Bill Evans: Classic or Dud?

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I mean the pianist, obv.

Some of my friends think he's sugar-sweet swill, non-swinging/non-bluesy 'chamber' jazz for the supper club crowd. But I was just listening to 'Undercurrent' by Evans and Jim Hall, and it sounded aboslutely wonderful to me - moving, mysterious, beautiful but not sentimental, soft but still sharp...

So yr thoughts pl.

Andrew L (Andrew L), Monday, 16 September 2002 16:08 (13 years ago) Permalink

yes and the ppl who like him must contribute some recs of his.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 16 September 2002 16:29 (13 years ago) Permalink

The serious jazz fan's belief that because something is beautiful it lacks "swing" goes a long way toward explaining why people hate serious jazz fans. Evans is a classic by any definition of the word.

As leader, start with "Waltz for Debby" or "Sunday at the Village Vanguard." As a sideman, you could do far worse than Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue."

The Minor Fall, The Major Lift
http://intonation.blogspot.com/

TMFTML (TMFTML), Monday, 16 September 2002 16:31 (13 years ago) Permalink

CLASSIC. I don't have much by him, but my favorites are Everybody Digs Bill Evans (which has "Piece Peace," one of the most beautiful jazz compositions ever) and Explorations (a bit jauntier w/ more swing.) What I love about Evans is that you can pick him out right away, no matter who he's playing with. That's difficult for me to do w/ most pianists.

Mark (MarkR), Monday, 16 September 2002 16:46 (13 years ago) Permalink

Classic. The slow dreamy mysterious stuff is a lot better than his uptempo stuff though.

Burr, Monday, 16 September 2002 17:09 (13 years ago) Permalink

The sessions at the Village Vanguard are incredible. When I think about the album, and the context, it adds to the magic. Picture a relaxed, quiet day in the Village with someone you love, empty streets, no tourists, and the music is literally the perfect soundtrack. I especially like his rendition of My Foolish Heart. I often think that record describes the kind of girl I am attracted to better than anything I could possibly say, if that makes any sense. And the interaction between Evans, LaFaro and Motian is incredible, which is what everybody says, but only because it is true!

Aaron Grossman (aajjgg), Monday, 16 September 2002 19:27 (13 years ago) Permalink

Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby are beyond classic definitely, for Scott LaFaro alone. However, I've really been enjoying 'The Bill Evans Album' lately, with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morrell. It's just a solid trio record from the 70s where he plays Fender Rhodes (!) about half the time, and beautifully. I think it's only on vinyl but it's really cheap everywhere for some reason, I think Dusty Grooves has it for around $4.

Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 16 September 2002 19:46 (13 years ago) Permalink

Totally classic. Get now: Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Waltz for Debby, Explorations, and (my personal favorite) Conversations with Myself

Joe (Joe), Monday, 16 September 2002 21:48 (13 years ago) Permalink

One more vote for absolute, total classic. Polka Dots & Moonbeams = utterly wunnaful.

J0hn Darn1elle (J0hn Darn1elle), Monday, 16 September 2002 22:19 (13 years ago) Permalink

I'm trying to think of the last time there was an all-round classic vote. Prob D. Boon.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 11:51 (13 years ago) Permalink

I think I have a 'dud' quote from stanley crouch around (in 'the selling out of miles davis') but eh

Josh (Josh), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 13:52 (13 years ago) Permalink

"NYC's No Lark" is another cool piece of Bill Evans music, it is a tribute to Sonny Clark off of "Conversations with Myself". Evans knew those chords of melancholy unknown.

Classic in my book. I think he had a very distinctive sound.

earlnash, Tuesday, 17 September 2002 15:05 (13 years ago) Permalink

Josh- yuo had to spoil it! but really...all ILM-ers who bothered with this thread like him.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 16:16 (13 years ago) Permalink

"I'm trying to think of the last time there was an all-round classic vote."

My "Smalltown Boy C/D" thread had about 7 posts and all classic. 50 more, and I would have actually felt proud of myslef!

Aaron Grossman (aajjgg), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 16:20 (13 years ago) Permalink

errgh what is myslef?

Aaron Grossman (aajjgg), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 16:37 (13 years ago) Permalink

there's a track on Sunday At The Village Vanguard which is, like, the best thing ever! forget which one, probably either "Alice In Wonderland" or "All Of You"

Paul (scifisoul), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 17:09 (13 years ago) Permalink

something old I wrote about "nyc's no lark"

Josh (Josh), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 17:26 (13 years ago) Permalink

nice one...I must remember to get this.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 21:00 (13 years ago) Permalink

The Evans/LaFaro/Motion sides are self-recommending. I'm also a fan of his playing on Tadd Dameron's 'The Magic Touch', the 'Trio '64' lp on Verve and the first duet album with Tony Bennett. 'Coversations With Myself' is beautiful.

billyboy, Tuesday, 17 September 2002 21:42 (13 years ago) Permalink

CLASSIC!

