Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings
Of a performance from the earlier EXPLORATIONS session, February 1961, Pettinger writes: “‘I Wish I Knew’ amply [demonstrates] one of Evans’s characteristic approaches: the large-scale substitution (in an organic way) of new harmonies for the songbook changes. The Gordon-Warren songsheet made do with half a dozen or so basic chords. Evans’s reconstruction, on the other hand, employed nearly three times as many, changing mostly by the half-bar. In this way a simple song could be enriched, strengthened, and transformed. In collusion with the infinite shades of his tone production, the pianist was able to make, instrumentally, an affecting vocal statement. Typical of his ballad performances, it was played with feeling but was never mawkish.”
Pettinger gives a very few transcriptions of a few measures of Evans’ work, which will only have meaning for the musically educated; but most of his more technical descriptions of touch and tone production are so clear and exact that they will communicate to anyone who can recall seeing a pianist in performance. The reader who will find the best use for this sometimes fascinating, sometimes tedious exegesis is the dedicated Bill Evans fan who wants more information about the methods of Evans’ art and about which recordings to pursue. Someone who wants a social-psychological view of the jazz life will find much material here as well, with Evans a contemporary Flying Dutchman, virtually homeless for most of his life, as he tours ceaselessly to maintain his career, to support his drug habits, to make payments on the beautiful new suburban house which he almost never inhabited. Although it occasionally approaches hagiography in the earlier chapters and monotony in the later ones, and misses a few minor details such as omitting Bud Powell (Evans’ main influence!) from the list of vocalizing instrumentalists, and giving credit to Evans’ performance of “How My Heart Sings,” rather than the earlier Dave Brubeck, for the first instance of consistent time signature variation throughout the performance of a tune BILL EVANS: HOW MY HEART SINGS provides many insights into the work and life of this influential musician.