A Jazz Festival Moment: Steve Kuhn On Bill Evans

Steve Kuhn ca 1957In a Portland festival conversation at the Art Bar, interviewer Tim DuRoche questioned pianist Steve Kuhn (pictured ca 1960) about first hearing Bill Evans. “Did it rattle you a little bit?” DuRoche asked.

It did, because we were sort of on parallel paths. I heard him for the first time in 1957 up at Brandeis University, where he was doing a concert with George Russell. When I heard him play and after I listened to a couple of his recordings, I said, “My goodness, this is what I’m trying to do, but he’s already doing it, so I’ve got to somehow absorb that and then continue to find my own voice,” which I think I have over the years. But initially, it was an epiphany. Bill was like a big brother to me and, uh…

Kuhn breathed deeply, swallowed hard and held up a hand signaling a pause that lasted half a minute or so.

…Excuse me; it’s fatigue and emotion…when I came to New York he was very helpful, introducing me to different people and recommending me for jobs. So, we hung out quite a bit. He was a very special person. We stayed pretty close all of his life. Bill was helpful to me, very helpful.

You can listen to audio of the Kuhn interview and nine other PDX festival jazz conversations at the Oregon Music News podcast page.

The Bill Evans-George Russell performance of “All About Rosie” that impressed Kuhn at Brandeis is incuded on this CD.

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  1. Terence Smith says

    I was already in thrall of the unique Bill Evans when I acquired the wonderful Kenny Dorham quintet 1960 LP called “Jazz Contemporary”. Everything about that album is great. I listened to it over and over in the early 1960s, and every time I noticed that the pianist, Steve Kuhn (although not Evans under a pseudonym), seemed to have the magic of Bill Evans in his approach; that certain understated quiet fire.

    It was moving to read about Steve Kuhn’s moment of silence while responding to the question about Bill Evans. And something else seems fitting. I think Scott LaFaro’s last gig was in a quartet with Steve Kuhn, playing with Stan Getz at the Newport Jazz Festival. I’ll bet LaFaro likely recommended Kuhn to Getz, and it’s easy to hear why.

  2. Jim Brown says

    I was lucky enough to hear all of Barry Harris’s Feb 15 set at Jimmy Mak’s (we made a pilgrimage from Santa Cruz). Barry is playing better than ever, which is saying a lot, and it was even nicer thanks to the presence of Chuck Israels. Barry really enjoyed Chuck, and gave him a lot of solo space.

    Barry did an interview like this the day before his performance, which we didn’t arrive in time to hear, but those who did said it was quite special. A big thank you to PDX for putting all of this stuff online.

    • Daniel Love Glazer says

      I heard Barry Harris at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase a few years ago. When he played “When I Fall in Love” I cried.