Bill Evans (pianist)

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Bill Evans (1978)

William John "Bill" Evans (born August 16, 1929 in Plainfield , New Jersey , † September 15, 1980 in New York City , New York) was an American jazz pianist , composer and band leader.

Bill Evans is considered to be one of the most influential pianists of modern jazz and a style-maker for a whole generation of musicians, including Herbie Hancock , Keith Jarrett , Chick Corea and Brad Mehldau . Strongly influenced by role models such as Lennie Tristano and the impressionism of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravels , Evans brought an introverted and lyrical sensitivity to jazz. In his piano trios he turned bass and drums from accompanists into equal partners. In addition to his first trio (1958–1961) with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motianhis last formation (1978–1980) with Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera is seen as the highlight of this interaction.


1929–1950: early years

William "Bill" Evans grew up in a middle-class white family. His father Harry L. Evans ran a golf course and had ancestors from Wales . His mother, Mary Saroka Evans, came from a ( Ruthenian ) miner's family who immigrated to Pittsburgh . As an amateur pianist, she introduced her two sons, the older Harry and the younger William, to the piano at the age of six. The family owned an instrument which the sons took turns practicing. Bill Evans had his first engagement when he was twelve when he stepped in for his older brother in Buddy Valentino's band . In this band the young Don Elliott played occasionally , who later brought Evans into his band. At the age of thirteen Evans also began to learn the flute and violin.

Lucius McGehee Hall on the Southeastern Louisiana University campus (2010)

From the fall of 1946, Bill Evans and his brother Harry attended Southeastern Louisiana College in Hammond, Louisiana , which their parents had chosen because of the good teaching program for music students. It was there that Evans became interested in African American music. Bill Evans later considered this passage to be one of the most enjoyable of his entire life:

“I was on my own back then, and Louisiana really made an impact. Maybe it was the serene way people lived there - things moved very leisurely. That finally carried over to me too. There was a certain permissive lifestyle very different from the one in the north. The relationship between blacks and whites was friendly, and often even confidential. "

Evans graduated from college with a degree in classical music; There Evans also met Mundell Lowe , who then hired him at the age of 18 for his trio with Red Mitchell . In the late 1940s he played the boogie-woogie piano in New York clubs; he graduated in 1950 from Southeastern Louisiana College, where he studied piano and music education.

In college he first heard the records of the saxophonist Lee Konitz and the “ Lennie Tristano School ”: “For the first time I experienced that I was listening to jazz that was not learned through osmosis but was trying to listen to something [new] create".

The music professor Gretchen Magee played a key role in his composition studies and his compositional development; Pieces made at the time, such as Peace Piece and Waltz for Debby , are “based on Magee's teaching methods. At that time she taught Evans basic theoretical knowledge and advanced composition theory ”. A letter that Bill Evans later sent to Gretchen Magee illustrates her importance for the development of the pianist. It says: “I have always admired your teaching as that rare and amazing combination that combined extraordinary knowledge with the ability to bring that knowledge to life within a student. I am sure that you were my greatest inspiration in college, and the seeds of insight you have sown have borne fruit many times in practice. "

1950–1955: The beginning of the career

In the summer of 1950, the two Evans brothers parted ways. While Harry was embarking on a career as a music teacher and later became a teacher at Baton Rouge , Bill finished his flute studies. He then joined the Herbie Fields dance band before doing his military service by playing the flute with the 5th Army Band at Fort Sheridan. Outside of his service he visited the jazz clubs in nearby Chicago; In 1951 he played with Tony Scott while visiting the New York Café Society . From 1951 he had the opportunity in Chicago and New York to familiarize himself with the then latest trends in modern jazz ; after the bebop years pianists like Lennie Tristano , Horace Silver , Dave Brubeck and others dominated the scene. He was also influenced by the great pianists of the swing era such as Teddy Wilson , Earl Hines , Art Tatum and Nat Cole . Evans later recalled:

Lee Konitz (2007)

“I was really impressed by Lennie Tristano's very early recordings - pieces like 'Tautology' , 'Marshmellows' and ' Fishin 'Around' . I noticed how the musicians in his group were building their improvisations within a structure that was very different from anything I'd heard before. I think I was even more impressed with Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh than with Lennie himself; it was the way they brought things together. "

After his discharge from the army, he therefore decided to move to New York. But first he returned from Chicago to his parents' house in New Jersey to improve his piano technique. In 1954 he worked with Jerry Wald , with whose orchestra the first recordings were made, which, like Mad About the Boy or Porter's I Love Paris , can be described as popular music .

