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Book Review

Bill Evans: Everything Happens To Me - A Musical Biography

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Everything Happens To Me
Keith Shadwick
Backbeat Books, Music Player Network, San Francisco, 2002
ISBN 0-87930-708-0

Years before Brad Meldau thought to redefine the jazz piano trio, Bill Evans defined it in the first place. In piano jazz history, Bill Evans influenced every major pianist to come after him. Before Evans, influentially, only Bud Powell can be spoken of in the same breath. Following Peter Pettinger's 1999 Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings, British saxophonist/author Keith Shadwick offers his more musically-oriented biography in Bill Evans - Everything Happens to Me.

Shadwick, much in the same way that Jack Chambers did in Milestones: the Music And Times of Miles Davis, focused his attention on all of the recording sessions Evans professionally participated in and the phases of Evans's career, demarcated primarily by his different trios and sideman work. This helps accent in a critical way the development of Evans art. The book is packed with borderline technical analyses, but not so technical that a true fan cannot pick up what the author is talking about. This is to Shadwick's credit. His focus on the creative life of Evans enriches the currently available canon on the pianist. He highlights Evans's work with Tony Scott, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Evans's own three major trios.

My single desire for this book would have been more intensive attention to Evans's personal life surrounding his recordings. Art Pepper, in his autobiography, Straight Life, recounts the dissolute chaos surrounding his recording his masterpiece, Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section. Bill Evans - Everything Happens to Me would have benefited from inclusions like this, but at the same time that makes Pettinger's book that much more desirable and any true fan should own both books.

The book is beautifully annotated and contains many photographs of Evans throughout his career. My single complaint with this otherwise fine rendering of the life of Bill Evans is that its formatting and layout (and not to mention its 8 pt. typeface) are not kind to the presbyotic over-40 crowd. Sans this complaint, Bill Evans - Everything Happens to Me represents a significant addition to the Evans library.


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