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Artist Profiles

Bill Evans: 1929-1980

By Published: August 27, 2004
Evans' last decade of recording showed him growing even more as an artist. His 1974 live LP, Since We Met, is one of his very best, containing new versions of his ruminative ballad in memory of his father, "Turn Out the Stars," his radically beautiful "Time Remembered," the Earl Zindars beauty "Sareen Jurer," performed in both 3/4 and 4/4 time, and Cy Coleman's waltz "See-Saw," among others. In 1979 he gave a magnificent concert in Paris which Helen Keane later turned into two LP releases on Musician, called simply Paris Concert, Edition I and II. They reveal him with an unmatched rhythmic drive, summoning up all his stylistic resources, filling the entire musical space with an expanding energy. He takes fruitful risks, such as when he opens his classic "Nardis" with a solo piano improvisation, a kaleidoscopic exploration of figures and forms, finally landing on the familiar middle-Eastern sounding melody, bringing in the rest of the rhythm section in a triumphant release of suspense. The audience was ecstatic.

Last Addiction and Death

In 1980 Bill Evans began using cocaine, the fashionable drug that he imagined was "safe." But actually it demands replenishment in the bloodstream every few hours rather than just once a day like heroin, and as a stimulant, it wears you down that much faster. At the end of summer of that year, Bill asked his drummer Joe LaBarbera to drive him to the hospital, since he was having severe stomach pains. He calmly directed Joe to Mount Sinai, checked in, and died there the 15th of September.

The tributes poured in, and by 1983 a double album had been assembled with pianists who had been influenced or touched by Evans, each contributing a single piece. His stature has only continued to grow, with a newsletter devoted to his music and followers edited by Win Hinkle in North Carolina, and now on the Internet. He has become, along with Oscar Peterson, one of the major enduring forces in jazz piano.

~ Joel Simpson



Bibliography

  • Aiken, Jim. "Bill Evans." (Contemporary) Keyboard Magazine, June, 1980, pp. 44-55.
  • Davis, Miles with Quincy Troupe. Miles: the Autobiography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.
  • Enstice, Wayne and Paul Rubin. Jazz Spoken Here: Conversations with Twenty-two Musicians. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 1992. (Bill Evans)
  • Evans, Bill. "Improvisation in Jazz," liner notes on Kind of Blue, Columbia PC 8163, starring Miles Davis, 1959.
  • Keepnews, Orrin. "The Bill Evans Sessions." from Bill Evans: The Complete Riverside Recordings, accompanying booklet. Berkeley, CA: Fantasy, 1984.
  • Lees, Gene. Meet Me at Jim & Andy's: Jazz Musicians and Their World. New York: Oxford U. P., 1988. (Bill Evans)
  • Lyons, Len. The Great Jazz Pianists-Speaking of their Lives and Music. New York: Quill, 1983. (Bill Evans)
  • Lyons, Len and Don Perlo. Jazz Portraits: The Life and Music of the Jazz Masters. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1989. (Bill Evans)
  • Williams, Martin. "Homage to Bill Evans." from Bill Evans: The Complete Riverside Recordings, accompanying booklet. Berkeley, CA: Fantasy, 1984.


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