Joe aka PappaWheelie (Joe aka PappaWheelie), Wednesday, 18 September 2002 02:27 (13 years ago) Permalink

that track (see above) is "My Man's Gone Now" and the version of the Village Vanguard sessions is At The Village Vanguard (Riverside FCD-60-017) which only offers one take of each piece so you don't have to reprogram (though many fans wouldn't anyway).

Paul (scifisoul), Wednesday, 18 September 2002 02:35 (13 years ago) Permalink

2 years pass...
I don't know why, when Waltz for Debby has long been one of my favorite records, I waited until now to pick up the companion album, Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Wow. It's even better than the other one.

Others I like that aren't mentioned here: Moonbeams, Portrait in Jazz, and (gasp!) Bill Evans and Tony Bennett (I forget if that's the right title).

Hurting (Hurting), Monday, 28 February 2005 23:41 (11 years ago) Permalink

Classic. Sets the standard for the improvising piano/bass/drums trio. Only Tommy Flanagan was able to touch it, IMHO.

Ken L (Ken L), Monday, 28 February 2005 23:51 (11 years ago) Permalink

Flawless and absolutely classic. His playing on Oliver Nelson's The Blues And The Abstract Truth is amazing.

Jay Vee (Manon_70), Monday, 28 February 2005 23:54 (11 years ago) Permalink

We often seem to be on the same wavelength on jazz Ken. I love Tommmy Flanagan. I saw the Flanagan/Nash/Washington trio two or three times -- what a knockout group. Totally disproves the idea that "straight-ahead" jazz can't still be a vital artform.

Hurting (Hurting), Monday, 28 February 2005 23:55 (11 years ago) Permalink

Uber-classic. I fell in love with Bill & Miles around the same time. My favorite is still Explorations (I think it just got re-mastered, too), but Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard are classics definitely.

Very under-rated, i think. At least, I hardly hear anyone I know talk about him.

poortheatre (poortheatre), Monday, 28 February 2005 23:58 (11 years ago) Permalink

another vote for classic.

just got thru reading "Lost Chords," the great book about white jazz musicians 1915-40 (ish). And listening to those supposedly secondary guys like Bud Freeman, Jack Purvis, etc. Bill Evans was incredible--and so, for ex., is Keith Jarrett today. I particularly like Evans on Miles's '58 "Love for Sale"--that's about as good as it gets.

But I can see the objections--he can be a bit pastel, you know. Still, his playing swings real hard, his touch is immaculate, his ideas first-rate. If he doesn't provide the thrills that someone like Bud Powell or Monk does, well, he's doing his own thing and that's cool.

edd s hurt (ddduncan), Monday, 28 February 2005 23:58 (11 years ago) Permalink

I hate the "he doesn't swing hard" criticism. I not find it not only racist, but rockist, in a jazzbo sort of way. So what if he's not the hardest swinging pianist. So what if he's not Wynton Kelly. John Coltrane is no Dexter Gordon either, but it's clear who I'd rather listen to.

Hurting (Hurting), Tuesday, 1 March 2005 00:04 (11 years ago) Permalink

Wynton Kelly is great too, don't get me wrong, but he never wrote anything like Jade Visions.

Hurting (Hurting), Tuesday, 1 March 2005 00:05 (11 years ago) Permalink

I saw the Flanagan/Nash/Washington trio two or three times -- what a knockout group.
I saw another version of that group a few times, with George Mraz on bass, which was also a knockout. In fact, I came within an inch of going to see George Mraz play with some others at the Jazz Standard this weekend. But I never made it.

Ken L (Ken L), Tuesday, 1 March 2005 00:11 (11 years ago) Permalink

i love bill evans. 'undercurrent,' his album with jim hall is also great -- the wiriness of his playing is very interesting, it's classic period bill evans much stripped down. jim hall is also amazing, obv.

i also really like the montreux live album from '68 (i think) w/ jack dejohnette and eddie gomez. much harder-edged, more coked-out bill evans. his last couple of albums with marc johnson and joe labarbera are also pretty interesting -- you can hear that they would've been a really interesting group.

pm (p-m), Tuesday, 1 March 2005 00:23 (11 years ago) Permalink

Two years later, having heard a lot more Bill Evans, I'd say he's pretty much God.

