: For the jazz saxophonist of no relation, see Bill Evans (saxophonist).
William John Evans, (better known as Bill Evans) (August 16, 1929 – September 15, 1980) was one of the most famous jazz pianists of the 20th century; he remains one of the major influences on post-1950s jazz piano. His use of impressionist harmony, his inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire and his syncopated and polyrhythmic melodic lines influenced a generation of pianists, including Herbie Hancock, Denny Zeitlin, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett, and his work continues to inspire younger pianists such as Fred Hersch, Esbjörn Svensson, Bill Charlap, and Lyle Mays as well as other musicians such as guitarist John McLaughlin (musician).
Bill Evans was born to a mother of Rusyns ancestry and a father of Welsh descent, in Plainfield, New Jersey. He received his first musical training in his mother's church.
His mother was also an amateur pianist with in an interest in modern classical composers. This caused his initial musical training to be classical piano at age 6. He also became proficient at the flute by age 13 and could play the violin.
At 12, he filled in for his older brother in Buddy Valentino's band. This event is occasionally credited for starting his interest in jazz. In the late 1940s, he played boogie woogie in various New York clubs. He went on to receive a music scholarship to Southeastern Louisiana University and in 1950 he graduated with a degree in piano performance and teaching. Later, he studied composition at the Mannes College of Music. After some time in the Army, he worked at dance clubs with jazz clarinetists and guitarists.
Working in New York in the 1950s, Evans gained a profile as a sideman in traditional and so-called third stream avant-garde jazz bands. During this period, he had the opportunity to record in many different contexts with some of the best names in jazz of the time. Recordings made with seminal composer/theoretician George Russell are notable for Evans's solo work, including the famous "All About Rosie." He also recorded notable albums under the leadership of Charles Mingus, Oliver Nelson, and Art Farmer. In 1956, he made his debut album, New Jazz Conceptions, for Riverside Records. Producer Orrin Keepnews was convinced that he should record the reluctant Evans because of a demo tape played to him over the phone by guitarist Mundell Lowe. In 1958, Evans was hired as the only white musician in the famed Miles Davis Sextet. Though his time with the band was brief - no more than eight months - it was one of the most fruitful collaborations in the history of jazz, as Evans's introspective scalar approach to improvisation deeply influenced Davis's conception. His desire to pursue his own projects as a leader, problems with drug use, and conflicts with other band members led him to leave Davis. However, he returned to the band at Davis's request to record the jazz classic, Kind of Blue. Evans's contribution to the album was overlooked for years; in addition to writing the song "Blue in Green" (credited to Davis), he also developed the germ of the track "Flamenco Sketches" on his 1958 recording "Peace Piece" from his album Everybody Digs Bill Evans. By the end of the decade, he had started his own trio.
At the turn of the decade, Evans led a trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. This group has since become one of the most acclaimed piano trios of all time. With this group, Evans's focus settled on traditional jazz standards and original compositions, with an added emphasis on interplay among the band members that often bordered on collective improvisation. The collaboration between Evans and the talented young bassist LaFaro was particularly fruitful, with the two achieving an unprecedented level of musical empathy. The trio recorded four albums: Portrait in Jazz (1959), Explorations (album), Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and Waltz for Debby (all recorded in 1961). The latter two albums are live recordings, both drawn from the same recording date. In 2005, the full sets were collected on the three-CD set The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961.
In addition to revolutionizing the dynamics of the jazz trio, Evans began to display a lower dynamic range in his music. His chordal voicings became more impressionistic, drawing deeply from classical composers such as Debussy and Satie, as well as moving away from the thick block chords he often utilized when playing with Davis. His sparse left-hand voicings supported his lyrical right-hand lines, as much a product of the influence of jazz pianist Bud Powell as any classical composer.
LaFaro's untimely death at age twenty-five in a car accident, ten days after the Vanguard performances, devastated Evans. He did not record or perform in public again for several months. When he reformed his trio in 1962, he replaced LaFaro with bassist Chuck Israels, initially keeping Motian on the drums. Two albums, Moonbeams and How My Heart Sings!, resulted. In 1963, after having switched from Riverside Records to the much more widely distributed Verve Records, he recorded Conversations With Myself, an innovative album on which he employed "over-dubbing", layering up to three individual tracks of piano for each song. The album won him his first Grammy award, for Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group#1960s.
Though his time with Verve was prolific in terms of recording, his artistic output was uneven. Despite Israels's fast development and the creativity of new drummer Larry Bunker, they were ill-represented by the rather perfunctory album Trio '65. Some unique contexts were attempted, such as a big-band live album at Town Hall, which was recorded but never issued due to Evans's dissatisfaction (although the trio portion of that concert was made into its own successful release), and an album with a symphony orchestra, which was never warmly received by critics.
