellow musicians paid homage to the late pianist in the first days of the 1980 Monterey Jazz Festival, which had opened that very week: Dave Brubeck played his own "In Your Own Sweet Way" on the 19th, The Manhattan Transfer would follow on the 20th, while John Lewis dedicated "I'll Remember April". [61] In 1981, Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays released the piece "September Fifteenth (dedicated to Bill Evans)" on their album As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls .

Music and style

Evans is credited as creating some new harmonies, like the quartal voicing Mark Levine calls "So What" chord; first appearing in the opening track of Kind of Blue. So What Chords in Kind of Blue.png
Evans is credited as creating some new harmonies, like the quartal voicing Mark Levine calls "So What" chord; first appearing in the opening track of Kind of Blue.
A Viennese trichord as a part of 6-Z17, an altered dominant tritone substitution (Db7alt) in the key of C, from Evans's opening to "What Is This Thing Called Love?" Play. Bill Evans's "What Is This Thing Called Love" Viennese trichord.png
A Viennese trichord as a part of 6-Z17, an altered dominant tritone substitution (Db7alt) in the key of C, from Evans's opening to "What Is This Thing Called Love?" Play .

Bill Evans is credited with influencing the harmonic language of jazz piano. [14] [65] Evans's harmony was itself influenced by impressionist composers such as Claude Debussy [66] and Maurice Ravel. [67] His versions of jazz standards, as well as his own compositions, often featured thorough reharmonisations. Musical features included added tone chords, modal inflections, unconventional substitutions, and modulations. [67]

An example of Evans's harmonies. The chords feature extensions like 9ths and 13ths, are laid around middle C, have smooth voice leading, and leave the root to the bassist. Bridge of the first chorus of "Waltz for Debby" (mm.33-36). From the 1961 album of the same name. Bill Evans - Waltz For Debby - Bridge (1961).png
An example of Evans's harmonies. The chords feature extensions like 9ths and 13ths, are laid around middle C, have smooth voice leading, and leave the root to the bassist. Bridge of the first chorus of "Waltz for Debby" (mm.33–36). From the 1961 album of the same name.

One of Evans's distinctive harmonic traits is excluding the root in his chords, leaving this work to the bassist, played on another beat of the measure, or just left implied. "If I am going to be sitting here playing roots, fifths and full voicings, the bass is relegated to a time machine." This idea had already been explored by Ahmad Jamal, Erroll Garner, and Red Garland. In Evans's system, the chord is expressed as a quality identity and a color. [9] [68] Most of Evans's harmonies feature added note chords or quartal voicings. [65] Thus, Evans created a self-sufficient language for the left hand, a distinctive voicing, that allowed the transition from one chord to the next while hardly having to move the hand. With this technique, he created an effect of continuity in the central register of the piano. Lying around middle C, in this region the harmonic clusters sounded the clearest, and at the same time, left room for contrapuntal independence with the bass. [9]

Evans's improvisations relied heavily on motivic development, either melodically or rhythmically. [65] Motives may be broken and recombined to form melodies. [69] Another characteristic of Evans's style is rhythmic displacement. [9] [70] His melodic contours often describe arches. [71] Other characteristics include sequenciation of melodies and transforming one motive into another. [71] He plays with one hand in the time signature of 4/4 and the other momentarily in 3/4. [72]

At the beginning of his career, Evans used block chords heavily. He later abandoned them in part. [73] During a 1978 interview, Marian McPartland asked:

"How do you think your playing has changed since you first started? Is it deliberate or is it just happening to change?"
Bill Evans: "Well it's deliberate, ahh but I stay along the same lines ... I try to get a little deeper into what I'm doing. As far as that kind of playing goes, [jazz playing rather than an earlier example where he played Waltz for Debbie without any improvisation or sense of swing], I think my left hand is a little more competent and uhh ... of course I worked a lot on inner things happening like inner voices I've worked on." [74] [75]
The first line of "Time Remembered", as penned by Evans in the early 1970s. Bill Evans Time Remembered2.png
The first line of "Time Remembered", as penned by Evans in the early 1970s.