In 1955 he finally moved to New York to start his professional career. He moved into an apartment in an apartment building on 106th Street and made his living by performing at societies and parties. The bassist George Platt, whom he met in the Buddy Valentino band, became a teacher for his further development. He began to study theory on the side at Mannes College of Music , worked as an accompanist for the singer Lucy Reed and made his first appearances as a solo pianist in the Village Vanguard as a "filler" for the stars. He also made recordings with Dick Garcia , Tony Scott and George Russell . He was also involved in the world premiere of Russell's suite All about Rosie and played in its 1956 Jazz Workshop .

1956–1958: First recordings

His first trio album New Jazz Conceptions was released in 1956 by Riverside Records - at the instigation of guitarist Mundell Lowe, who played recordings of Evans for producer Orrin Keepnews over the phone. The debut album contained standards such as Porter's I Love You , Leo Robin's Easy Living and bebop pieces by George Shearing and Tadd Dameron ("Our Delight") as well as original compositions, such as an early version of his Waltz for Debby . However, the LP had little impact on the jazz community; Keepnews later said it had only sold 800 copies in the first year.

In the next year and a half he took part in a total of 15 recording sessions; he played with Don Elliott, Eddie Costa , Joe Puma and Sahib Shihab , Charles Mingus , Jimmy Knepper , Hal McKusick , Oliver Nelson and Art Farmer . In 1957 Gunther Schuller hired the pianist for his third stream project, the Modern Jazz Concert performed at Brandeis University . The Down Beat judged Evans' solo in George Russell's All about Rosie :

“Pianist Evans contributes a remarkable solo, incredibly lively and characterized by a steady and accented rhythm. Certainly better than any of the other solos on this piece. A contribution that should make him one of the most important pianists on the scene today. "

Charles Mingus (1976)

Mingus remembered the pianist of the Schuller project in August 1957 and sent him a telegram to invite him to a recording session the next day. The album East Coasting , which resulted from this session, was released a year after his debut album. In February 1958 Evans worked for the first time with Miles Davis , with whom he went on tour for eight months and whom he strongly influenced through his improvisational style. In 1958 he caused a sensation with his album Everybody Digs Bill Evans with trio partners Philly Joe Jones and Sam Jones ( Down Beats New Star Award). Other musicians at the time were occasionally Gerry Mulligan , Nat Adderley and Oscar Pettiford .

In the second half of the 1950s he also worked as a sideman with Hal McKusick , Joe Puma , Helen Merrill , Jimmy Knepper , Sahib Shihab , Idrees Sulieman / Pepper Adams (1957), Eddie Costa , Cannonball Adderley , Art Farmer (1958), Bob Brookmeyer , Lee Konitz / Jimmy Giuffre (1959), JJ Johnson / Kai Winding (1960). In the liner notes of the album The Great Kay & JJ (impulse!), For which Evans played piano, Dick Katz writes about Evans: “He is one of the few pianists since Art Tatum who successfully manage elements that are commonly found in European music be associated, to be integrated into a completely unique and natural style. "

1958/59: The collaboration with Miles Davis

see main article: Kind of Blue

Miles Davis had seen the pianist in the formation of George Russell and was very impressed by him. “His touch, his harmonic feeling and the lyricism of his playing had already caught the eye of many musicians. He was also interested in the widening of the harmonic horizon with which Miles and Russell were concerned; he himself was also active in this area ”. After hiring him, he raved:

“Boy, I learn a lot from Bill Evans. He plays the piano the way it should be played. He plays all kinds of scales , he plays in 5/4 time and he can do all kinds of fantastic things. There is such a huge difference between him and Red Garland (...). Red carries the rhythm , but Bill plays it down, and I like that better. "

- Miles Davis

As a pianist in the early Miles Davis sextet, Evans first became known to a wider public. He first brought the pianist into his band for a tour, in which John Coltrane , Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones played. At the time, he was the only white musician Davis accepted into his band, and at concerts he occasionally felt the contempt of his fellow black musicians who accused Miles of employing a white musician. Davis biographer Eric Nisenson described how the band leader "tried to lure Bill Evans, a shy and withdrawn man, from his reserves". "When the musicians were sitting together discussing something and Bill also gave his opinion, Miles often looked at him contemptuously, said dryly," We don't need your white opinion, "and chuckled hoarsely. The first few times Evans was upset, but after a while he began to understand that this was simply Miles' biting sense of humor. By joking about it, he wanted Bill to feel relaxed as the only white member of a black band. "

