Bill Evans: Waltz for Debby

16 Sep

Bill Evans

Bill Evans' 1975 double album Peace Piece and Other Pieces; 2 sides a re-release of 1958's Everybody Digs Bill Evans and 2 previously unreleased sides

Remembering pianist Bill Evans on the day after his death in 1980.

Although much is made of Evans’ relationship with and impact on Miles Davis, and vice versa, they made only two studio albums  together — 1958 Miles and Kind of Blue.  Which is a bit like saying Harper Lee only wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. If you read, you’ve  probably read it. And if you listen to jazz, or music at all, you’ve probably listened to and/or own a copy of  Kind of Blue.

The irony is that Bill Evans — not to be confused with composer/arranger Gil Evans, who also influenced Davis — had already left Davis’ group before Kind of Blue was recorded. But according to Ashley Kahn’s jazztimes.com article on their relationship (link below), Davis made a special request of Evans. Thus the 1959 album that featured Davis and John Coltrane had Evans on piano (and Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums and ”Cannonball” Adderley on alto sax). “I planned that album around the piano playing of Bill Evans,” Davis said in 1989, according to Kahn’s piece.

(According to npr.org, Davis said to Evans, “See what you can do with this;” the result was Evans’ solos on Blue in Green.)

On Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of 500 greatest albums, Kind of Blue was rated 12th; the only surprise is it didn’t rank higher. Said pianist Chick Correa, from Kahn’s book Kind of Blue: The Making of a Miles Davis Masterpiece: “It’s one thing to just play a tune, or play a program of music, but it’s another thing to practically create a new language of music, which is what Kind of Blue did.”

Evans and Davis each pursued careers as band leaders; their music diverged. “The further he got from the Miles experience in point of time, the less aggressive his playing became,” said producer Orrin Keepnews, in Conrad Silvert’s liner notes to the album Spring Leaves.

Evans died, after years of drug abuse and hepatitis, at just 51 years old. A friend called it, in Peter Pettinger’s book: Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings, “the longest suicide in history.”

A link to Kahn’s fascinating account of race and the Evans-Davis relationship below, and to a live version of Evans’ Waltz for Debby

Bill Evans and Miles Davis

sources: wikipedia.org, bittersuiteband.com, jazztimes.com

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