At least during his late years, Evans's favorite keys to play in were A and E. [15] Evans greatly valued Bach's music, which influenced his playing style and which helped him gain good touch and finger independence. "Bach changed my hand approach to playing the piano. I used to use a lot of finger technique when I was younger, and I changed over to a weight technique. Actually, if you play Bach and the voices sing at all, and sustain the way they should, you really can't play it with the wrong approach." [30] Evans valued Bach's "The Well-Tempered Clavier" and his "Two- and Three-Part Inventions" as excellent practice material.[ citation needed ]

In an interview with Len Lyons, Evans said, "for me, technique is the ability to translate your ideas into sound through your instrument." [76]


In an interview given in 1964, Evans described Bud Powell as his single greatest influence. [77] Biographer Peter Pettinger notes that Evans "assimilated 'a thousand influences,'" including pianists such as Dave Brubeck, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, Al Haig, and Lou Levy as well as horn players such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Stan Getz. "The biggest influence on Evans [in his early days], though, was the pianism of Nat 'King' Cole," whom Evans called "one of the tastiest and just swingin'est and beautifully melodic improvisers and jazz pianists that jazz has ever known, and he was one of the very first that really grabbed me hard." [78] Pettinger also notes that the "work of the pianist Lennie Tristano, with his cool approach to a line" was an important influence on Evans, [79] and Lyons observes that Tristano preceded Evans in his use of overdubbing piano tracks. [80] In addition, Evans was heavily influenced by his in-depth studies of European classical music: "The constructional knowledge of music that Evans later brought to jazz was firmly rooted in this European tradition, as was his thoroughly trained and exquisitely refined touch at the keyboard." [21]

As a composer, Evans also assimilated and amalgamated jazz, popular, and classical influences in an "utterly logical" manner. [81] His compositional style shows similarities to and influences from some of the composers whose works he often played, such as Earl Zindars [81] and Michel Legrand. [82] J. William Murray notes that "Evans was very adept at drawing Western European compositional techniques into jazz and there are elements of Bach, Chopin, Debussy, and Ravel in his writing." [83]

Views on contemporaneous music tendencies

Evans's career began just before the rock explosion in the 1960s. During this decade, jazz was swept into a corner, and most new talents had few opportunities to gain recognition, especially in America. [84] However, Evans believed he had been lucky to gain some exposure before this profound change in the music world, and never had problems gaining bookings and recording opportunities. [84]

Evans never embraced new music movements; he kept his style intact. For example, he lamented watching Davis shift his style towards jazz fusion and blamed the change on considerations of commerce. Evans commented, "I would like to hear more of the consummate melodic master [Davis], but I feel that big business and his record company have had a corrupting influence on his material. The rock and pop thing certainly draws a wider audience. It happens more and more these days, that unqualified people with executive positions try to tell musicians what is good and what is bad music." [35] However, Evans and Davis kept in touch throughout their lives. [48]

While Evans considered himself an acoustic pianist, from the 1970 album From Left to Right on, he also released some material with Fender-Rhodes piano intermissions. However, unlike other jazz players (such as Herbie Hancock) he never fully embraced the new instrument, and invariably ended up returning to the acoustic sound. "I don't think too much about the electronic thing, except that it's kind of fun to have it as an alternate voice. ... [It's] merely an alternate keyboard instrument, that offers a certain kind of sound that's appropriate sometimes. I find that it's a refreshing auxiliary to the piano—but I don't need it ... I don't enjoy spending a lot of time with the electric piano. I play it for a period of time, then I quickly tire of it, and I want to get back to the acoustic piano." [35] He commented that electronic music: "just doesn't attract me. I'm of a certain period, a certain evolution. I hear music differently. For me, comparing electric bass to acoustic bass is sacrilege." [35]