Miles Davis (1955)

In mid-May 1958 the band performed in Cafe Bohemia; a week later Evans worked on recordings for Columbia Records , for which Davis expanded the ensemble to Cannonball Adderley to a sextet. This resulted in u. a. a 12-minute version of the Love for Sale standard , “probably his best work on these recordings. He approaches the subject cautiously in his solo, often only sketching in fragments, but plays extremely compelling and impressive ”. Other titles in this May session are On Green Dolphin Street , Fran-Dance and Stella by Starlight , which are determined by a “transitional character” to modal jazz . He performed with the Miles Davis Band for the first time in June 1958 at the Newport Jazz Festival , two months later at a Columbia jazz party in the New York Plaza Hotel ( Jazz at the Plaza, Vol. 1 ) , at which a "breathtaking" first live version of My Funny Valentine was recorded. "With his piano playing Evans demonstrates his ability to do romantic piano improvisations in linear swing ."

Bill Evans was still controversial because of his white skin; "As brilliant as Evans played, his engagement with Davis caused controversy in jazz circles." In his Miles Davis biography, Nisenson explores the relationship between black musicians in his band (and from outside) and white pianist Bill Evans. Many black musicians refused to play with white musicians in response to pervasive racial discrimination . The author mentions the hostility Miles Davis experienced while employing a white musician; but Davis always hired the musicians who best suited his musical concept. In October 1958 he got out of the Davis Band and flew to rest to his parents, who now lived in Florida. After returning to New York, they made another Riverside album, Everybody Digs Bill Evans . In March 1959 he continued his collaboration with Miles Davis. About the preparation, Evans later said in an interview:

“Miles asked me into his apartment before the production started. He actually wanted to record my composition 'Peace Piece' , but I suggested looking for a coherent sequence of tonalities together and combining them into a logical circle. The whole thing then resulted in ' Flamenco Sketches ' . I also designed the melody and chord changes for ' Blue in Green ' and wrote down the basic structures for the others. Miles thought that this way we could save time on recording and the band would understand everything faster. In the studio, Miles was then able to bring the entire group together with the few fragments, the sparse tips and his minimal hints. We managed to record all the pieces at the first attempt - as they can be heard on the record. "

On the resulting album Kind of Blue (1959) Evans can be heard on all tracks with the exception of the track Freddie Freeloader , in which Wynton Kelly was added. Not only is his completely unique, new sound, which contributed significantly to the character of this famous recording, but also his composition Blue in Green . Miles Davis later claimed to have written the piece, but at least the chord progression and the arrangement - as in the Flamenco Sketches ( Peace Piece ) - apparently come from Evans.

Bill Evans put his experience with the Miles Davis band like this:

“For me it was not only a musical but also a personal experience that helped me a lot. At first I had the feeling that this was a group of supermen. It changed my perspective when I found out how human they are and how pleasantly they deal with musical problems. In Miles' band, there wasn't much talk, but rather things' happened '. We never rehearsed, everything happened during the jobs. When it came to recordings, half of the material, and occasionally all of it, consisted of completely new things that we had never played before. We just talked it through, maybe tried out certain chords and then we recorded it - mostly we only needed one take. "

1959–1961: The trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian

Davis also helped Evans break into the New York jazz scene and get gigs with his first own trio. The trio played as opening act in front of Benny Goodman , who just celebrated a brilliant comeback. In 1959, Bill Evans taught at the Lenox School of Jazz and took part in the recording of John Lewis ' film score Odds Against Tomorrow .

In the Village Vanguard , some were taken from Evans' main plates (entrance of the jazz clubs 1976)

After the appearance of Kind of Blue Evans assumed that a trio was the ideal cast for him for his creative work; "Creativity as he understood it could be realized better this way" than in a larger formation with wind instruments. In mid-1959 he started looking for suitable partners. His trio found himself from 1959 to 1961 with the drummer Paul Motian and the bassist Scott LaFaro , with whom Evans recorded pieces such as Someday My Prince Will Come , Come Rain or Come Shine , Israel , Blue in Green or Waltz for Debby , the latter being the last Both compositions were by Evans - Waltz for Debby alluded to his niece. They appeared on the albums Portrait in Jazz and Explorations . At the height of his career, the collaboration ended with LaFaro's sudden death in a car accident in 1961 - just ten days after the trio's Village Vanguard recordings on June 25, 1961. One of Evans' last significant works as Sideman: In February 1961, he played on Oliver Nelson's album The Blues and the Abstract Truth alongside Eric Dolphy , Freddie Hubbard , Paul Chambers and Roy Haynes .

