All things Bill Evans.

The fact that Bill Evans is such an important figure in modern jazz came to me as a sudden revelation that began with "Waltz for Debby". I'll leave that for others to explain.

He was a sideman with everybody who was anybody in the early stages of his career. That's a testament to what a fantastic pianist he was. I just became aware that he's on many albums in my collection as a "sideman". That fact is a story in itself.

If Coletrane is a sideman, you know it; the same goes for Miles. When Bill is a sideman, he is the glue that keeps the whole thing together without drawing attention to himself, which is why he was in such demand as a sideman.

Once Miles told Trane, "Shorten the solos", Trane replied, "When I get an idea, I can't stop". "Yes you can, just take the horn out of your mouth", Miles responded. There seems to be some conflict when the sideman is always screaming "Here I am "! Miles and Coletrane both admired Bill's artistry, they played together a lot. Bill Evans is admired by more musicians than any other jazz artist I can think of.

On "Blues and the Abstract Truth", an album that has been in my collection forever, which is one of those "Hall of Fame" LP's by Oliver Nelson; Bill is a "sideman". This just came to my atttention. Bill blends so well into the fabric of the music that he can go unnoticed, but at the same time make the star's music a work of art.

I've spent two weeks obtaining and reviewing music recommended by fellow "Agoner's" "Newbee" and "Jfz". First I'm going to review my favorite LP by Bill. This was recorded in 78 and I bought it in 79. The title is "Affinity", and it features "Toots Thielemans". This is one incredible LP.

A harmonica is not an instrument one would normally associate with jazz, but when Toots blows it, there is no jazzier instrument. What that man can do with a harmonica ain't in nobody's book. I'll begin this review with "Sno Peas".

"Sno Peas" starts with a jaunty run on the acoustic piano accompanied by a jazzy harmonica followed by Larry Schnieder on tenor sax, that cat can blow. "I like it, I like it a lot".

"Jesus Last Ballad" is next, Bill Plays electric piano on this one, he makes it sound like a "heavenly harp"; and when Toots harmonica comes in they take me off on a cloud. This celestial music definitely conveys "Jesus last Ballad".

"Tomato Kiss" is my favorite cut on this LP. All the gang really gets in the groove on this one: Marc Johnson on acoustic bass, and Eliot Zigmund on drums let their presence be known while Toots is blowing that harmonica like "Coletrane". Toots can make his harmonica sound like anything he wants it to. Out of all the music I've heard, this ranks among the very best, and it's all so "Evanesque".

Now that I have began this review of Bill's music, hopefully others will follow.
thanks for the informative post!

I have one thing to say about 'Blues and the Abstract Truth'


It is a favorite of mine as well :^D
Hi Orpheus10. Sorry, it's "Coltrane." And you're right, Bill Evans is great. I have "Portrait in Jazz," and "Sunday at the Village Vanguard." I think he's great as a sideman but haven't gotten into him as the leader on his own.
Checkout some of his solo work (Everybody Digs Bill Evans). Also, he has 2 albums with Tony Bennett. Just Bill and Tony.
Thanks for the insightful commentary. Never really thought of Evans as a sideman---only on "Kind of Blue" where I really noticed that he did a great job of holding it together. Will now start to actively look (listen) for him.
Bill was playing with the big boys a long time ago. On the 58 Miles sessions, you have Bill, Trane, Cannonball, Paul Chambers bass and Jimmy Cobb drums. This is as good as it gets for my money, and Bill held it all together. The stars take the solos but the piano man is the glue that keeps it altogether.
My audiophile tendencies were cemented one night listening to Bill Evans one night. I had a few recordings~ Everybody Digs Bill Evans ~Live At The Montreux Jazz Festival, that I enjoyed.This enjoyment turned to awe after I purchased used Vandersteen 2Ce's and found a used XRCD of Bill Evans at the Village Vanguard for six bucks at a used CD store. When I played the recording that evening I was blown away, I felt like I was sitting at a table in the club. But what really struck me was the incredible timing and interplay between Evans, LaFaro and Motian I really do not have the training or knowledge to articulate what I heard or felt, whatever it was. It hit me hard and sent me searching for more.