Repertoire and compositions

Evans's repertoire consisted of established jazz standards, songs by contemporaries (some of which he helped become standards), and original compositions (some of which have also gone on to become standards). Among the major American songwriters, he was particularly drawn to the work of Jimmy Van Heusen, recording what was reputedly his favorite song, "But Beautiful," [85] many times in various settings as well as many other tunes by Van Heusen. Contemporaries whose works he often played include Michel Legrand, Johnny Mandel, and Earl Zindars as well as, to a lesser extent, Burt Bacharach, John Lewis, Henry Mancini, Gary McFarland, Thelonious Monk, Claus Ogerman, Steve Swallow, and Denny Zeitlin. Other songs by his contemporaries and colleagues he recorded include "In Your Own Sweet Way" by Dave Brubeck, "You're Gonna Hear from Me" by André Previn, "The Peacocks" by Jimmy Rowles, "Dolphin Dance" by Herbie Hancock, and, atypically, "I Do It for Your Love" by Paul Simon, which nonetheless "continued to inspire the pianist's most complex thoughts" in his final years. [86] "Nardis" by Miles Davis was a special signature tune, often performed in highly extended versions by his final trio. [87]

During a radio interview, Marian McPartland listened to Evans play "Reflections in D" by Duke Ellington and later noted, "Sitting next to him, listening to the rise and fall of the melody, I realized that ... he chooses some of the most romantic, evocative tunes there are. The tune ended softly with a chord so perfect it took my breath away." [88]

Evans composed over 50 originals. Many were dedicated to people close to him. Some known examples include "Waltz for Debby" for his niece; "For Nenette" for his wife; "Letter to Evan" for his son; "NYC's No Lark," an anagram of Sonny Clark in memory of his friend the pianist; "Re: Person I Knew," another anagram, of the name of his friend and producer Orrin Keepnews; "We Will Meet Again" for his brother; "Peri's Scope" for girlfriend Peri Cousins; "One for Helen" and "Song for Helen" for his manager Helen Keane; "B minor Waltz (For Ellaine)" for girlfriend Ellaine Schultz; "Laurie" for girlfriend Laurie Verchomin; "Yet Ne'er Broken," an anagram of the name of cocaine dealer Robert Kenney; "Maxine" for his stepdaughter; "Tiffany" for Joe LaBarbera's daughter; and "Knit For Mary F." for fan Mary Franksen from Omaha. [89]

Personal life

Bill Evans was an avid reader, in particular philosophy and humorous books. His shelves held works by Plato, Voltaire, Whitehead, Santayana, Freud, Margaret Mead, Sartre and Thomas Merton; and he had a special fondness for Thomas Hardy's work. He was fascinated with Eastern religions and philosophies including Islam, Zen, and Buddhism. It was Evans who introduced John Coltrane to the Indian philosophy of Krishnamurti. [9]

Evans liked to paint and draw. [42] He was also a keen golfer, a hobby that began on his father's golf course. [9] Evans had a fondness for horse racing and frequently gambled hundreds of dollars, often winning. [90] During his last years, he even owned a racehorse named "Annie Hall" with producer Jack Rollins. [48]

In 1973, Evans broke up with his girlfriend of twelve years, Ellaine Schultz, to pursue Nenette Zazzara. Schultz then committed suicide by throwing herself in front of a subway train.

Evans married Zazzara in August 1973. They met while Bill's trio was performing at Howard Rumsey's club Concerts By The Sea in Redondo Beach, California, where Zazzara was a part-time waitress. [91]


Evans in Helsinki in 1964. Bill-Evans-1964.jpg
Evans in Helsinki in 1964.

Music critic Richard S. Ginell wrote: "With the passage of time, Bill Evans has become an entire school unto himself for pianists and a singular mood unto himself for listeners. There is no more influential jazz-oriented pianist—only McCoy Tyner exerts nearly as much pull among younger players and journeymen." [92]

During his short tenure with Davis in 1958, when the band left New York to go on the road, Evans sometimes received cold receptions from the mostly black audiences. Evans later acknowledged that some felt his presence threatened the black pride aspect of the famed Davis band's success. Pettinger believed in a recording, for his solo on a tune named "Walkin'", Evans received noticeably less applause than the other soloists, and for that on "All Of You", none at all. Davis and the other band members would respond "he's supposed to be there, Miles wants him there" on the bandstand whenever audience members made comments. [9] Davis noted in his autobiography that Evans was sensitive to the criticism and let it get to him. This might have been a contributing factor to Evans leaving the band after just seven months.

