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Bill Evans on meeting Miles

Nenette Evans By

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I don't know, I thought. An eternity? The answer could only have been laden with pain. Was this a left hook? A trick question? The question and the answer seemed paused in an alternate reality. I remember my exact state of mind. I wasn't going to speak to a total stranger in the same way he was speaking to me. Direct, blunt. I'm tired, slightly irritated and not in the mood to answer. He seemed lost in thought, looking for something profound to say, perhaps. After all, I was only there out of a sense of duty.

Finally I said, "About five years," pause...
"Why do you ask?" I retorted.
"Because everyone is still trying to play like him."

After that, he said we should wait backstage and that he wanted to talk to us more after his last set. He handed the signed drawing to Maxine. Evan gave him a letter that he had written before we had left the house in San Clemente. Paraphrased it said:

Dear Miles, I heard you're the best of them all (trumpet players). Tell me something about my dad. I was only five years old when he died. It's OK though. He died of pneumonia. Evan included his phone number.

Miles left the room to go back on stage. It was late. We went home.

In the car on the way back to San Clemente, my partner and I speculated about what Miles might have said. Maybe he would have waxed nostalgic.

Maybe he would have said that he used to call Bill on the telephone and ask him to take the phone off the hook while he listened to Bill play the piano because he just loved the way Bill played. That would have been a sweet memory. 2

Jazz writer and critic, Leonard Feather interviewed saxophonist Bill Evans for the Los Angeles Times in 1984: "I actually only met him once (Bill Evans, pianist) ten years ago in Chicago, but I heard him several times, and I have at least a dozen of his albums. I never thought about changing my name. It's probably more advantageous then confusing, because I've been in a lot of records shops and found my albums in the Bill Evans bin! So I figure a lot of people will also see mine in there."

The coincidence of the names was never mentioned by Miles Davis, Feather continues.

Bill Evans, saxophonist: "The only time it came up at all was not long after I joined Miles, the day Bill died. He (Miles) said, "What about him?" I said, "He died today." Miles went into a deep slump. He pulled out a piece of paper with Bill's phone number on it and said, 'Damn, I was supposed to call him this week,' and tore up the paper. Then someone called up from a newspaper and asked Miles for an interview about Bill. He just said, 'Why don't you do it with this Bill Evans?' and handed me the phone. That was a sad moment."

My son, Evan never received a call from Miles.

1 Miles quote from Miles the Autobiography by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe (Simon & Schuster, 1990)
2 Reference to Ashley Kahn, Miles Davis and Bill Evans: Miles and Bill in Black & White (Jazztimes, Sept 2001)

Excerpt from Nenette Evans's untitled reflections of Bill Evans, October 3, 2012

Photo credit: Nenette Evans, circa 1985, San Clemente, California.


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