1961–1969: The time at Verve Records

Herbie Mann (1975)

Evans retired for the remainder of the year and was not persuaded by Orrin Keepnews to resume music until October 1961; he starred on two tracks on a Mark Murphy album . With his new bassist Chuck Israels , recordings with Herbie Mann (Nirvana) were made in December . In the months after LaFaro's death, Evans had increased his heroin use , making his return to the jazz scene difficult. After the Nirvana recordings, Helen Keane became his manager through the mediation of Gene Lees and, after the Riverside label got into financial difficulties, arranged the contract with Verve Records .

In April, United Artists producer Alan Douglas brought Bill Evans together with guitarist Jim Hall , with whom he then recorded the album Undercurrent as a duo : “The subtly balanced music reveals the extraordinary interplay between the two musicians, an exemplary interwoven musical filigree In July 1963, Hall also took part in the first Evans LP, on which the pianist gathered a large ensemble, Interplay , with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard . Then another two albums for Riverside, How My Heart Sings! and the ballad album Moon Beams (with the composition Re: Person I Knew as an anagram on Orrin Keepnews ), with his new bassist Chuck Israels. This and Motian were not available for Evans' first Verve recording session; it therefore took place with Shelly Manne and Monty Budwig ( Empathy ).

In addition to the trio recordings, Creed Taylor also had other plans for Verve: he got Evans to accompany himself with triple-layered improvisations using overdubs ; Lennie Tristano had already used this technique on Turkish Mambo before . For Conversations with Myself , he received the first of seven Grammys in 1964 . Creed Taylor also combined it with the music of Gary McFarland and eventually brought him together with Claus Ogerman and his orchestra; The program included film hits (The VIP's Theme) , which, however, left little room for the pianist to improvise. After Taylor left Verve, such commercial projects were no longer pursued.

In addition to his regular trios, Evans also worked with Monica Zetterlund (1964) and Jeremy Steig ( What's New , 1969). With Lee Konitz he made a guest appearance at the Berlin Jazz Days in 1965 and then went on a European tour with a quartet in which Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Alan Dawson played alongside Konitz . Bassist Israels was replaced by Eddie Gomez in 1966 , with whom he then worked for eleven years (up to the recordings for You Must Believe in Spring 1977), with the live recordings of the 1968 Montreux Jazz Festival being a highlight .

Jack DeJohnette (2006)

That year Evans also took part in a musical memorial service for the murder of Robert Kennedy , where he played Ogerman's Elegia , a trio of Time Remembered, and a solo performance of his In Memory of His Father . During this time the search for a drummer for his trio also fell; After interludes by Philly Joe Jones in 1962, Shelly Manne in 1963 and 1966, Larry Bunker in 1964/65, Arnold Wise in 1966 and Jack DeJohnette in 1968, it was not until the end of 1968 that he found the ideal partner in Marty Morell , with whom he performed at the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival.

1970–1980: The last few years

Out of appreciation for his first producer Orrin Keepnews, Evans began his collaboration with Fantasy Records in 1973 - after two albums for Columbia Records in 1971/72 ( The Bill Evans Album and Living Time ) . 1974 meant personal changes for him: after the death of his first wife Ellaine in 1972, he married Nenette Zazarra, and his only son Evan, who later worked as a film composer and orchestrator in the Hollywood studios, was born. The parents separated a few years later.

For an MPS album (Symbiosis) he worked again with Claus Ogerman. In 1975 he recorded an album with singer Tony Bennett , u. a. with a version of the My Foolish Heart standard . In the last years of his life, during which he was on tour almost three quarters of the time, he formed a trio with Joe LaBarbera and Marc Johnson . a. made a final appearance at Village Vanguard.