When Ken Burns' television miniseries Jazz was released in 2001, it was criticised for neglecting Evans's work after his departure from the Miles Davis' sextet. [9]

Legacy and influence

Author and jazz pianist Len Lyons wrote, "Evans was the most influential pianist of the 1960's. The tone, touch, texture, and harmonic richness of his playing affected the majority of pianists who followed him." [93] Evans has left his mark on such players as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Paul Bley, Keith Jarrett, Steve Kuhn, Warren Bernhardt, Michel Petrucciani, John Taylor, Vince Guaraldi, Stefano Bollani, Don Friedman, Marian McPartland, Denny Zeitlin, Bobo Stenson, Fred Hersch, Bill Charlap, Lyle Mays, Eliane Elias, Diana Krall, Ralph Towner, John McLaughlin, Lenny Breau, Rick Wright of Pink Floyd, Denis Matsuev, and many other musicians in jazz and other music genres. [94] His recordings have been transcribed and arranged by Jed Distler and others and recorded by classical musicians such as the Kronos Quartet, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Roy Eaton, and Igor Levit.

Evans's piano style has also influenced some contemporary classical composers. The noted Hungarian composer György Ligeti admired Evans and acknowledged his influence in an interview, adding, "As far as touch is concerned, Bill Evans is a sort of Michelangeli of jazz" (in reference to the great classical pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli). [95] Ligeti's Fifth Piano Étude, subtitled "Arc-en-ciel" ("Rainbow"), demonstrates this influence clearly, and Ligeti even hand-wrote in the margin of the score, "Play it like Bill Evans." [96] Likewise, American minimalist composer and keyboardist Terry Riley included Evans in "the Pantheon of my teachers and heroes" in the liner notes to his solo piano Lisbon Concert. [97]

Many of Evans's own compositions, such as "Waltz for Debby," "Peace Piece," "Blue in Green," "Very Early," "Time Remembered," "Turn Out the Stars," "We Will Meet Again," and "Funkallero," have become often-recorded jazz standards. In addition, his early death inspired the composition of two widely covered tribute songs by others, Phil Woods' "Goodbye, Mr. Evans" and Don Sebesky's "I Remember Bill."

During his lifetime, Evans was honored with 31 Grammy nominations and seven Awards. [53] In 1994, he was posthumously honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Bill Evans Jazz Festival at Southeastern Louisiana University began in 2002. [98] A Bill Evans painting hangs in the Recital Hall lobby of the Department of Music and Performing Arts. The Center for Southeastern Louisiana Studies at the Simms Library holds the Bill Evans archives. [99] He was named Outstanding Alumnus of the year in 1969 at Southeastern Louisiana University. [100]

Evans influenced the character Seb's wardrobe in the film La La Land . [101]


