Thanks to Jan Stevens of The Bill Evans Web Pages for pointing the way to a revealing interview with Evans the year before he died. Ross Porter (pictured), then of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, talked with the pianist at his home and in his car as Evans was driving to a medical appointment. Evans is articulate about his career, his musical goals and his associates, including Miles Davis, Philly Joe Jones and Scott LaFaro. He does not dwell on his fateful habits, nor does he evade the subject. His tough-minded devotion to his music is apparent. Porter, one of the most skilled and knowledgeable jazz broadcasters, integrates a few of Evans’ recordings into the program. Since his CBC days, Porter has been president of Jazz.FM91 in Toronto. To hear his conversation with Bill Evans, go here, check the last little box on the right and press Play.
Bill Kirchner says
Followed your link and listened to the Bill Evans interview, one of the most revealing I’ve ever heard with him. Though one quibble: it’s odd that someone as astute as Ross Porter could mistakenly label as being from the ’61 Village Vanguard recordings a version of “All of You” that is quite obviously from the ’70s. Silly mistake.
Also listened to the site’s 2008 Rob McConnell Boss Brass reunion concert. I’ve never been a huge McConnell fan, though I much respect his craftsmanship; too often, he turned what would have been a great 5-minute chart into an interminable 10-minute one, and there were several instances of that in the broadcast. But knowing what we know now–that McConnell would be dead a little more than a year later, and that we were listening to his band’s last gig–I found it very poignant. And Guido Basso was always the band’s best soloist. If further evidence were needed, his flugelhorn feature on Johnny Mandel’s “Christmas Love Song” is a gem–what a sound!
Phil Dwyer says
I thought that was a strange error to make, maybe a producer slotted that take, with Eddie Gomez and Philly Joe from the sound of it, after the fact. Still, kind of obvious. Regarding the Brass, I was always a big fan of Rob’s, although he did tend toward the ‘epic’ side of things for sure, still he was great at writing for the band he had, and especially things showcasing Guido. Portrait Of Jenny is a classic from many years ago (The Jazz Album). I had the pleasure of arranging an album with strings for Guido about…I don’t know, 7 or 8 years ago. I’m actually doing a concert with Guido tomorrow, which is a rarity for me since I moved to the west coast.
Getting back to the Bill Evans interview, it was great to hear. I am also looking forward to the new book written by Laurie which is just out.
Bill Kirchner says
I put the McConnell version of “Portrait of Jenny” in the Smithsonian Collection of Recordings 5-CD “Big Band Renaissance” boxed set I did for them in the ’90s. It’s McConnell at his best, and a stunning feature for Guido Basso. Out-of-print, but you can still find copies.
The Basso CD Phil refers to is “Lost in the Stars,” done in 2003 for CBC Records. Lovely playing on flugel (and one piece on harmonica), an excellent rhythm section (including pianist Lorraine Desmarais and bassist Michel Donato), and nice string writing by Phil.
Sandy Walsh-Wilson says
Wonderful, Doug. Thanks for this pointer. What a treat.
(Mr. Walsh-Wilson is the cellist of the Alexander String Quartet*DR)
Dean Reilly says
Great Bill interview, except for the ghastly mistaken identity
of the “Vanguard recording” Of course, that was not the LaFaro trio of
’61, but much later. Also; heads up re: “Diary of the underdogs” a
brand new book of San Francisco guys in the 1960’s, by pianist Don
Alberts. (everything you ever wanted to know about the jazz scene
Rob D says
I don’t think Ross Porter is an ‘astute” observer of the jazz scene. He’s an enthusiast who often gets details wrong and has revealed his failings many times on CBC radio. He was once asked what he admired most about Sonny Rollins career and he responded “I think it’s his song writing” Errrrrr…OK..yeah that makes perfect sense.
He’s also responsible, IMO. for framing jazz as easy listening music with all the edges filed off, Many Canadian listeners I know think they dislike jazz. I believe they just dislike Ross Porter’s version of jazz.
I know this sounds harsh but that’s the way I feel and I am not alone. He clearly loves jazz and I am glad he brought a part of the music to a bigger audience in Canada. I am sure he’s very well meaning. But he’s no Phil Schaap..not even in the same ballpark.
Don Alberts says
Thanks Dean, for the comments. Link to buy the book-A Diary of the Underdogs-
Bill Kirchner says
Not being a Canadian or a listener to the CBC, I’m in no position to comment on Rob D’s evaluation of Ross Porter. But anyone who could get Bill Evans to open up in an interview to the extent Porter did must have *something* on the ball.
In any case, there’s only one Phil Schaap.
Steve Provizer says
I hadn’t been familiar with Porter. He is subject to the occasional malaprop and mistake, but the thing is well edited to restrict him to intros and outtros.
What surprised me was how much Evans sounded like Wynton on that cassette he played from the Bohemia.
Mark Mohr says
Thanks for the link to the Bill Evans interview. It was, of course, great listening to the interview itself in the car…but it was absolutely mind blowing hearing him fumble with a bootleg audio cassette recording of a live date with Miles Davis, Coltrane, Philly Jo Jones, et al. You hear him put the cassette in the dashboard player…a 1958 date from the Bohemia….there is Evans in 1979…taking himself back in time to 1958…listening to “Bye Bye Blackbird”…and basically saying “OK, here comes the piano solo” and hearing him react to his own music. Then he describes the creation of “Waltz for Debby”. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. The interview was done just about three weeks after his brother’s death. Bill is apparently idling at a bank’s drive through window…and you hear the teller ask him how he wants his money. “$500 in large bills.” Wow. He also chats about the “Sunday at the Vanguard” sessions with Scott La Faro, and several other topics. It’s an audio link directly into the past…great stuff!