During this time, Helen Keane, Evans's manager, began having an important influence. Apart from being the first woman in her field, she significantly helped maintain the progress, or prevented the deterioration, of Evans's career in spite of his self-damaging lifestyle.
In 1966, Evans discovered the remarkable young Puerto Rican bass player Eddie Gomez. In what turned out to be an eleven-year stay, the sensitive and creative Gomez sparked new developments in both Evans' playing and trio conception. One of the most significant releases during this period is Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival, from 1968. Although it was the only album Evans made with drummer Jack DeJohnette, it has remained a critical and fan favorite, due to the trio's remarkable energy and interplay.
In 1964 Evans recorded Waltz for Debby (Zetterlund album), an album with the Swedish people jazz vocalist Monica Zetterlund.
In 1969, Marty Morell joined the trio on drums and remained until 1975, when he retired to family life. This became Evans's most stable and long-lasting group. In addition, he had kicked his heroin habit and was entering a period of personal stability as well. The group made several excellent albums, including The Bill Evans Album, Since We Met, and The Tokyo Concert; But Beautiful, featuring the trio plus legendary tenor saxophonist Stan Getz in live 1974 performances from Holland and Belgium, was released posthumously in 1996. Morell was an energetic, straight-ahead drummer, unlike many of the other percussionists in the trio, and many critics feel that this was a period of little growth for Evans. After Morell left, Evans and Gomez recorded two duo albums, Intuition and Montreux III.
Morell was replaced by Eliot Zigmund on drums in 1976. Several interesting collaborations followed, and it wasn't until 1977 that the trio was able to record an album together. Both I Will Say Goodbye (Evans's last for Fantasy Records) and You Must Believe in Spring (for Warner Bros.) highlighted changes that would become significant in the last stage of Evans career. A greater emphasis was placed on group improvisation and interaction, Evans was reaching new expressive heights in his soloing, and new experiments with harmony and keys were attempted.
Gomez and Zigmund left Evans in 1978 and Evans asked Philly Joe Jones, his old drummer friend from the Miles Davis Sextet days, to fill in. Several bassists were tried, with the remarkable Michael Moore staying the longest. His six months with the trio were frustrating due to Jones's rushing of the tempo and overplaying. Evans finally settled on Marc Johnson on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. This trio was to be Evans's last. Although they released only one record prior to Evans's death in 1980, they recaptured something of the quality of the first trio in their powerful group interactions. Many albums and compilations have been released in recent years, including three multi-disc boxed sets, Turn Out the Stars (Warner Bros.), The Last Waltz, and Consecration (both on Milestone).
In 1974, Bill Evans recorded a multi-movement jazz concerto specifically written for him by Claus Ogerman entitled "Symbiosis", originally released on the MPS Records label. The 1970's also saw Evans collaborate with the singer Tony Bennett on 1975's The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album and 1977's Together Again (Bennett and Evans album).
Evans's chemical dependency problems most likely began during his stint with Miles Davis in the late 1950 in musics, and it has been widely reported that Evans felt compelled to compete with other musicians in the usage of drugs. A heroin addict for most of his career, his health was generally poor and his financial situation worse for most of the 1960s. In the late 1970s, cocaine became a serious problem for Evans. His body finally gave out in 1980, when Evans, ravaged by psychoactive drugs, a perforated liver, and a lifelong battle with hepatitis, died in New York City of a Peptic ulcer, cirrhosis of the liver and bronchial pneumonia.
Although the circumstances of his life were often difficult, Evans's music always displayed his creative mastery of harmony, rhythm, and interpretive jazz conception. Evans's work fused jazz elements, a unique conception of ensemble performance and a classical sense of form and conceptual scale in unprecedented ways. His recordings continue to influence pianists, guitarists, composers, and interpreters of jazz music around the world.
For a list of Bill Evans's recordings, please see the Bill Evans discography. For a more detailed list, see billevans.net.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6383389303610671832&q=Bill+Evans&pr=goog-sl&hl=en Bill Evans with Chuck Israels (b) and Larry Bunker (d) from the BBC's Jazz 625, "My Foolish Heart", London, England (1965) Bill Evans with Chuck Israels (b) and Larry Bunker (d) from the BBC's Jazz 625, "How My Heart Sings!", London, England (1965) http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3940589467230845792&q=Bill+Evans&pr=goog-sl&hl=en Bill Evans with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (b) and Alan Dawson (d), "Beautiful Love", Berlin, Germany (1965) Bill Evans with Eddie Gomez (b) and Marty Morrell (d), "Gloria's Step", In The Jazz Set, NJN (1972) Bill Evans with Marc Johnson (b) and Joe LaBarbera (d),"Re: Person I Knew", Jazz At The Maintenance Shop, Ames, Iowa (1979)
Courtesy of: http://www.wikipedia.org/