Mark (MarkR), Tuesday, 1 March 2005 00:36 (11 years ago) Permalink

We often seem to be on the same wavelength on jazz Ken.
Thanks, Hurting. I'll take that as a compliment. Why don't you test this out and come and post on this thread? It's OK if we agree to disagree.

Ken L (Ken L), Tuesday, 1 March 2005 05:13 (11 years ago) Permalink

2 years pass...

Has anyone heard Things Remembered? Saw it today and was curious. No LaFaro, though. I do love Watltz For Debby and Sunday At The Vanguard...

If Assholes Could Fly This Place Would Be An Airport, Saturday, 10 November 2007 06:12 (8 years ago) Permalink

LaFaro's great but he's hardly a yardstick, there's loads of great non-LaFaro stuff. I don't know Things Remembered though

J0hn D., Saturday, 10 November 2007 09:17 (8 years ago) Permalink

11 months pass...

A prof us showed this film when I was briefly in jazz school. It's great. (links to parts 2-5 in the sidebar)

Everything is Highlighted (Hurting 2), Saturday, 11 October 2008 22:45 (7 years ago) Permalink

Oh right, embeds. I forgot.

Everything is Highlighted (Hurting 2), Saturday, 11 October 2008 22:45 (7 years ago) Permalink

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Everything is Highlighted (Hurting 2), Saturday, 11 October 2008 22:45 (7 years ago) Permalink

Uh, I seem to have done something wrong. Anyway, search "The Universal Mind of Bill Evans" on youtube.

Everything is Highlighted (Hurting 2), Saturday, 11 October 2008 22:46 (7 years ago) Permalink

3 months pass...

A prof us showed this film when I was briefly in jazz school. It's great. (links to parts 2-5 in the sidebar)

this is kind of why i like but don't like bill evans: just in my own experience -- i have a friend who is so into the mechanics of this (and how it came up on the spot) that it turns into boring schematics. or boring theory-explanations i guess? that's why from the same time period, def. not the same area, i'm like: "andrew hill." because he's so far away from that, at least in my mind.

then again i just need to listen to gil w/ fresh ears. because in all honesty i know i'd fckin love it, that's the type of thing i like, just not the theory about it.

matt p (Matt P), Thursday, 15 January 2009 14:10 (7 years ago) Permalink

I'm not sure what you mean by that -- the fact that you can explain Bill Evans in music theory terms makes you like him less? Because it's not like you couldn't do the same thing with Andrew Hill.

ichard Thompson (Hurting 2), Thursday, 15 January 2009 16:46 (7 years ago) Permalink

3 years pass...

Listening to Moon Beams again for the first time in a while. Such a perfect record.

Scott, bass player for Tenth Avenue North (Hurting 2), Monday, 7 May 2012 19:31 (4 years ago) Permalink

I think this is one of my favorites because it's almost all slow and understated and doesn't have as much of his jauntier playing.

Scott, bass player for Tenth Avenue North (Hurting 2), Monday, 7 May 2012 19:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

every year I love Bill Evans more

cosi fan whitford (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Monday, 7 May 2012 20:01 (4 years ago) Permalink

i actually like some of evans' jauntier stuff -- occasionally it gets a little too lugubrious for me! though obviously he is is the master of the meditative. but as far as "jaunty" goes, i love the version of "solar" on the village vanguard sessions -- some highwire tension there.

tylerw, Monday, 7 May 2012 20:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah that is a good track

I also love Milestones, although I wouldn't quite call it "jaunty"

Scott, bass player for Tenth Avenue North (Hurting 2), Monday, 7 May 2012 20:08 (4 years ago) Permalink

I also find it helpful to remind myself sometimes that the way his trio is improvising is actually quite deliberately experimental and in that way it might sometimes produce mildly awkward sounding moments. Like there just weren't really piano trios before him, or at least not many, that played in that loose, multi-directional way where no member of the trio is forming a bedrock and all are instead kind of orbiting around an invisible point at different speeds.

