15 September 2010

Remembering Bill Evans

The great jazz pianist Bill Evans died 30 years ago today, on 15 September 1980, at the age of 51.  Doug Ramsey has an appreciation in The Wall Street Journal.

I heard Evans live once, at a time when I was too inexperienced and probably too much still in the grip of "reverse racism" in regard to jazz to fully appreciate what I was hearing.  I knew Evans's playing at that time almost solely from Kind of Blue, and I loved that.  And yet I had no concept then of his range or of the depth and breadth of his influence, and no sense that he ranked among the greatest players in jazz.  Since then I have come to understand how his playing changed and enriched the pianistic language of jazz:  he changed how the piano could be played, just as Coltrane changed how the tenor sax could be played, and Miles Davis the trumpet.

Unfortunately, all I remember of the live performance is that he looked terribly strung out...which he may well have been, or it may just have been the lugubrious lighting and the way he bent his head so deeply down toward the keyboard.  But that doesn't take away from his extraordinary accomplishment as a pianist, something I have been happy to become better acquainted with over the past few years (and I'm still working at it).

The sound quality on most of the Evans videos on YouTube is pretty awful, and some of the pianos are out of tune, so it's hard to choose one clip as representative.  Not quite at random, here he is in 1979 playing "My Romance":

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1 comment:

  1. I like this post, I need to read more of your things. I just find I spend a good majority of my time running around doing things. Even while sitting I'm still doing things. His style reminds me of something I can't quite put my finger on...well we'll leave at that, it's nostalic. Time to go looks up his music :)