Tribute albums


  1. Ginell, Richard. "Bill Evans". AllMusic. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  2. Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings 9th edition. Penguin. ISBN   978-0-14-103401-0.
  3. 1 2 Light, Alan (November 2, 2006). "The All-Time 100 Albums". Time . Archived from the original on November 17, 2006. Retrieved August 19, 2008.
  4. "1981 Down Beat Critics Poll". Down Beat. August 31, 1983. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Petrik, Hanns E. (1989). Bill Evans – Sein Leben, Seine Musik, Seine Schallplatten. OREOS Verlag. ISBN   978-3-923657-23-0. The quotes extracted from this book have been re-translated into English from the German original.
  6. 1 2 Evans, Pat (2011). "The Two Brothers As I Knew Them: Harry and Bill Evans" (PDF). Matt H. Evans.
  7. Wilson, John S. (September 17, 1980). "Bill Evans, Jazz Pianist Praised For Lyricism and Structure, Dies; 'In Touch With His Feelings' Trouble With Scales". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Evans, Pat (2011). The two brothers as I knew them (PDF).
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 Pettinger 2002 [ page needed ]
  10. Pettinger 2002, pp. 9–10.
  11. 1 2 Pettinger 2002, p. 10.
  12. 1 2 "Interview with Harry Evans. c.1965". Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved September 13, 2012 via YouTube.
  13. 1 2 Pettinger 2002, pp. 11–12.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 AAJ Staff. "Bill Evans: 1929–1980". All About Jazz. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  15. 1 2 3 "Interview with Marian McParland, late 1970s". July 7, 2008. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved September 13, 2012 via YouTube.
  16. Pettinger 2002, pp. 12–13.
  17. from, BillEvansArchive. "Bill Evans - Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz Broadcast (1977 Album)". UMG, Warner/Chappell, EMI. Retrieved August 6, 2018 via YouTube.
  18. "High school bands to jazz things up at festival". Courier News . Bridgewater, New Jersey. April 14, 1988. p. 22 via It is named for jazz pianist Bill Evans, who graduated from North Plainfield High School in 1946.
  19. Cramer, Alfred W. (May 2009). Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century-Volume 2. Salem Press. p. 423. ISBN   978-1-58765-514-2 . Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  20. DuBose-Smith, Darshell (June 1, 2005). African American Music Instruction Guide for Piano: Children, Beginners, Intermediate & Advanced Students. Amber Books Publishing. p. 99. ISBN   978-0-9749779-9-7 . Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  21. 1 2 Pettinger 2002, p. 16.
  22. Pettinger 2002, pp. 16–19.
  23. Pettinger 2002, p. 20.
  24. Pettinger 2002, pp. 19–20.
  25. Pettinger 2002, p. 37.
  26. Pettinger 2002, p. 61.
  27. "Bill Evans: 1929–1980". All About Jazz. August 27, 2004. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  28. "Bill Evans New Jazz Conceptions Album Reviews, Songs & More | AllMusic". AllMusic. Archived from the original on February 28, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  29. Rickert, David (May 14, 2004). "Bill Evans: New Jazz Conceptions album review @ All About Jazz". All About Jazz.
  30. 1 2 3 Pettinger 2002, p. 39.
  31. Harrison, Max (1976). The Brandeis Festival LP in A Jazz Retrospect. Quartet. pp.  177–179. ISBN   0-7043-0144-X.
  32. Pettinger 2002, p. 40.
  33. Pettinger 2002, p. 41.
  34. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "George Clabin interviews Bill Evans about Scott LaFaro in 1966". Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved September 13, 2012 via YouTube.
  35. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Kahn, Ashley (September 2001). "Miles Davis and Bill Evans: Miles and Bill in Black & White". JazzTimes . Retrieved July 28, 2012.
  36. Pettinger 2002, pp. 51–52.
  37. Pettinger 2002, p. 53.
  38. Pettinger 2002, p. 54.
  39. Early, Gerald Lyn (2001). Miles Davis and American Culture. Missouri Historical Society Press. ISBN   1-883982-38-3.
  40. Davis, Miles; Troupe, Quincy (1989). Miles: The Autobiography . Simon and Schuster. ISBN   0-671-63504-2.
  41. 1 2 Pettinger 2002, p. 65.
  42. 1 2 3 4 Pettinger 2002, p. 66.
  43. Pettinger 2002, p. 67.
  44. Pettinger 2002, pp. 68–69.
  45. "500 Greatest Albums of all Time". Rolling Stone . 2003. Archived from the original on January 4, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2008.
  46. 1 2 Bill Evans (1959). "Liner notes". Kind of Blue. Archived from the original on July 29, 2020. Retrieved December 18, 2007.
  47. The liner notes to Bill Evans – The Complete Riverside Recordings, published in 1984, give credit to both Evans and Davis ((Davis-Evans) Jazz Horn Music/Warner-Tamerlane Publ. — BMI).
  48. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Verchomin, Laurie (2010). The Big Love, Life and Death with Bill Evans. Laurie Verchomin. ISBN   978-1-4565-6309-7.
  49. LaFaro-Fernández, Helene (2009). Jade Visions: The Life and Music of Scott LaFaro. University of North Texas Press. p. 102.
  50. Pettinger 2002, pp. 98–99.