At the beginning of a multi-week tour of the trio through the Northwest of the USA in the spring of 1979, Evans learned of his brother Harry's suicide. The news shook him deeply, and some of the concerts had to be canceled. Marc Johnson later recalled:

“This fateful journey marks [...] the beginning of the end. Bill's willingness to play and work decreased noticeably after Harry's death, actually only the music itself kept him going. He kept his obligations because he needed money, but those were the few moments in his life when he felt comfortable - the times in between must have been depressing; he barely showed any visible will to live. "

The death of the brother created a turning point in the pianist's life, which is also evident for the Evans biographer Hanns E. Petrik from the circumstances of this death: Harry had taken a leave of absence from his teaching job “to help Bill fight his drug problems can. The disappointment about the hopelessness of this project, combined with personal difficulties, he may not have been able to cope with - he shot himself at home in Louisiana. "

Joe LaBarbera (1978) - the drummer in Evans' last trio

With Joe LaBarbera and Marc Johnson he went on a final European tour in August 1980; The Paris Concert had previously been recorded in the autumn of 1979 . However, his health had deteriorated so much that it was often difficult for him to perform. The last host on the continent was the Bad Hönningen jazz club on August 15th , which was recorded in a recording. A subsequent tour led to the western United States; shortly before his looming death, he performed from August 31 to September 7, 1980 at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco , which he barely managed (the recordings appeared posthumously as The Last Waltz and Consecration ). On September 9th he returned to New York, where an engagement at Fat Tuesday’s Club was booked. Evans felt extremely weak, however, and only managed one evening; Andy LaVerne then took over. Evans was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital , where he immediately passed out and died on September 15.

Evans was in poor health throughout his life, compounded by drug problems. During his time with Miles Davis he was addicted to heroin; he got his addiction under control in the early 1970s, but continued to use cocaine and other drugs. He eventually died from the cumulative effects of his addiction past - ruptured stomach ulcers , cirrhosis of the liver from decades of hepatitis, and pneumonia .

Four days after his death , a memorial service was held at St. Peter's Church on Lexington Avenue, the traditional devotional church for New York's jazz scene, attended by musicians such as Richie Beirach , Eddie Gomez, Jim Hall, Barry Harris , Jeremy Steig and Warne Marsh as well as Helen Keane and Nat Hentoff attended. Lee Konitz intoned Gordon Jenkins ' goodbye . At the same time, former Evans producer Orrin Keepnews, who lives in San Francisco, organized a memorial service at the Great American Music Hall . Helen Keane wrote in her obituary:

“He was a pure, beautiful soul. Even when he was in the worst private torment, he kept on giving beauty to the world right up to the end. That's how we should remember him. "

- Helen Keane : in Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records .

His grave is in Roselawn Cemetery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA.



Although Evans is primarily recognized as an interpreter of standards and an improviser, he was also productive and successful as a composer. Some of his pieces are now classics of jazz, such as Blue In Green , Very Early , Turn Out The Stars , Time Remembered and Waltz for Debby, which is dedicated to his niece . Other tracks frequently played by Evans were Letter To Evan (dedicated to his son), NYC's: No Lark (an anagram on Sonny Clark ), One for Helen and Song for Helen (both dedicated to his manager Helen Keane ), Peace piece , Peri's scope , Re: Person I Knew , Show Type Tune (alias Tune for a Lyric ), A Simple Matter of Conviction , Since We Met , 3/4 Skidoo , the twelve-tone compositions Twelve Tone Tune (alias TTT ) and Twelve Tone Tune Two (alias TTTT ) , The Two Lonely People (aka The Man and the Woman ) and We Will Meet Again , which he dedicated to his late brother Harry.

The Kronos Quartet (here in Warsaw 2006) dedicated a record to Evans' compositions

After Evans' death a large number of musicians recorded themed albums with his pieces, for example Gordon Beck in 1980 ( Seven Steps to Evans ). In 1986 the Kronos Quartet recorded Music of Bill Evans , in 1990 Paul Motian played Bill Evans: Tribute to the Great Post-bop pianist with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell . This was followed by albums by John McLaughlin ( Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans , 1993), Fred Hersch ( Evanessence: Tribute to Bill Evans , 1998), Enrico Pieranunzi ( Evans Remembered , 2000), Bud Shank ( Bud Shank Plays the Music of Bill Evans , 2004) and Eliane Elias ( Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings and Plays Bill Evans , 2008).


role models

Evans integrated elements from various sources. Mark C. Gridley explains: “His long, fast, softly contoured eighth note lines are reminiscent of the saxophonist Lee Konitz , who is one of his early influences. Since Konitz himself drew inspiration for the style from Lennie Tristano , Evans' playing stance is indirectly derived from Tristano. Evans' piano solos are also borrowed from bop pianist Bud Powell . Occasionally Evans also uses blues characters that could have been made by Horace Silver , who was very influential in the 1950s. Evans also developed ideas for solo improvisations that reveal a closeness to Nat Cole , who in turn influenced Bud Powell and Horace Silver. In addition, Evans cites George Shearing himself as a role model, who opened his eyes to the beauty of sounds. "

Working method and development

In an interview with Marian McPartland in 1978, Evans commented on his work style and development as follows:

Marian McPartland: "Bill, how has your game developed over the years, was it random or carefully planned?"