Scott, bass player for Tenth Avenue North (Hurting 2), Monday, 7 May 2012 20:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah it's definitely a different conception of the piano trio -- unlike say, ahmad jamal's trios of the same period, where everyone's working in pretty close tandem. evans' trios seem to be all about pulling things in different directions and seeing where that lands them.

tylerw, Monday, 7 May 2012 20:21 (4 years ago) Permalink

The beginning of his solo on "Flamenco Sketches" are the most beautiful nine notes in all of music.

improvised explosive advice (WmC), Monday, 7 May 2012 20:28 (4 years ago) Permalink

Flamenco Sketches has an interesting history actually. The germ for it came from Bill Evans's intro to Some Other Time on Everybody Digs Bill Evans. The engineer recorded Bill doing extended improvising on the two-chord figure he used for the intro, and that became Peace Piece, which is also on Everybody Digs Bill Evans. Then Bill Evans and Miles co-wrote Flamenco Sketches based on Peace Piece (to what degree each contributed who knows) and Flamenco Sketches loosely refers to some of the changes in Some Other Time.

Scott, bass player for Tenth Avenue North (Hurting 2), Monday, 7 May 2012 20:42 (4 years ago) Permalink

some other time is a leonard bernstein song, right? both that and piece peace are so beautiful -- and yeah, lead straight into flamenco sketches. i guess evans gets credit on KoB for that song and blue in green?

tylerw, Monday, 7 May 2012 20:48 (4 years ago) Permalink

i barely play, but it is very relaxing to play the opening to flamenco sketches on the piano.

tylerw, Monday, 7 May 2012 20:50 (4 years ago) Permalink

ah yeah it is Bernstein, and it's from On the Town. For some reason I was thinking it was from South Pacific, but I was mixing it up with This Nearly Was Mine.

Scott, bass player for Tenth Avenue North (Hurting 2), Monday, 7 May 2012 20:58 (4 years ago) Permalink

this one from the tony bennett album is nice

tylerw, Monday, 7 May 2012 21:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

i've been listening to 'the bill evans album' because i happen to have it on vinyl, and although it seems like he took some heat for it, i really like him on fender rhodes.

40oz of tears (Jordan), Monday, 7 May 2012 21:10 (4 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...

anyone heard this newish live release. the world is not hurting for live bill evans, i suppose, but it is sounding great this morning

from 1968, a semi-pro recording, but the quality is pretty astounding, like you're in the front row.

tylerw, Monday, 23 July 2012 17:23 (3 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...

I just remembered back in college when I talked shit about how Bill Evans was unswinging to a jazzbo friend, he was like "Nah, that's not the point. You gotta listen to Bill Evans alone in your room with the lights off." OTM.

i wish i had a skateboard i could skate away on (Hurting 2), Saturday, 30 November 2013 17:55 (2 years ago) Permalink

anyway, been listening to this lately, hadn't heard of it before:

i wish i had a skateboard i could skate away on (Hurting 2), Saturday, 30 November 2013 17:55 (2 years ago) Permalink

I just remembered back in college when I talked shit about how Bill Evans was unswinging to a jazzbo friend, he was like "Nah, that's not the point. You gotta listen to Bill Evans alone in your room with the lights off." OTM.

― i wish i had a skateboard i could skate away on (Hurting 2),

I think that sense of space is why some players especially Miles Davis liked to play with Bill Evans. He stayed the heck out of the way when we they were soloing but the minimal comp he would be doing would often be quite fitting. It gave the ensemble a bit of air to their sound and not so dense. It's dropping out chord parts then playing the extensions up an octave is part of it.

earlnash, Saturday, 30 November 2013 20:22 (2 years ago) Permalink

I think that's actually a good explanation for why Miles stuck with Herbie so long - he combined Evans-style chord voicings and spare comping with an ability to swing much harder (fwiw Evans' comping isn't very spare when he's soloing himself, for whatever reason. Sometimes it borders on cluttered imo).

i wish i had a skateboard i could skate away on (Hurting 2), Saturday, 30 November 2013 20:33 (2 years ago) Permalink

Feel bad saying it, but while I like Paul Motian fine on the Bill Evans records I don't really in lots of other contexts.

Skatalite of Dub (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 30 November 2013 21:06 (2 years ago) Permalink

nah I pretty much agree. The only exception I can think of is when he plays with Paul Bley.

i wish i had a skateboard i could skate away on (Hurting 2), Saturday, 30 November 2013 21:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

Yes! That trio session with Philly Joe and PC is definitely an overlooked one in the larger scope of Bill Evans.

I like to play Living Time for the people that think Bill is predictable and safe.

Austin, Sunday, 1 December 2013 02:35 (2 years ago) Permalink

11 months pass...

amazing performance, love youtube

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Wednesday, 19 November 2014 19:58 (1 year ago) Permalink

Wow.

Marty8501 (Marty Innerlogic), Wednesday, 19 November 2014 20:42 (1 year ago) Permalink

1 month passes...