  51. Bailey, C. Michael. "Best Live Jazz Recordings (1953–65)". All About Jazz . Retrieved July 27, 2008.
  52. Penguin Guide To Jazz: "Five Star" Recordings. Counterpoint. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved June 28, 2011.
  53. 1 2 3 4 5 6 O'Neil, Thomas (1993). The Grammys: For the Record (paperback ed.). Penguin Books. ISBN   978-0-14-016657-6.
  54. Lees, Gene. Meet Me at Jim & Andy's: Jazz Musicians and Their World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988 (Bill Evans).
  55. Quinn, Michael (2010). "Chet Baker and Bill Evans The Complete Legendary Sessions Review". BBC Music. Retrieved April 18, 2017. While both were peerless masters of their instruments and shared a rich, evocatively lyrical playing style that bordered beguilingly on the introspective, Baker and Evans were polar opposites when it came to the discipline of performance. Though both were heroin addicts, the musically-trained Evans never let it interfere with his meticulously precise flights of invention while the self-taught Baker became increasingly erratic and inconsistent.
  56. Pettinger 2002, p. 205.
  57. "Interview: Laurie Verchomin (Pt. 5)". JazzWax. August 21, 2009. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  58. 1 2 May, Chris (July 12, 2009). "Album review: Tony Bennett / Bill Evans: The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings". All About Jazz. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  59. Dexter, Jr., Dave (September 27, 1980). "Services Held For Pianist Bill Evans". Billboard. p. 70. Retrieved May 9, 2023 via Google Books.
  60. "Bill Evans Tribute". Billboard. October 4, 1980. p. 57. Retrieved May 9, 2023 via Google Books.
  61. Tiegel, Eliot (October 4, 1980). "New Names Join 23rd Monterey Jazz Festival". Billboard. p. 47. Retrieved May 9, 2023 via Google Books.
  62. Levine, Mark (1989). The Jazz Piano Book. Sher Music. ISBN   978-0-9614701-5-9.
  63. Valerio, John (2005). Post-Bop Jazz Piano. Hal Leonard. p. 24. ISBN   0-634-06123-2.
  64. Forte 2000.
  65. 1 2 3 Valerio 2005, p. 40.
  66. Pamies (2021). "Deconstructing Modal Jazz Piano Techniques: The Relation between Debussy's Piano Works and the Innovations of Post-Bop Pianists". Jazz Education in Research and Practice. 2 (1): 76–105. doi:10.2979/jazzeducrese.2.1.06. JSTOR   10.2979/jazzeducrese.2.1.06. S2CID   234117087.
  67. 1 2 Reilly, Jack (1993). The Harmony of Bill Evans. Unichrom.
  68. Valerio 2005, p. 4.
  69. Valerio 2005, p. 41.
  70. Valerio 2005, p. 42.
  71. 1 2 Valerio 2005, p. 43.
  72. Valerio 2005, p. 46.
  73. Valerio 2005, p. 49.
  74. "Exploring the Life and Music of Bill Evans". This Quiet Fire. August 17, 2012. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
  75. "Bill Evans On Piano Jazz". NPR. January 25, 2013. Archived from the original (audio) on May 4, 2015. Retrieved September 13, 2012. Recorded November 6, 1978; originally broadcast May 27, 1979.
  76. Lyons, Len, The Great Jazz Pianists, Da Capo Press (1983), p. 224.
  77. Evans, Bill; Hultin, Randi (1994). The Complete Bud Powell on Verve (Liner notes, booklet). Verve. p. 39.
  78. Pettinger 2002, p. 14-15.
  79. Pettinger 2002, p. 34.
  80. Lyons, p. 220
  81. 1 2 Pettinger 2002, p. 129.
  82. Pettinger 2002, p. 243.
  83. Murray, J. William (March 2011). "Billy's Touch: An Analysis of the Compositions of Bill Evans, Billy Strayhorn, and Bill Murray" (PDF). Retrieved May 16, 2024.
  84. 1 2 Pettinger 2002, p. 197.
  85. Pettinger 2002, p. 261.
  86. Pettinger 2002, p. 282.
  87. Pettinger 2002, p. 267.
  88. Marian McPartland, liner notes to Bill Evans: Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, The Jazz Alliance, Inc., 1993.
  89. Pettinger 2002, p. 276.
  90. Pettinger 2002, pp. 66–67.
  91. Guthrie, Bruce (April 5, 2019). "Nenette Evans: My Life With Bill". All About Jazz. Retrieved May 12, 2023.
  92. Ginell, Richard S. "Bill Evans: Artist biography". AllMusic. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  93. Lyons, p. 219.
  94. Deluke, J. R. (January 29, 2008). "Eliane Elias: Something for Bill (Evans)". All About Jazz . Retrieved July 28, 2012.
  95. Delbecq, Benoît (September 1998). "György Ligeti interviewed by Benoît Delbecq" . Retrieved May 18, 2024.
  96. Järvi, Elisa, In the penprints of György Ligeti in Basle – historical aspects of performance notes in piano études 1–6, 2019, p. 91.
  97. Riley, Terry, liner notes, Lisbon Concert, New Albion Records, 1996.
  98. "Bill Evans Jazz Festival: History". Southeastern Louisiana University. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  99. "Bill Evans". Southeastern Louisiana University. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  100. "1969 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year". Southeastern Louisiana University. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  101. "'La La Land' Costume Designer Explains the Retro Realistic Look of the Film". The Hollywood Reporter . November 29, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2017.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scott LaFaro</span> American bassist (1936–1961)

