Brief biografie of Bill Evans
Bill Evans was born in Plainfield, New Jersey on August 16th, 1929 and began his music studies at the age of 6. Firstly classically trained on the piano. But he also studied flute and violin as a child. He graduated with a degree in piano performance and teaching from Southeastern Louisiana College, (now University), in 1950. Finally, he studied composition at Mannes College of Music in New York. After the Army, he worked in local dance bands. With clarinetist Tony Scott, Chicago area singer Lucy Reed and guitarist Mundell Lowe. Lowe brought the young pianist to the attention of producer Orrin Keepnews at Riverside Records.
Evans first album was: ‘New Jazz Conceptions’ in 1956, which featured the first recording of his composition: ‘Waltz for Debby’. It’s follow-up, ‘Everybody Digs Bill Evans’ was not recorded for another two years. Because the always shy and self deprecating pianist claimed he “Had nothing new to say.” On the other hand he got noticed in the NYC jazz scene, for his original piano sound and fluid ideas.
Kind of Blue
In 1958 Miles Davis asked him to join his group which also featured John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley. He stayed for a year, touring and recording, and subsequently playing on the all time classic ‘Kind of Blue’ album. During that time he composed ‘Blue in Green’, which is now a jazz standard. Also his work with Miles helped solidify Bill’s reputation.
His most innovative trio
In 1959, Evans founded his most innovative trio with the legendary bassist Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian on drums. Most noteworthy is the fact that the trio concept of equal interplay among the musicians was virtually pioneered by Evans. They did two studio albums together in addition to the famous live sessions at NYC’s Village Vanguard in 1961. LaFaro’s tragic death, a few weeks after the Vanguard engagement, personally devastated Bill. Therefor he sent the pianist into seclusion for a time, after which he returned to the trio format later in 1962.
His 1963 ‘Conversations With Myself’ album, in which he double and triple tracked his piano, won him the first of many Grammy Awards. As a result he toured for the first time overseas, playing to packed houses from Paris to Tokyo, now solidifying a worldwide reputation.
The great bassist Eddie Gomez began a fruitful eleven year tenure with Bill in 1966, in various trios with drummers Marty Morell, Philly Joe Jones, Jack DeJohnette and others. Contributing to some of the most acclaimed club appearances and albums in Evans’s career.
His recorded output was considerable: (Riverside, Verve, Columbia, Fantasy and Warner Bros), over the years. However, he also did sessions with some of the top names in jazz. Musicians like Charles Mingus, Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Jim Hall, George Russell, Shelley Manne, Toots Thielmans, Hal McKusick and others.
But Bill suffered more family problems and upheavals in his personal life, (often due to bouts with narcotics addiction). However, he brought a new dynamic, a surer confidence and even more aggressive interplay to the trio’s repertoire. Evans’ health was deteriorating. However he insisted on working until he finally had to cancel an engagement at Fat Tuesday’s in New York. A few days later, he had to be taken to Mount Sinai Hospital on September 15th, 1980, where he died. He is buried next to his beloved brother Harry, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
His last Trio
His last trio was formed in 1978, featuring the incomparably sensitive Marc Johnson on bass and drummer Joe LaBarbera. He rejuvenated the often ailing pianist, who was elated with his new line-up, calling it “The most closely related” to his first trio.
In his short life, Bill Evans was a prolific and profoundly creative artist and a genuinely compassionate and gentle man. Often in the face of his recurring health problems and his restless nature. But his rich legacy remains undiminished, and his compositions have enjoyed rediscovery by jazz players and even some classical musicians. Even now, Bill Evans’ music continues to influence musicians and composers. Deeply touched by his expressive genius and sensitive, lyrical artistry.
Born August 16th, 1929, in Plainfield, NJ
Died September 15th, 1980, in New York, NY