Bill Evans’ 84th Birthday

Bill Evans headshotIt is Bill Evans’ birthday. He was born on August 16, 1929 and died on September 15,1980. Evans influenced pianists in all genres of music. With bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, he changed the concept of the jazz piano trio. From their 1959 album Portrait In Jazz, here is a performance that played an important part in bringing about that change.

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  1. Salty Frog says

    Captivating. You don’t just hear this music, you feel it, you become a part of the piece.

  2. says

    This is my all-time favorite Evans recording. Thanks for that, Mr. Ramsey.

    I’ll be in-residence at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah October 7-11, giving 2 lectures on Bill’s music on the 10th and a trio concert on the evening of the 11th, with Evans’ music in Part I. Part II will be devoted to my music. Brian Harker, who hired me, is a professor of music at BYU. He is writing a bio of Evans. I’ll be working with him on this project. Promises to be a lot of fun.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      The new edition of volume 1 of Mr. Reilly’s The Harmony of Bill Evans includes an instructional CD and an 18-minute bonus track of his solo piano tribute to Evans.

  3. Mike Harris says

    Something to think about from Bill Evans on his 84th birthday:

    To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best to make you like everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight.

    • Terence Smith says

      Thanks to Doug Ramsey/Rifftides for reminding us to return regularly to the seemingly bottomless well of the Bill Evans recordings, which are fresher the more you re-hear them.

      And thanks to Mike Harris for the Bill Evans quote. Somewhere Evans said that the non-musician can often judge best how well music speaks from the “Universal Mind”, because the musician may hear technique and lose some of the naïve first-time quality of hearing. As Salty Frog said above, this Evans recording captivates you and brings you in, to a first-time every time.

      Mike Harris knows this Bill Evans quote, but allow me to type it out once again:

      ” I don’t want to express just MY feelings—all my feelings aren’t interesting to everybody. …I want to put into music something that will enrich somebody. I’m the first one, of course, to be enriched when I discover it, and that’s the reason for doing it really.

      My creed for art in general is that it should enrich the soul; it should teach spirituality by showing a person a portion of himself that he would not discover otherwise. It’s easy to rediscover part of yourself, but through art you can discover a part of yourself you never knew existed…. the artist has to find something in himself that’s universal and which he can put into terms that are communicable to other people. The magic of it is that he can communicate this to a person without his realizing it.”

  4. Mark Mohr says

    Even though I prefer Evans’ music from the mid-to-late 1970’s (and played at a slower, more introspective tempo) this was one of his first albums in my record collection. Thanks for remembering a true jazz icon.

  5. says

    My absolute favorite from Bill’s album “Explorations” is “Nardis” (“Sidran”, spelled backwards). I especially dig his comping behind Scott LaFaro’s solo.

    There’s been some speculation on who really composed “Nardis”; most associate it with Miles Davis. But Miles never played it.

    My personal guess would be: Miles was warming up with some trumpet-typical phrases, and then this little, Eastern sounding motive came to Bill’s ears, he wrote it down, extended it, and there it was: “Nardis”.

    Here’s some deeper insight:

    “The tune “Nardis” on the album Explorations (1961) became famous by Bill Evans, who played it for the first time in a trio setting. There is a mystery behind the identity of it’s original composer. It’s been said by Bill Evans that Miles Davis originally wrote the piece, but it has also been said by Miles himself that Evans wrote the piece. Davis wrote the song for Cannonball Adderley and the song was originally on Portrait of Cannonball (Riverside 1958) with Blue Mitchell (tp), Cannonball Adderley (as), Bill Evans (p), Sam Jones (b), Philly Joe Jones (d).

    It seems Miles composed it, but never recorded it and Bill Evans helped out with the harmony. Bill Evans did indeed announced it in one of his concerts as “a Miles Davis piece” – he did so on the Jazz at the Maintenance Shop DVD from Iowa, 1979. He recorded “Nardis” on innumerable albums and reworked the piece with modal explorations each time it served as the final tune of his performances.”

    Here’s “Nardis”, as played by Ben Sidran with a little reminiscence by Ben attached 😉

    “Nardis”, as interpreted by Bill Evans in several variations can be found at JazzTube too.

    • Terence Smith says

      Of course, Bill Evans made many trio recordings of “Autumn Leaves”, using the same head arrangement as in the example above, beginning with the TWO takes made for PORTRAIT IN JAZZ. I guess he made almost as many recordings of “Autumn Leaves” as he did of ” Nardis”.

      But my favorite OTHER takes of “Autumn Leaves” are the 3 versions on the bootlegged THE LEGENDARY 1960 BIRDLAND SESSIONS. It’s Evans with the working trio of Scott LaFaro, and Paul Motian, just a few months after PORTRAIT IN JAZZ. They do “Nardis” and “Blue in Green,” too, as well as heavy bebop on “Our Delight” and “Speak Low.” I cannot feel guilty listening to those priceless bootlegs, since I have systematically bought all these guys’ legal stuff, all my life, as funds have allowed.

      I have read recently that Paul Motian liked PORTRAIT IN JAZZ the best of all his work with Evans. Scott Lafaro’s sister reports in a great bio of Scott that HE liked EXPLORATIONS best. She also reports that before he met Evans, LaFaro came home one day with a copy of the 1956 NEW JAZZ CONCEPTIONS saying presciently, “This is the greatest pianist I have ever heard.”