Rocco Scott LaFaro was an American jazz double bassist known for his work with the Bill Evans Trio. LaFaro broke new ground on the instrument, developing a countermelodic style of accompaniment rather than playing traditional walking basslines, as well as virtuosity that was practically unmatched by any of his contemporaries. Despite his short career, he remains one of the most influential jazz bassists, and was ranked number 16 on Bass Player magazine's top 100 bass players of all time.

<i>Portrait in Jazz</i> 1960 studio album by The Bill Evans Trio

Portrait in Jazz is the fifth studio album by American jazz pianist Bill Evans as a leader, released in 1960. It is the first of only two studio albums to be recorded with his famous trio featuring bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian.

<i>Explorations</i> (Bill Evans album) 1961 studio album by The Bill Evans Trio

Explorations is an album by jazz pianist Bill Evans that was originally released on Riverside label in 1961. The album won the Billboard Jazz Critics Best Piano LP poll for 1961.

<i>Sunday at the Village Vanguard</i> 1961 live album by The Bill Evans Trio

Sunday at the Village Vanguard is a live album by jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans and his Trio consisting of Evans, bassist Scott LaFaro, and drummer Paul Motian. Released in 1961, the album is routinely ranked as one of the best live jazz recordings of all time.

<i>The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album</i> 1975 studio album by Tony Bennett, Bill Evans

The Tony Bennett Bill Evans Album is a 1975 studio album by singer Tony Bennett and pianist Bill Evans.

<i>Waltz for Debby</i> (1962 album) 1962 live album by The Bill Evans Trio

Waltz for Debby is a live album by jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans and his trio consisting of Evans, bassist Scott LaFaro, and drummer Paul Motian. It was released in 1962.

<i>Everybody Digs Bill Evans</i> 1959 studio album by Bill Evans

Everybody Digs Bill Evans is a trio and solo album by jazz pianist Bill Evans. It was released in early 1959 on the Riverside Records label.

<i>Moon Beams</i> 1962 studio album by The Bill Evans Trio

Moon Beams is a 1962 album by jazz musician Bill Evans and the first trio album he recorded after the death of bassist Scott LaFaro. It introduces two important Evans originals, "Re: Person I Knew", and "Very Early," which Evans had actually composed as an undergraduate. The originals serve as bookends to an album otherwise consisting of standards from the 1930s and 1940s.

