ATOBE Interview

A Touch of Bill Evans | ATOBE on vinyl | Release September 15th 2023
a touch of bill evans

Scott LaFaro | Bill Evans | Paul Motion

You have just finished working on a project. Can you tell me what it’s called?
Yes, of course! That is the ATOBE project and that stands for A Touch Of Bill Evans.

Why Bill Evans?
Like jazz pianist Bill Evans, I have a great love for classical masters such as Chopin, Debussy and Bach. Bach’s Art of Fugue and Well-Tempered Clavier are beautiful! But the Matthew Passion is divine! And I also experience that divinity with Bill Evans. Bill Evans was one of the most important jazz pianists of the last century. That’s especially true of his first trio launched around 1958. The most famous jazz trio of that century.

Famous in what sense?
Bill Evans was a musical forerunner. He first started giving the rhythm section the same role as himself. Normally you have a pianist who is accompanied by the drummer and the bass player. But in Bill’s trio, everyone was given musical space. So it became one sound: it was as if one instrument was being played. They were a musical trinity. That was very innovative for the time.

When and how did you experience that trinity?
When I first listened to Bill’s trio, sometime in 1990, I thought, Wow, what’s this? It seems as if they are soloing through each other. Of course I understood that jazz was an improvisation style, but I had never heard this before! This could only mean that they were extremely well attuned to each other and listened intensely to each other and mastered all the registers of their instrument. Really amazing!

Do you think the members of the Bill Evans Trio were like-minded people in real life too?
Right now I’m reading a musical biography written by Keith Shadwick titled Bill Evans, Everything Happens To Me. And from this biography I can’t really tell that Bill had many friendships. It was mainly the musicality that ensured a connection.

How do you listen to Bill Evans now?
I think I now understand and feel his concept. In other words: All musical input is welcome. It is active and reactive improvisation. There is a deviation from the established paths.

Could you name his concept?
I call it musical and collective freedom. To experience that freedom requires supreme concentration and to maintain that focus you have to turn off all inner blockages and external noise. Bill Evans had an introverted personality and you can hear it in his playing. Like Bill Evans, I want to be very intense in the music, because only then you can create a context in which you can really make music together, so that it flows.

You’re a guitarist and Bill was a pianist. So, how will that work?
Converting from piano to guitar is of course a tough challenge. I’ve been listening to Bill Evans very intensively for about 25 years now. I have stored his sound, it is in my system, in my auditory memory. The transcription of Time Remembered shows that I should use the 27th fret of my guitar but it doesn’t exist! So that requires a different technique. In any case, I don’t want to copy Bill Evans note for note because I absolutely want to do my own thing with it.

What is it then, doing your own thing?
Those are my interpretations of a piece. I put a piece on the music stand and let the composition come to me, I hear it in my head. Bill used a different harmonic system and I follow it within the margins of my own taste.

Surely this should also appeal to other guitarists?
Yes, of course! The technique I use creates a bigger and a different sound. You learn to consciously use open strings and completely different types of voicings.

What can people expect from The ATOBE Album?
It is a beautiful, intense and unique album. I play with fantastic musicians. I strive for musical freedom so that it becomes magical. The beautiful and challenging thing about this album is that it contains a great deal of individuality – the individuality of Bill Evans and of myself. I’m not the first to pay tribute to Evans. Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays did it in 1981 with the September 15th piece.

What do you want to achieve with the ATOBE project?
It is my wish to make a theater tour with the Erwin Beijersbergen Trio with the Bill Evans repertoire. From concert hall to living rooms. Pure jazz for the true enthusiast!

Would you like to go abroad with the tour?
Yes, absolutely! Finally, do you have anything to add? A Touch Of Bill Evans is a dream come true. The road to the album is one of hard study and rehearsal. Sometimes I’m as hunched over my guitar as Bill Evans was over his piano. The love for the instrument, the music, so intrinsically driven, there are almost no words for it. Perhaps one word – Passion! It’s about the beauty, the art! Bill Evans must not be forgotten!

By Jackie Sarluïs, artist
Delft, November 12, 2020.