"" Provided that I conceive my music naturally, I still remain true to my principles - my concern now is to penetrate even further and deeper into the realm of tones and harmonies . My left hand gets a more differentiated, more supportive role. I'm working on clarifying the so-called inner voices in the music "."

- Bill Evans : on Marian McPartland's “Piano Jazz” show , November 1978

In the opinion of Hanns E. Petrik, the pianist turned out to be “a master of designing and filling in” the songs of the Great American Songbook ; “With great taste, he usually selected songs that were characterized by original harmony sequences or a simply lyrical melody and thus opened up space for their own interpretation”, such as My Foolish Heart , My Romance or Porgy . This examination of the song material meant for him:

  • The "use personally colored chord - voicings ". A five-note chord with three stacked fourths and a third above, as used by Evans in the title of the same name, is often called so-what- voicing in literature, even if it can be interpreted harmonically .
  • An individual rhythm with a subliminal, barely noticeable swing .
  • A pronounced dynamic in the sense of strongly accentuated gradients, as well as a differentiated touch and the refined use of many stylistic devices from jazz to classical, enabled Evans to model a new jazz standard.

Evans brought all of his pianistic skills and harmonic knowledge from his classical pianist training to jazz music. In doing so, he enriched it with essential elements of the classical-romantic musical tradition. The romantic complexity, linear- vocal melody, harmonic diversity and a wealth of rhythmic variations are typical for his piano playing . His pianistic touch allowed him to create extremely subtle and differentiated themes and solos.

Claude Debussy - one of Evans' most important influences outside of jazz (around 1908)

Jiggs Whigham explained the specific way of playing chords as follows: “Pianistically, Evans had a different effect than the musicians at the Bud Powell School, for example . When he played chords, he didn't just struck them en bloc , but rather differentiated them very finely and emphasized or reinforced one or more notes within the chord. The sequence of his chords was also cleverly staged: always different voicings within the framework of a linear playing style. "

For his bassist Chuck Israels , Evans' greatest contribution to jazz development lies “in the creative use of traditional techniques”, as in his legato playing and “the artfully crafted, linear aspect of his harmony based on Chopin ”. In addition, there are structural inserts that would be reminiscent of Rachmaninoff , Liszt and Debussy . His phrasing and rhythm are rooted in a tradition that began with Charlie Parker: "His phrases began and ended at ever changing times, often even crossing the boundaries between the individual sections of the piece."

Trio conception

In the course of his career as a jazz pianist, Bill Evans has worked continuously with the classic jazz trio line-up (piano, bass, drums). From 1956 until his death in 1980 he played with a total of around 20 different musicians in changing trio formations:

1956 with Teddy Kotick (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1958 with Sam Jones (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)
1959 with Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)
1960-1961 with Scott LaFaro (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1962 with Chuck Israels (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1962 with Monty Budwig (bass), Shelly Manne (drums)
1963-1965 with Chuck Israels (bass), Larry Bunker (drums)
1964 with Gary Peacock (bass), Paul Motian (drums)
1966 with Chuck Israels (bass), Arnold Wise (drums)
1966 with Eddy Gomez (bass), Shelly Manne (drums)
1967 with Eddy Gomez (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)
1968 with Eddy Gomez (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums)
1968-1974 with Eddy Gomez (bass), Marty Morell (drums)
1976-1977 with Eddy Gomez (bass), Eliot Zigmund (drums)
1978 with Michael Moore (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)
1979-1980 with Marc Johnson (bass), Joe LaBarbera (drums)

The conception of the trio play with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian was the mainstay of the style; This fruitful collaboration resulted in a number of groundbreaking recordings. Evans led his "piano trio concept to a new form of integration by removing the rigid roles of solo and accompaniment ". In addition to his first trio, his last formation with Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera (1978–1980) is mentioned as the highlight of this “telepathic interaction”. “In a virtuoso dialogical exchange of voices and in 'simultaneous improvisation' he found a collectively practicable counterpart to his personal style.” The critic Joachim-Ernst Berendt wrote:

