Beijersbergen & Evans

Interview | Erwin Beijersbergen | A Touch of Bill Evans 

The Concert became The Album | ATOBE on vinyl | Expected 2021You are working on a project. Can you tell me what that project is called?
Sure! That is the ‘ATOBE’ project and that means: A Touch Of Bill Evans.

Why Bill Evans?
I have, just like jazz pianist Bill Evans, a great love for classical masters such as: Chopin, Debussy and Bach. The Kunst der Fuge and Wohltemperiertes Klavier by Bach 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. This is especially true for his first trio that was 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 has got ‘musical space.’ That made it one sound: it seemed like it was played on one instrument. They were a musical trinity and that was very innovative for that time.

When and how did you experience that trinity?
When I listened to Bill’s trio for the first time, sometime in 1990, I thought, “Wow, what’s this? It seems like 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 very well attuned and listened to each other intensely and controlled all the registers of their instrument. Really amazing!

Do you think that members of the Bill Evans Trio were like minded in ordinary life?
At this moment I read ‘A Musical Biography’ written by Keith Shadwick with the title: “Bill Evans, Everything Happens To Me.” And from this biography I can not really tell that Bill had many friendship relationships. It was mainly the musicality that ensured a commitment.

How do you listen to Bill Evans in 2018?
Now I understand and feel ‘his concept’. In other words: “All musical input is welcome.” So it’s active and reactive improvising. 

Could you name ‘his concept’?
Musical and collective freedom. In order to be able to experience that freedom, supreme concentration is necessary and in order to retain that focus, you have to expel all inner blockages and external noise. Bill Evans had an introverted personality and you can hear that in his play. Like Bill Evans, I want to be very intense in the music because only then you create a context in which you can really make music with each other, so that it ‘flows’.

On 15th September 2020 you will give the ‘ATOBE’ concert. Why that day?Because September 15th 1980 is the day that Bill Evans died. It is a tribute to him. Bill Evans is not allowed to fall into oblivion!

Bill was a pianist and you are a guitarist, so how are you going to do ‘it’?Converting from ‘piano’ to ‘guitar’ is a tough challenge. I have been listening to Bill Evans very intensively for about 25 years. His sound is stored in my system, in my auditory memory. The transcription of ‘Time Remembered’, for instance, shows that I should use the 27th box of my guitar but that doesn’t exist! So that requires a different technique. I do not want to copy note by note Bill Evans because I want to do my ‘own thing’.

What is that, 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 so I can hear it in my head. Bill used a different harmonic system and I follow that within the margins of my own taste.

Should this also appeal other guitarists?
Definitely! The technique I use creates a larger and different sound. You learn to consciously use open strings and very different kinds of voicing’s.

What can people expect from the ‘ATOBE’ concert?
It will be a beautiful, intense and unique concert. I play with fantastic musicians!  I strive for musical freedom so that it becomes magical.

Are you going to do something else besides making music?
There will be photos from a certain Bill Evans period projected behind me on the wall. These images represent a time picture and therefor they will tell a piece of jazz history. I will not say much because a concert has a certain energy and dynamics and I want to break it as little as possible.

The beauty and challenge of this concert is that there is a great deal of individuality in it: the character of Bill Evans and myself. Like the Nardis piece written by Miles Davis. Bill Evans loved it! I have adapted the piece Nardis myself to Sardines and that is where my individuality resonates. I also play a own composition: Return.

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

Would you like to go abroad?
Yes, definitely!

Do you have something to add?
I am not the first to pay tribute to Bill Evans. Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays did it in 1981 with the piece September 15th. I will play a part of that composition at the end of the concert.

For me, ‘A Touch Of Bill Evans’ is a dream that becomes reality. The way to the concert is one of hard studying and rehearsing. Sometimes I’m just as bent over my guitar as Bill Evans did over his piano. The love for the instrument, the music, so intrinsically driven, there are almost no words for that. Maybe one word: Passion! It’s about the beauty, the art! Bill Evans is not allowed to fall into oblivion!

By artist Jackie Sarluïs
Delft, 12 november 2018.