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Meet Jeff Evans

Tessa Souter and Andrea Wolper By

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What's amazing is when the performers go all in, and lose themselves in the moment. I like to think that we in the audience complete the circuit to make the event a peak experience for everyone. —Jeff Evans
Our first Super Fan of 2019 is such a jazz head that he and his wife of 42 years got engaged at a jazz club. These days, Jeff frequently can be seen in the New York clubs indulging several of his passions at once. Living in a city he describes as "richly blessed" with venues, he makes it a point to go out to enjoy live jazz at least once a week, where he photographs musicians in action, and often discovers new artists via what he calls "the six degrees method."

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Kansas City, KS, but grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. After a bit of back and forth, I have lived with my family in the New York City area for about 30 years. Besides jazz, my passions (which I like to call my "vices") include photography, beer and whisky, poetry, and reading up on developments on the fringes of science and technology. I like to combine my vices when I can. That is why live music is a good base—I can sit in a club and listen to music, drink, and take photos (at least in most places, and when the musicians agree). If there are lyrics and the lyrics are poetry, so much the better. I've begun searching out performances at the intersection of poetry and jazz.

What's your earliest memory of music?
I had a somewhat conflicted start with music in school. First, the whole 2nd and 3rd grade learned to play these plastic things, Tonettes, similar to recorders. When we were encouraged to move to actual instruments, I remember my father objecting, saying that it was just a way for the musical instrument people to make money. But we had music class throughout elementary school; we learned about music and composers, and sang from songbooks once a week. As we neared holidays, we brought in our pop and rock-and-roll records. The teacher played them on a record player and we would sing along—a kind of proto-karaoke. We even composed music. I didn't know what I was doing, so my scores were kind of random. I remember our teacher played our short compositions on piano, and she put a bunch of rests in mine.

How old were you when you got your first record?
The record that played the biggest role in my musical awakening was the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper. It came out about the summer I graduated from 8th grade. A few days prior to graduation, my family moved from Brookfield, IL (a relatively close in, settled suburb of Chicago) to an unincorporated area by Downers Grove, IL (a farther out suburb undergoing massive development). I couldn't yet drive, and the nearest store of any kind was a general store over a mile away on county roads with no sidewalks. It was a lonely summer for my two younger brothers and me. Both our parents worked and we had a lot of hours to kill. For a long time afterwards, when meeting someone for the first time, I would ask them to name their favorite album. If the answer wasn't Sergeant Pepper., they got an argument from me. It's amazing I had any friends after that.

I also recall having a boy/girl birthday party in our Downers Grove house, before which I borrowed a reel-to-reel tape recorder to make what later would be called a mixtape. I set up the reel-to-reel in our basement and played records—some borrowed, some my own—with the tape recorder microphone set up in front of the speakers.

What was the first concert you ever attended?
I think it was with a few friends in 1966 or 1967. I remember it was The Association, right about the time their hit "Windy" was released. I hadn't heard it on the radio yet. I went with a loose group of grade school friends, and I think it was the first concert for most of us. It was held in the local high school gym, as I recall. I think it was a double bill with The Vogues, who had a hit with "Five O'Clock World."

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