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Bill Evans

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 -- and Evans has left his mark on such noted players as Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau. Borrowing heavily from the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel, Evans brought a new, introverted, relaxed, lyrical, European classical sensibility into jazz -- and that seems to have attracted a lot of young conservatory-trained pianists who follow his chord voicings to the letter in clubs and on stages everywhere. Indeed, classical pianists like Jean-Yves Thibaudet have recorded note-for-note transcriptions of Evans' performances, bringing out the direct lineage with classical composers. In interviews, Evans often stressed that pianists should thoroughly learn technique and harmony so that they can put their inspiration to maximum use. Since he already had those tools in hand, he worked very hard on his touch, getting the special, refined tone that he wanted out of a piano. He also tried to democratize the role of the bassist and drummer in his succession of piano trios, encouraging greater contrapuntal interplay.

Bespectacled, shy, soft-spoken, and vulnerable, Evans was not a good fit into the rough-and-tumble music business. In part to shield himself from the outside world, he turned to drugs -- first heroin, and later, cocaine -- which undoubtedly shortened his life. In interviews, though, he sounds thoroughly in control, completely aware of what he wanted from his art, and colleagues report that he displayed a wicked sense of humor. Nowadays, Evans seems to be immune from criticism, but there was a time when he was accused of not being able to swing, or pilloried for an "effete" approach to jazz that was alien to its African sources. However, there are plenty of Evans recordings which show that he could indeed flash the technique and swing as hard as anyone when he wanted to, especially early in his career. He simply chose a different path for himself, one entirely reflective of his inward personality -- and that's what seems to touch listeners inside and outside jazz the most. Indeed, the cult for Evans' recordings is big enough to justify the existence of six large, expensive boxed sets of his output: four from Fantasy's archives, one from Warner Bros., and the biggest one from Verve. A newcomer, though, would be better-advised to sample Evans in smaller doses. Since the bulk of his recordings were made with the same piano-bass-drums instrumentation, and his career was not marked by dramatic shifts in style, prolonged listening to hours upon hours of his trio recordings can lead to monotony (after all, you can even overdose on Bach, as great as he was).

Born and raised in New Jersey, Evans was recruited for Southeastern Louisiana University on a flute scholarship, where he received a thorough background in theory, played in the marching band, and also led his football team to a league championship as a quarterback. Graduating as a piano major in 1950, he started to tour with the Herbie Fields band, but the draft soon beckoned, and Evans was placed in the Fifth Army Band near Chicago. After three years in the service, he arrived in New York in 1954, playing in Tony Scott's quartet and undertaking postgraduate studies at Mannes College, where he encountered composer George Russell and his modal jazz theories. By 1956, he had already recorded his first album as a leader for Riverside, New Jazz Conceptions, still enthralled by the bop style of Bud Powell but also unveiling what was to become his best-known composition, "Waltz for Debby," which he wrote while still in the Army.

In spring 1958, Evans began an eight-month gig with the Miles Davis Sextet, where he exerted a powerful influence upon the willful yet ever-searching leader. Though Evans left the band that autumn, exhausted by pressured expectations and anxious to form his own group, he was deeply involved in the planning and execution of Davis' epochal Kind of Blue album in 1959, contributing ideas about mood, structure, and modal improvisation, and collaborating on several of the compositions. Although the original release gave composition credit of "Blue in Green" to Davis, Evans claimed he wrote it entirely, based on two chords suggested by Davis (nowadays, they receive co-credit). In any case, Kind of Blue -- now the biggest-selling acoustic jazz album of all time -- contains perhaps the most moving performances of Evans' life.

Evans returned to the scene as a leader in December 1958 with the album Everybody Digs Bill Evans, which included the famous "Peace Piece," a haunting vamp for solo piano that sounds like a long-lost Satie Gymnopedie. Evans' first working trio turned out to be his most celebrated, combining forces with the astounding young bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian in three-way telepathic trialogues. With this group, Evans became a star -- and there was even talk about a recording with Davis involving the entire trio. Sadly, only ten days after a landmark live session at the Village Vanguard in June 1961, LaFaro was killed in an auto accident -- and the shattered Evans went into seclusion for almost a year. He re-emerged the following spring with Chuck Israels as his bassist, and he would go on to record duets with guitarist Jim Hall and a swinging quintet session, Interplay, with Hall and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

