Compatible Quotes: Bill Evans

First of all, I never strive for identity. That’s something that just has happened automatically as a result, I think, of just putting things together, tearing things apart and putting it together my own way, and somehow I guess the individual comes through eventually.

Words are the children of reason and, therefore, can’t explain it. They really can’t translate feeling because they’re not part of it. That’s why it bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It’s not. It’s feeling.

Jazz is not a what, it’s a how. If it were a what, it would be static, never growing. The how is that music comes from the moment, it is spontaneous, it exists at the time it is created. And anyone who makes music according to this method conveys to me an element that makes his music jazz.

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  1. says

    My 2 books on Bill Evans, THE HARMONY of BILL EVANS, volumes I and II, were written for the sole purpose explaining ” the how” and NOT “the what.” Bill hit the nail on the head in that last quote, and I drove it in all the way.

    I have done the same with “THE HARMONY of DAVE BRUBECK”

    • Terence Smith says

      Jack Reilly, I just saw that you now have a Harmony of Dave Brubeck, in the spirit of your two volumes of studies of the Harmony of Bill Evans.

      This is wonderful news. I thank you profusely for the studies of the workings of Bill Evans. Like the Evans recordings, your analyses, chorales and voicings studies are gifts that just keep giving. More and more “how.”

      Well, I’d like to be in line for one of the Brubeck books. I’m going to your web site as soon as I send this. If it is not available yet, I WOULD LIKE TO PRE-ORDER IT!

      BTW, I’m a fan of Evans and Brubeck literal (approx) transcriptions, too. I’ll bet a lot of your readers have enjoyed the wonderful 2-vol. Frank Metis transcriptions of BRUBECK PLAYS BRUBECK. I have always wished that Metis had also transcribed the OTHER solo Brubeck album from 1956, the one on Fantasy Records. I think Keith Jarrett said that the Metis transcripts helped him start developing his thoughts about harmony.

      Am I the only Rifftideser who doesn’t understand why no one has ever written out some of the early Brubeck Trio arrangements, such as “Let’s Fall in Love”, for example, which Dave also used in quartet realizations with Desmond, and sometimes octet versions, and which are as fresh and brilliant as anything he ever did, in my opinion.

  2. Terence Smith says

    I like the Bill Evans quote about not ever striving for identity. Especially since he became so identifiable, individual, and universal. His statement reminds me of a quote from C.S. Lewis:

    Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring tuppence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

  3. Terence Smith says

    When Bill Evans talks about “somehow I guess the individual comes through eventually,” and about the “it’s not a what, it’s a how” element, he reminds me of “compatible quotes” I have heard attributed to a couple of other musical originals.

    When asked how he sounded so unique, Thelonious Monk once said, “There are only twelve notes. But if you really mean a note, it will sound different.”

    And when someone played Art Tatum a recording of expert, talented readers playing transcriptions of Tatum solos, Tatum said:”They know what I am playing, but they don’t know why I am playing it.”

  4. Mike Harris says

    Just in case you are not familiar with the work of Pascal Wetzel, he has created a virtual treasure-trove of transcriptions of many of the recorded performances of Bill Evans, some (but not enough) of which are available in published form. His website, (shown below) is well worth perusing.

    • Terence Smith says

      Mike Harris,

      YOU have created, or I guess the word is “engineered” one of the great treasure troves of Bill Evans recordings, for which I am thankful to you and Bill every week of my life, at minimum. And I know others who feel the same.

      Thank you for mentioning the Pascal Wetzel transcriptions and website. I got his “Artistry of Bill Evans” books as they came out. I was trembling with excitement, then of course found that I couldn’t play the “how”, or even the “what” except certain parts, but it’s a lot of fun trying and just looking at the transcripts as you listen.

      And now Pascal Wetzel has “Bill Evans at Town Hall: Piano Transcriptions and Performance Notes”. What a worthy endeavor. To me, the Town Hall stuff is like a religious shrine you have to return to on a regular basis. To paraphrase Saint Francis: preach the gospel everywhere and when absolutely necessary use written notes!

      BTW, Mike, have you seen the web site which can be accessed by googling “The Chronicles of Doctor Hughes”? There is a mysterious Australian doctor who specializes in studies of both mazurkas and Bill Evans. He has transcribed one of the versions of “Danny Boy”, and he is systematically transcribing the works from the “Solo Sessions”. You can look at some of the transcriptions synchronized with the Evans recordings on you-tube. It looks to me like Dr. H is writing it about as accurately as is feasible.

      I am not a musician, just an enthusiast. But some of Dr. H’s comments about Bill Evans rhythmic moves seem very astute and worthy of consideration.

      And yes, Mike. Pascal W has quite some list of stuff that is not published yet. Alas. Thanks for link.

  5. says

    Art Tatum was right: Most people know the “how” (Bill’s style should be easy to copy, if you’re pianistically able of course), but “why” they are playing jazz, or “why” they’ve chosen to improvise on their instruments… that’s the “unanswered question”.

    To tell “your” story musically, that should be the “why”. The “what”, in what style you want to express yourself, is really not that important. Now, “how”? The crucial thing is always: Listen, listen & listen.

    One of my students (he plays the alto saxophone) wants to play jazz; but he rarely listens to it; and he freely admitted that he doesn’t listen to saxophonists at all.

    That’s exactly how he sounds: No idea how he could make the instrument sing; as I see it, is the instrument nothing else than the extension of your voice.

    And so, singing along your favorite recording/ musician/ vocalist would be the first step, disregarding how that sounds (not everyone is a singer, yours truly included).

    And that’s my goal as a teacher: To show the students “how” a saxophone can sound, and “how” different the very same instrument, in this case the alto sax, can sound when played by Hodges, by Bird, or by Pepper… :)

    It’s all about expression. As Bill said: It’s about feeling.

  6. Terence Smith says

    Oh, and I could not find the HARMONY OF DAVE BRUBECK on Jack Reilly’s web site, or the Hal Leonard site yet. But Jack Reilly has a Hal Leonard- published book of his solos, originals, and arrangements, called “Jazz Piano Solos, 2nd Edition”. I just ordered it.

    • says

      The “THE HARMONY OF DAVE BRUBECK” will be out January 2013.

      Thanks for ordering my “JAZZ PIANO SOLOS” 2nd edition. I think you’ll enjoy playing my 2 versions of “ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE”.

      Check my itinerary page for up-coming performances of my “JAZZ REQUIEM MASS” in Germany.

      Guten Tak.