Somehow after all these years I only just recently heard Gary's Theme for the first time, wow

man alive, Wednesday, 7 January 2015 18:35 (1 year ago) Permalink

i gotta get more late period evans

tylerw, Wednesday, 7 January 2015 18:47 (1 year ago) Permalink

10 months pass...

I posted 'Mornin' Glory' on another thread yesterday and it reminded me I don't have the Tokyo Concert from '73 digitized. So, I'm remedying that right now. Fans of the Gomez/Morell band should definitely get into it:

It's probably in my top five favorite Bill Evans records. Right up there with Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Moonbeams.

Austin, Tuesday, 10 November 2015 01:14 (6 months ago) Permalink

5 months pass...

Apparently, this was out for Record Store Day. I'm so disillusioned with the whole thing that I didn't even bother looking at the list, but I load up Dusty Groove, and there it is very enticingly right up top.

Has anyone heard this stuff yet?

Austin, Monday, 25 April 2016 03:37 (1 month ago) Permalink

p4k, but a reasonably sussed review. I'm interested: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/21799-some-other-time-the-lost-session-from-the-black-forest/

MatthewK, Monday, 25 April 2016 06:45 (1 month ago) Permalink

I guess "though he may not be an especially famous jazz musician" is based on p4k knowing its audience? Like it just means "he's not one of the names you'd necessarily know if you don't listen to much jazz"?

JWoww Gilberto (man alive), Monday, 25 April 2016 11:27 (1 month ago) Permalink

Presumably. He's not Miles, Trane, Bird or Dizz.

MatthewK, Monday, 25 April 2016 12:17 (1 month ago) Permalink

That's a good review, and I have that album sitting at home, but these two sentences perfectly encapsulate why Evans has never done anything for me as a leader:

His first studio date as a leader, in 1956, was just a year after Charlie Parker's death, with bebop very much still au courant; his last, in 1979, the year before his death, was the year Chuck Mangione was nominated for a Grammy for the discofied light jazz funk of "Feels So Good." In both of those years, Evans recorded small-group acoustic jazz albums featuring his standard trio, playing a mix of standards and a few originals.

the top man in the language department (誤訳侮辱), Monday, 25 April 2016 12:54 (1 month ago) Permalink

If you judge someone solely on how many decades they pushed forward the boundaries of what their genre can do then a lot of excellent musicians are going to come up short.

Firstly, a lot of his stuff is just flat out gorgeous - I don't care who wrote it or whether it was part of the zeitgeist - there'll always be a place for someone who can take a cover or a standard and make it their own in such a way that it becomes *the* version.

Secondly - yeah by around 63-64 the bulk of his very best work was behind him and he treaded water a bit in the years leading up to his death, but to say, "well, he was only amazing for 7 or 8 years" is hardly a criticism.

Thirdly he was innovative in his own way, obviously he didn't do anything as jarringly new as Ornette Coleman but he did:
* bring a whole new set of harmonic possibilities to jazz via his classical/impressionist influences
* become the bridge between George Russell and Miles Davis that brought modal jazz to the mainstream, including being the uncredited writer for two Kind of Blue songs
* change the concept of the piano trio, making it much more a union of equals rather than piano plus backing rhythm section

the_ecuador_three, Monday, 25 April 2016 13:54 (1 month ago) Permalink

looking forward to hearing this new one ... i thought everybody digs bill evans?
i did think leading w/ the idea that evans isn't famous was weird (he's gotta be among the top 5 most well known jazz pianists ever, right?), but it was a good review otherwise.

tylerw, Monday, 25 April 2016 14:02 (1 month ago) Permalink

I mean he's like 50x as famous as Wynton Kelly, the other pianist on that jazz record everyone owns. And it's just a weirdly apologetic thing to do in a music review. It's hard to imagine them doing the same thing with a minor cult rock figure.

JWoww Gilberto (man alive), Monday, 25 April 2016 17:19 (1 month ago) Permalink

I'd figure Bill Evans is more known now for playing on Kind of Blue now than say Stan Getz who probably sold quite a few more records than Evans in their 1950-60s heyday.

It has been around 50 years since that generation of jazz players was at their peak. Time has passed.

earlnash, Monday, 25 April 2016 17:38 (1 month ago) Permalink

regardless! bill evans is great. I find it amazing that this was recorded in 1958.

tylerw, Monday, 25 April 2016 17:42 (1 month ago) Permalink

I dig NYC Is No Lark. That track is haunted sounding. Pretty unique as it was Evans improvising on top of his own take.

earlnash, Monday, 25 April 2016 18:13 (1 month ago) Permalink


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