Upon signing with Verve in 1962, Evans was encouraged by producer Creed Taylor to continue to record in more varied formats: with Gary McFarland's big band, the full-orchestra arrangements of Claus Ogerman, co-star Stan Getz, a reunion with Hall. The most remarkable of these experiments was Conversations With Myself, a session where Evans overdubbed second and third piano parts onto the first; this eventually led to two sequels in that fashion. In his only concession to the emerging jazz-rock scene, Evans dabbled with the Rhodes electric piano in the 1970s but eventually tired of it, even though inventor Harold Rhodes had tailored the instrument to Evans' specifications. Mostly, though, Evans would record a wealth of material with a series of trios. Through his working trios would pass such players as bassists LaFaro (1959-1961), Israels (1962-1965), Gary Peacock (1963), Teddy Kotick (1966), Eddie Gomez (1966-1977), and Marc Johnson (1978-1980); and drummers Motian (1959-1962), Larry Bunker (1962-1965), Arnie Wise (1966, 1968), Joe Hunt (1967), Philly Joe Jones (1967, 1977-1978), Jack DeJohnette (1968), John Dentz (1968), Marty Morell (1968-1975), Eliot Zigmund (1975-1977), and Joe La Barbera (1978-1980). After Verve, Evans would record for Columbia (1971-1972), Fantasy (1973-1977), and Warner Bros. (1977-1980). The final trio with Johnson and La Barbera has been considered the best since the LaFaro-Motian team -- Evans thought so himself -- and their brief time together has been exhaustively documented on CDs.

Though Evans' health was rapidly deteriorating, aggravated by cocaine addiction, the recordings from his last months display a renewed vitality. Even on The Last Waltz, recorded as late as a week before his death from a hemorrhaging ulcer and bronchial pneumonia, there is no audible hint of physical infirmity. After Evans' death, a flood of unreleased recordings from commercial and private sources has elevated interest in this pianist to an insatiable level. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Bill Evans Trio With Symphony Orchestra

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Track List: Complete Bill Evans On Verve

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Comments

Mr Evan's rendition of SPARTACUS Love theme is magical WOW !!!!!! X
tah5682
am sorry for the following:
Don't read this cause it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life.tomorro w w will be the best day of your life.however if you don't post this you will die in two days.now you've started reading so don't stop.this is so scary.put this on at least 5songs in 143 minutes.when done press f6 and your lovers name will come on screen in big letters. This is scary because it really works.
Hey, gtambrin, I think I would throw Bud Powell in there too. But other than that, I can't argue.
Evans and tatum. Eveyone else is tied for second
Cool, smooth, stylistic conversation s on piano, bass, and drums. Bill Evans and friends puts u there.
Bill e kool and smooth
I am sorry for the following:
Don't read this cause it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life.tomorro w w will be the best day of your life.however if you don't post this you will die in two days.now you've started reading so don't stop.this is so scary.put this on at least 5songs in 143 minutes.when done press f6 and your lovers name will come on screen in big letters. This is scary because it really works.
Bill Evans at the piano, what else can top it when one wants to listen to the jazz piano. Thanks Bill!!
Bill e
scottishdogl o v e r
I have been listening to and enjoying Bill Evan's music for 36 years. My ex-husband but still good friend introduced me to his music and it was love at first listen. He gives you all of himself through his piano. We saw him in1980 at A jazz club in San Francisco. The music was hard to describe with words. He was at his best. After the performance, we were able to go backstage and talk with him. Such a kind and appreciative man. He wrote me a special note on my menu
The cut I'm listening to at the moment is a recording of Round Midnight from 1965. Bill Evans playing Monk. Life is good.
Guys, it's fixed!
claricentp91 7
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They can't seem to keep this bio straight! Why?! Why?!
shawnnavuz71 1
This is how you can make $50 - $100 per day by answering surveys. 1st. Go to BLUDOS.COM 2nd. Click on Start Today 3rd. Create Account (It's free) 4th. Thank me = >
I'm sure Bill Evans is a fine banjoist but he's not the Bill Evans I'm listening to at the moment.
Absolutely ridiculous. This error has persisted at least for months.
morris.paula n t h o n y
This is hilarious! One of the greatest pianists of the cool jazz era and they've got a bluegrass banjo bio for him. Lol.
matt_rayner
office7682. Seriously. It's an injustice to the other Bill Evans too.
when are you going to straighten out Bill's biography.
this is totally wrong and a great injustice.
KJAZ, San Francisco's jazz station, in the city of Alameda, in Alameda County, across the Bay from San Francisco, turned me on to Mr. Evans. The station was sold, finally, in 1996, I believe, and ended its fifty year jazz format. Great dj's, Stan Dunn, Jerry Dean and Bob Parlocca, now on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, explained much of the history of jazz as they played Evans' riffs and those of other jazz greats. Enjoy young jazz enthusiasts, these tunes. They are free but cost greatly. rn
lol! Good question, Laura. Let's see if they can keep the right bio on Bill Evans this time! He is the greatest: Pianist!
What is up with this bio ? LOL
I had to read it 3 times it was hilarious.
Bill Evans and I were born on the same birth date
and I look to his life for astrological guidance.