“Bill Evans revolutionized the genre of the piano trio in jazz, which dates back to the twenties. To put it simply: until the Evans Trio, founded in 1959, piano trios played 'two-dimensionally' in jazz. On the one hand the piano dominated and led, on the other hand the rhythm section consisting of bass and drums was responsible for creating the appropriate foundation. In contrast, the Bill Evans Trio was the first piano group to play 'three-dimensionally' in jazz: each instrument in the trio could now assume a leading role, which meant that Scott LaFaro on bass was by no means just walking lines - four quarter notes per measure - played, but also lines that he phrased melodically and rhythmically independently of his supporting function . At the same time, Paul Motian found a way of playing that  expanded timekeeping - the marking of the beat - and opened up additional melodic possibilities for the drums. "

According to Herbie Hancock , Evans' concept of the piano trio opened up a whole new way for musicians to work together in a completely coherent way. The first joint album, Portrait in Jazz from 1959, already features a new band concept: Evans, LaFaro and Motian already play alongside and with each other on an equal footing during the presentation of the themes and not only in the solos. The double bass takes over melody lines in the upper register and the drums hold them together with "commentary" interjections. Miroslav Vitouš commented on the ensemble: "[...] the communication between the musicians makes it one of the most important ensembles." "Indeed, the trio had conversations with each other in which the partners reacted gently, almost seismographically to each other," says Michael Naura . Evans achieved an almost "telepathic" communication and intimacy between the musicians. This density of chamber music became one of his trademarks for the coming decades. In doing so he allowed his fellow musicians to fully develop - in a completely different way than he had previously experienced.

Evans said of his playing in the trio and other groups:

“Of course, when I play with a group, I have to be considerate because none of these musicians can guess what's on my mind - maybe changing the key or changing the rhythm. There really needs to be a common relationship in order to create a musical unity. Inner freedom does not have to fall by the wayside. It actually strengthens them. "

In his 1978 interview with Marian McPartland:

Marian McPartland: "In the trio all members have an astonishing amount of freedom - is that the starting point for your group game?"
Bill Evans: “Yes, I give you this freedom so that you can use it responsibly - with the aim of achieving an optimal musical result. It can only work that way, because I definitely don't want to be authoritarian - you need your own responsibility. "

Discography (selection)

Influence and honors

Evans expanded the musical expressiveness of traditional jazz and shaped the style, that is: he influenced a whole generation of pianists such as Herbie Hancock , Chick Corea , Brad Mehldau , Richard Beirach , Enrico Pieranunzi , Fred Hersch , Michel Petrucciani , Steve Kuhn , Keith Jarrett and many more.

He was multiple Pollsieger and was for the albums Conversations with Myself (1963), Alone (1967), Live at Montreux Festival (1969) and The Bill Evans Album (1972) and the Grammy Award. In 1994 Evans was posthumously honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award .

Posthumously the American guitarist Pat Metheny with the musicians Lyle Mays and Naná Vasconcelos dedicated a musical piece to him with the piece September fifteenth (the day of his death) on the ECM album As Falls Wichita, so Falls Wichita Falls , in the spirit of Evans' chamber music Obituary.


  1. On the album cover the composition is attributed to Davis as a whole.
  2. The album was released in 1963 as an undercurrent on United Artists , later on Blue Note Records .
  3. His father Harry L. Evans died in February 1966. He dedicated a solo to his memory at the Town Hall concert with Chuck Israels and Arnold Wise, which took place a few days later.
  4. Evan Evans (born September 13, 1975 in Bergen County , New Jersey).
  5. Bill Evans in Germany - His last Concert , 1980 (West Wind / WWCD-22022, 1989; CDs currently incorrectly pressed)