While it's important to have the ability to speak, it's even more important to have the ability to listen; Bill had that ability. He always heard everyone he played with.

Although I had heard Scott LaFaro before, only recently is the first time I really "heard" LaFaro. (Jazz afficianodo's know where I'm coming from) He plays one powerful bass.

Jazzybs mentioned the interplay at the Village Vanguard; when you throw in the tinkle of ice cubes in glasses and light conversation in the background, you are at a table in front of the trio. Put that beautiful lady at your table and you are there.
Thanks Orpheus. This is fun, and I hope to contribute more when I have time. I'll check out Affinity. I always stayed away, as I didn't think I'd like the jazz harmonica and electric piano.

Bwos and others(Bwos, I'm sure you know this): "Everybody Digs..." is not a solo recording per se. Having said that, I DO love the beautiful solo "Peace Piece" that's on that album!

Jazzybs: The XRCDs (and K2s) are wonderful, especially on the two VV recordings.

Great thread. Bill is definitely an artist whose music I would take to a desert island!

Foster_9, thanks for the "heads-up" on Coltrane. I can't seem to type and spell at the same time.

In regard to "Portrait in Jazz" and "Sunday at the Village Vangaurd", they were recorded 17 years before "Affinity". Bill, like any great artist, made considerable progress in those 17 years. He used a "quintet" for "Affinity". The addition of a harmonica and a sax gave this album quite a different sound from the "Vanguard" sessions, yet retained the continuity of Bill's piano.

He always had the ability to select great artists. "Toots Thielemans" is a musician of the same stature as Bill. While "google" will verify the historical evidence of this, the album will verify the musical evidence. Thielemans later regarded the sessions for "Affinity" as his favorite.

The Fender Rhodes electric piano on some tracks is also something new. I consider some of the music on this album as good as anything in my entire collection. If you have the opportunity, give it a listen.
Orpheus, thanks for the thread. In regards to the interplay between Evans and LaFaro; in the Peter Pettinger biography of Evans ( How My Heart Sings ) he writes how during the recording of the Explorations album that LaFaro and Evans had been having arguments about non musical matters, and that LaFaro's
regular bass was being repaired perhaps being why he stayed away from the high notes during the recording sessions. The result possibly being the restrained pure clean quality of the recording "an exploration of an elegant sound-world dedicated to the understatement" at any rate, certainly a different feel from the other albums of the first trio.

Bill was a man of many different sounds. This is something some of his fans seem to be unaware of. I was listening to "Blues and the Abstract Truth", which is an album by Oliver Nelson, and I heard this beautiful piano. I guessed "Sonny Clark", but no it was Bill Evans. While the music was beautiful and it fit perfectly, it didn't sound like Bill Evans.

When Bill was a sideman, he had the ability to get so deep into the leaders music, that we only heard the leaders music enhanced by Bill's piano. Bill always played what was most appropriate "at that moment". This required a degree of musicianship that few people can even conceive.

On Miles, "The 58 Sessions", the first tune is "On Green Dolphin Street". This version has the most incredibly beautiful piano intro I have ever heard on that tune. This time he sounds like "Bill Evans". Sometimes Bill Evans sound is the one that is most appropriate even when he is a sideman.

Bill has a "signature sound" that only a poet could describe, and I'm not a poet. While most of us have the ability to hear, most of us do not have the ability to listen. I believe Bill's fans are the truest "jazz aficionados" because, like Bill; they have the ability to listen.
I've always admired Bill Evans as an artist who transformed unspeakable pain from life into supremely beautiful music, never relinquishing his sensitivity and generosity, even if he wasn't always able to achieve that in life. I think Miles Davis said it best - "He plays the piano the way it ought to be played."