I guess, I should learn to play the banjo.
Well they've done it again!!! Can't they keep this bio correct?!!
williamjones 1 8 1 8
No, as of 10/27/2013 it is not fixed yet. Bill Evans is one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. It is a real dishonor to his contribution s to music to get his bio mixed up with Bill Evans the banjo player. (I mean no disrespect to the banjo player or bluegrass music.) Check Wikipedia and other sources to see the bio for Bill Evans the pianist. He was also the subject of a fine program documenting his life on NPR. Nancy Wilson narrates. You probably don't know who she is either.
Well Kylewh, they must have finally heard all of us. This is the CORRECT bio for Bill Evans! It only took them 3 months!!
kylewh
Wrong Bill Evans pandora...HE L L O ? ? ?
As noted by eyekokoro, Evans' bio was correct until about 2 months ago. Where this one came from I have no idea... But, Pandora certainly doesn't monitor anything and I don't think anyone has been at home for a while...
This should link to Bill Evans the pianist. Sigh. Pandora? Is anyone at home?
leimbach7
I just checked Pandora's bio of Earl Scruggs and it had him playing sax in a jazz quintet! Boy the things you learn....
eyekokoro
The banjo-player biography must have appeared about 2 months ago. I've had a Bill Evans station for a couple of years, and recall reading the correct biography before. But all of the comments written by people noticing the banjo player bio started 2 months ago.

What this shows is that Pandora has nobody working on quality control, and apparently there is no way to point out gross errors to anyone at Pandora who will fix them. That is a real problem...
How does he get that piano-like sound?! Amazing!
cmgjmg
Don't know whether to laugh or cry . I noticed that the bio was off, with the coffee and such, so I clicked and well, imagine my (our) surprise with the banjo biography. Consolation: Bill was playing I Loves You Porgy at the Village in 1961 in the background. I'll take it, and the hell with the daffy mis-biograph y . Here's to the great Bill Evans. JG
Please pour me another large cup of coffee. I'm ready to hear the part where he picks up the piano.
Wow, decided to skim the bio of the Great Bill Evans (him being my favorite Jazz Pianist and all) and was blown away by how off it was, the late Bill Evans passed away in 1980 lets do him proper and at least get his bio right Pandora. Also I've never heard of him playing banjo but he was so awesome he probably could have pulled it off.
His banjo sounds so much like a piano. Amazing.
I'm sure the great Bill Evans could have played the banjo if he wanted.
shame....the Great Bill Evans deserves better
Someone goofed on this biography. Stop fiddling around!!!
ditto below.. X 10!!!
Please fix the biography. Ridiculous.
Fix your system when you take the human out it goes to s**t as seen in the bio mistake here! He died in 1980 get real. Get some quality control PANDORA! I did contact them directly when they had Bob Dylan's bio as THE BAND. They said they could NOT do anything. Insulting to the artists and just propagation of bad information.
mike.r.sande r s
hahaha..... I always thought he was my favorite Jazz pianist.... who knew he had a-whole-noth e r career playing banjo on the side.... best kept secret in the jazz world..... they need to fix this but I dont see any way to notify them of it...
nicos_j
I don't believe this could be a mistake. It's an attack on the history of jazz piano. That sums up my comment.
What fools. Bill Evans and Bud Powell were the most influential pianists in jazz history. Please hire a grown up to manage this database. Also, there are no similar artists -- Bill's style is unique.
I totally echo claduca8!! Fix this. The banjo!!!! Heavens to betsy!!
claduca8
I can understand how two people with the same name might be confused with each other. But this is BILL EVANS we are talking about. How can anyone confuse one of the giants anyone else? Please fix this Pandora.
glgreenway
Why doesn't this review touch on his seminal work with the ocarina and kazoo?
He doesn't play banjo!!!!!! THIS IS THE WRONG BIO!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Pandora FIX THIS!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
brian.sulliv a n 1 9
I really love his piano playing, but with how much this bio focuses on his banjo playing I will definitely have to check out his bluegrass stuff.
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