<i>You Must Believe in Spring</i> (Bill Evans album) 1981 studio album by Bill Evans

You Must Believe in Spring is an album by American jazz pianist Bill Evans, recorded by him with bassist Eddie Gómez and drummer Eliot Zigmund in August 1977 and released in February 1981, shortly after Evans's death in September 1980.

<i>On Green Dolphin Street</i> (Bill Evans album) 1975 studio album by Bill Evans

On Green Dolphin Street is an album by jazz pianist Bill Evans, recorded with bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones in early 1959, shortly before the Kind of Blue sessions in which both Evans and Chambers participated, but not released until 1975 as part of the double LP Peace Piece and Other Pieces. In 1995, it was issued on CD by Milestone Records under the current title, which comes from the jazz standard "On Green Dolphin Street" by Bronislaw Kaper, which Evans had first recorded the previous year with Miles Davis.

<i>Jazz at the Plaza Vol. I</i> 1973 live album by The Miles Davis Sextet

Jazz at the Plaza Vol. I is a live album by The Miles Davis Sextet. It was recorded in 1958 and released in 1973 by Columbia Records. Duke Ellington was recorded at the same event and released as the second volume (Jazz at the Plaza Vol. II).

Marty Morell is a jazz drummer who was a member of the Bill Evans Trio for seven years—longer than any other drummer. Before joining Evans, he worked with the Al Cohn-Zoot Sims Quintet, Red Allen, Gary McFarland, Steve Kuhn, and Gábor Szabó.

<i>I Will Say Goodbye</i> 1980 studio album by the Bill Evans Trio

I Will Say Goodbye is an album by American jazz pianist Bill Evans, recorded in 1977 but not released until January 1980. It was his final album for Fantasy Records, making the title quite appropriate.

<i>Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra</i> 1966 studio album by The Bill Evans Trio

Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra is an album by American jazz pianist Bill Evans and his trio, released in 1966, featuring jazz arrangements of works by classical composers Granados, J.S. Bach, Scriabin, Fauré, and Chopin. The group is accompanied by an orchestra arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman. Originals by both Evans and Ogerman are also included.

<i>Alone (Again)</i> 1977 studio album by Bill Evans

Alone (Again) is a solo piano album by American jazz pianist Bill Evans, recorded in December 1975. A follow-up to his earlier solo album Alone, it was released in 1977 on Fantasy Records and reissued on CD in 1994 by Original Jazz Classics. At the time it was recorded, Evans had been playing an increasing number of solo dates and was inspired after hearing Marian McPartland play solo in Monterey. Evans's manager Helen Keane commented:

As much as Bill enjoyed playing alone at home, and although by this time he regularly included a solo section in his concert program, he found recording in this context very difficult. It was probably the only area he felt insecure about musically, and the fact that he'd gotten a Grammy for Alone didn't seem to help.

<i>From Left to Right</i> 1971 studio album by Bill Evans

From Left to Right is an album by American jazz pianist Bill Evans, released in 1971. It was recorded with his regular bassist Eddie Gómez and drummer Marty Morell and with an orchestra arranged and conducted by Michael Leonard. This was the first album on which Evans played a Fender Rhodes electric piano.

"Waltz for Debby" is a jazz standard composed by pianist Bill Evans, which became "his most famous tune." He first recorded it as a brief solo piano piece on his debut album, New Jazz Conceptions (1956). Lyrics were added about six years later by Evans's friend Gene Lees. "Debby" in the composition's title refers to Evans's then 3-year-old niece, Debby Evans, whom he often took to the beach.

<i>The Tokyo Concert</i> 1974 live album by Bill Evans

The Tokyo Concert is a live album by jazz pianist Bill Evans with bassist Eddie Gómez and drummer Marty Morell recorded at the Yūbin Chokin Hall in Tokyo, Japan, in 1973 and released on the Fantasy label.

"Nardis" is a composition by American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. It was written in 1958, during Davis's modal period, to be played by Cannonball Adderley for the album Portrait of Cannonball. The piece has come to be associated with pianist Bill Evans, who performed and recorded it many times.

Time Remembered is a modal jazz standard composed by jazz pianist Bill Evans.