Bill Evans

Before the 83rd anniversary of Bill Evans’ birth fades away, at least in this time zone, let’s listen together to “Gloria’s Step,” a masterpiece from his 1961 Sunday At The Village Vanguard album. The trio, of course, was Evans, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian.

Evans died on September 15, 1980.

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  1. Frank Roellinger says

    Nice reminder, Doug. (My wedding anniversary also, coincidentally.) Anyone who appreciates the music that this trio created should read “Jade Visions: The Life and Music of Scott LaFaro”, by Scott’s sister, Helene LaFaro-Fernandez. The reader will learn much from this marvelous book and understand why Scott became such an incredible bassist, and how he influenced Evans (a notion not always mentioned in writings about Evans). You did review this book when it came out, Doug; I will add that it has increased my appreciation of this trio’s work, which I previously would not have thought possible.

  2. Mike Harris says

    Incredibly, inexplicably beautiful, still —always something new that one can appreciate. Truly, the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks Doug.

  3. Mark Mohr says

    Thanks for the memories, Doug. That poignant picture of a gaunt Bill Evans (used on the Village Vanguard album cover) hangs in my home office. Whenever I’m playing some of Bill’s beautiful music—especially stuff like “Gloria’s Step”—it always catches my eye and reminds me of his enormous talent, and the depth of jazz music’s loss.

  4. Terence Smith says

    The Bill Evans “compatible quotations” are almost at the level of “Gloria’s Step”. The seriousness of Bill’s pursuit of truth and beauty are so evident in his spoken thoughts, as in his music. Even in his verbal humor, as in the Santa Claus take: “Take two? You guys better get this, because I’m only gonna do this ONCE!” Thanks for this remembrance of Bill Evans.

    Re the rarity of overt humor in Evans music:
    I got a Japanese CD of Trio 64 with all the alternate takes of “Little Lulu”. Especially in the way he does the little composed ending, Bill seems consciously funnier with each successive take. Check it out.

    On August 14, 1962, Bill was in the studio with Shelly Manne and Monty Budwig, to make Empathy. Check out the episode at the end of “With a Song in My Heart”. Peter Pettinger calls it a “freak-out”. To me it sounds like cosmic humor of a species related to Thelonious Monk serio-comedy.

    I read somewhere that in that period, when Bill had friends over for dinner, he would sometimes do a comedy routine at the Chickering piano. He would gravely and slowly play the melody of a traditional tune, pausing to reharmonize each successive melody note in such a stark contrast to the previous harmonization that it became inexpressibly hilarious. To be a fly on the wall when he had the likes of Jim Hall and Paul Desmond over!

    Gloria’s Step on the stairs, such joy. And Bill Evans only gets better with every passing year.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      All of the “Little Lulu” takes are also in the 18-CD Complete Bill Evans On Verve box set issued in 1997, now out of print and selling for as much as $900 US, but available for less than $200 as an MP3 download. To see the list of tracks, go here. When it was issued, the packaging of the massive collection became an object of amusement, even ridicule, because the CDs are housed in a metal box that resembles a military ammunition case. It is a challenge to open and handle, and it is subject to rust. Reviewers warned prospective buyers to get tetanus shots. The contents, however, are no joke. In addition to Evans’ well-known established trios, the set includes stimulating encounters with Manne, Budwig, Peacock, Gary McFarland, Jim Hall, Stan Getz, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Jack DeJohnette and Claus Ogerman, among others.

  5. Terence Smith says

    Also re Bill Evans verbal and musical humor:

    I am hoping one of your readers will be able to describe Bill Evans’ reaction to the recording engineer, at the very end of the absolutely timeless three sessions, that Sunday at the Village Vanguard, right after the second take of “Jade Visions”. I guess its Orrin Keepnews who says, Bill, we have 30 seconds of tape left…what Bill says and plays in reaction is unforgettable. And Victor- Borge- level funny. After he plays out the thirty seconds, Bill speaks in his comedy voice to the little privileged Village Vanguard audience ( which is already appropriately amused):”You’re laughing? You’re gonna be laughing when we ISSUE that!”

    And the snippet of course was finally released decades later in the boxed set, after that Sunday has become so quietly monumental and eternal.

    In the words of Gene Lees, its like a love letter to the world from some eternity’s prison of the heart.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      That is not Orrin’s unmistakeable voice. It is most likely that of David Jones, the engineer.

  6. Greg Lee says

    I’m convinced that Verve boxed set with its atrocious packaging was the ultimate collision of horrible design meets horrible marketing. I haven’t listened to the whole set (dumb, I know), because every time I peel back that rusty lid I get nervous. Thank goodness they manufactured the CDs with care, and the booklet, while nearly impossible to read without a magnifying glass and infinite patience, contains some wonderful transcribed conversations with fellow Evans musicians. Great stuff….if you can find it, people, beware the rusty box. It was silver when I bought it, now its an oxidized hunk of junk. A great epic hunk, mind you, and I”m glad i have it…but one of the dumbest packages ever made during the Era of the CD.