  • Peter Pettinger: Bill Evans - How My Heart Sings. Yale University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-300-07193-0 .
  • Enrico Pieranunzi : Bill Evans. Continuum Books, 2004
  • Keith Shadwick : Bill Evans. Everything happens to me. Backbeat Books, San Francisco 2002, ISBN 0-87930-708-0 , p. 150.
  • Laurie Verchomin: The Big Love. Life & Death with Bill Evans . Self-published, Canada 2010, ISBN 978-1-4565-6309-7 .
  • Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records . OREOS Verlag, Schaftlach 1989.
  • Peter Wießmüller: Miles Davis. His life, his music, his records. Oreos, Waakirchen.
  • Eric Nisenson: Miles Davis, Round About Midnight. A portrait . Piper, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-492-18256-9 .
  • Joachim-Ernst Berendt : The jazz book - from New Orleans to the eighties . Revised and continued by Günther Huesmann. 4th edition. Wolfgang Krüger Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1992
  • Richard Lawn, Jeffrey L. Hellmer: Jazz - Theory and Practice . Wadsworth Publishing, 1993, ISBN 0-534-19596-2
  • Christopher Meeder: Jazz - The Basics . Routledge, New York 2008. Google Books
  • Jerry Coker: Jazz Keyboard for Pianists and Non-Pianists . Warner Brothers Publishing, 1984, ISBN 0-7692-3323-6 .
  • Joe Viera : Jazz - music of our time, Collection Jazz . Oreos Verlag, Schaftlach, 1992.
  • Time magazine: Singing Piano . Friday March 2, 1962.
  • Mark C. Gridley: Jazz Styles: History and Analysis . 9th Edition, Prentice Hall, 2006, ISBN 0-13-193115-6 .
  • Booklet of the CD Ultimate Bill Evans - Selected by Herbie Hancock , Verve, PolyGram Records Inc., 1998, 557 536-2.
  • Liner Notes for Kai Winding, JJ Johnson: The Great Kai and JJ (Impulse !, 1960)

Web links

Commons : Bill Evans  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Joachim-Ernst Berendt : The Jazz Book - from New Orleans to the eighties , page 365
  2. Christopher Meeder: Jazz - The Basics , page 203 f.
  3. a b Bill Evans: Biography at Allmusic (English). Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  4. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 10
  5. ^ Music: Singing Piano. In: Time . March 2, 1962, accessed on September 28, 2010 (full article subject to charge): “ I felt for the first time as if I were hearing jazz played that hadn't been learned by osmosis; they were making an effort to build something. "
  6. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 11
  7. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 12
  8. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 15
  9. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 18
  10. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 20
  11. ^ A b Eric Nisenson: Miles Davis, Round About Midnight. A portrait . Piper, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-492-18256-9 , page 118 f.
  12. Eric Nisenson: Miles Davis, Round About Midnight. A portrait . Piper, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-492-18256-9 , page 119 ff.
  13. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 96
  14. ^ Peter Wießmüller: Miles Davis. His life, his music, his records. Oreos, Waakirchen, page 30
  15. ^ Peter Wießmüller: Miles Davis. His life, his music, his records. Oreos, Waakirchen, page 123
  16. See p. 119 f.
  17. a b Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 25
  18. Eric Nisenson: Miles Davis, Round About Midnight. A portrait . Piper, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-492-18256-9 , page 121 f.
  19. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 33
  20. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 121
  21. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 38
  22. a b Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 60
  23. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 60.
  24. ^ Mark C. Gridley: Jazz Styles: History and Analysis . 9th Edition, Prentice Hall, 2006, ISBN 0-13-193115-6 . Chapter 15, also in Excerpted from the beginning of Evans coverage in chapter 15. In: Archived from the original on October 9, 2010 ; accessed on January 19, 2019 .
  25. a b Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 68
  26. Jerry Coker: Jazz Keyboard for Pianists and Non-Pianists , page 47 ff.
  27. ^ Richard Lawn, Jeffrey L. Hellmer: Jazz - Theory and Practice , pp. 142 ff.
  28. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 71
  29. Joe Viera : Jazz - Music of Our Time, Collection Jazz , page 156: “With his subtle inclusion of elements of European piano music of the turn of the century, he [Evans] succeeded in refining the piano playing in jazz, which later had countless successors up to Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarret and Chick Corea. "
  30. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 72
  31. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 77 f.
  32. a b c Martin Kunzler : Jazz Lexicon. Volume 1: A – L (= rororo-Sachbuch. Vol. 16512). 2nd Edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-499-16512-0 , page 349
  33. Booklet of the CD Ultimate Bill Evans - Selected by Herbie Hancock , Herbie Hancock: “It wasn't just his piano playing that was influential. His concept of trio playing, which he first worked out with Scott LeFaro and Paul Motian, offered a whole new way for the players in a piano trio to work completely cohesively with each other. "
  34. Hanns E. Petrik: Bill Evans - His life, his music, his records , page 82

This article was added to the list of excellent articles on April 12, 2009 in this version .