The Shrine of Bill Evans

No it wasn’t a shrine. But my learning center almost looked like one.

A prezi of my learning center can be found here.

The learning center was actually enjoyable for me to put together. For next year, I have to also focus on interacting with the people who come to my center, because the way I designed it was so that I could leave and people would still get just as much from it. It was like an art gallery style of presentation.

 

Time Remembered

 

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The imminence of eminent has died down. The frantic last-minute scrambling of NOTN and sleepless nights in wait of NOTN have at last come to a rest and my month-long study of Bill Evans has concluded, school-wise at least.

I learned more than what I set out to do. My original intentions (as can be seen in my intro post) were far surpassed.

In hindsight, eminent was all it was cracked up to be. Yes it was a little stressful. Yes I lost a bit of sleep. But it is also true that I have learned more from this project than any other project I have done thus far, and really enjoyed the process of this.

I have achieved my goals I set at the beginnning of this project, and I achieved goals I set during the project. Again, I learned far more than I set out to learn and that’s both a good thing, and a less-so good thing. This is evident by my overflowing notebook full of interviews and notes. For next year, I could work a bit more on more focused research, as well as STICKING TO YOUR TIMETABLES. We all say to not procrastinate and that is something I am for sure going to do for not only next year’s eminent, but for every other project I have down the road. I must learn from my mistakes. On that note, have all your stuff ready beforehand. Printed out and set. Because you never know what kind of curveballs your printer would throw at you. Also, I would talk to more people at my learning center for next year. Other than that, I was relatively satisfied with my overall work on the project.

The people everywhere made the night what it was. It was great, being able to see so many people put so much effort into researching thier eminent person and putting together fantastic learning centers. It was also great seeing people talk to parents and alumni absolutely comfortably, and even drawing them into thier centers. It was great seeing everyone so happy with thier work and being proud to show it to others.

Final thanks once again to Brad Turner. His information and his time was very valued. Thanks to TALONS for “inspiring” me to get this project off the ground. And thanks again to all you guys who suffered my interviewing and helped out with my learning center.

 

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(Puns are off the charts)

Over the course of eminent, I of course had several resources. Though a lot of what I learned was through my interview(s), there is still a lot of non-verbal sources I must cite.

“Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings” by Peter Pettinger. It can be found on Amazon. This book could be called a Bill Evans Bible. It had everything one might want to know about his personal life, and about him as a musician.

Bill Evans on Wikipedia. Perhpas not as helpful as the book above, but fine in the way of giving short notes or quick facts about him, if I was in a rush. I also used Wikipeida to see what it had to say about particular albums I was looking into. The list includes: New Jazz Conceptions, Everybody Digs Bill Evans, Portrait in Jazz, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and The Paris Concert. Wikipedia was helpful to give me the track listings as well as the personelle involved in the album. I also used it to look up his compositions and in what album they might be found.

I call upon Wikipedia once more to look up a bit about Miles Davis. I used this to get a sense of who Miles Davis was as a person, so I could perfrom my speech more like him. It was also used to see his opinion on Bill Evans and vice versa.

The Universal Mind of Bill Evans [the link leads to Amazon]. This DVD was on par with the book by Peter Pettinger for the insight on Bill Evans. In the DVD, it has an interview with his brother, music professor Harry Evans Jr., Tonight Show host Steve Allen giving an introduction to him, and of course getting to see him play a little bit. An incredible source.

Jazz Icons: Bill Evans ’64-’75 [again to Amazon]. This DVD has over an hour and a half of Bill Evans playing live in differnet cities around the world. He played with stellar bassists, drummers and horn players throughout the DVD. This helped me see him on stage perfroming, and how he was when he was doing what he did best.

And of course I did some listening to his music. Some albums include Portrait in Jazz, Conversations With Myself, and Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Key word was some. Because I had these albums, I also used the liner notes to add to my own notes. What he wrote, or what other people wrote about him, was enlightening. Also I just enjoyed listening to it.

Jazz Piano Solos: Bill Evans is a songbook that has tunes that Bill Evans wrote, and made popular [link leads to Barnes & Noble website]. His heads and/or solos were transcribed here in this book and helped me see how great of a technical pianist he was. Because looking at it, well, it wouldn’t be easy to play.

The Real Book Vol. IV & The Real Book: 6th Edition [both links from, you guessed it, Amazon] are popular jazz ‘Fake Books’ that contained some songs that Bill Evans composed and played. I photocopied some of these songs for my learning center and used them to analyze his composing style.

One of my greatest sources was my interviewee, Vancouver jazz pianist, trumpeter, and drummer; Brad Turner. His invaluable insight and thoughts on Bill Evans helped me immeasurably throughout the course of this project. Once again, I would like to thank Mr. Turner for the interview.

Me and Miles Davis on Bill Evans

Miles Davis. One of the most influential musicians of his time. He was a renowned bandleader and trumpeter, mostly in the genre of jazz (though later in his career he began to branch out into pop music). And he worked with Bill Evans. Or rather, Bill Evans worked with Miles Davis.

The album “Kind of Blue” (as seen to the left) was one of the most influential albums in the history of jazz. It shed light on the not-well-known sub-genre of jazz called “modal jazz“. The album was so ground-breaking and revolutionary, it has sold the most copies of any jazz album and is often regarded as the best album in jazz. With all-star players alongside Miles Davis, it barely comes as a surprise.

 

“Boy, I’ve sure learned a lot from Bill Evans. He plays the piano it’s supposed to be played” – Miles Davis

So eminent speeches were coming up. And knowing a bit about Miles Davis and knowing “Kind of Blue”, I thought who better to use as my perspective than Miles Davis? So that’s what I did.

However, I didn’t think of this until much later than what I thought I would have. My first draft of my speech was from the perspective on his brother, Harry Evans. This was inspired by the video “The Universal Mind of Bill Evans” which was an interview with his brother who was a music professor. This speech would have talked more about Bill Evans as a teacher more than a musician and I felt it didn’t highlight enough of his achievements for one to consider him truly eminent.

My second draft of the speech was from the perspective of Joe LaBarbara, the drummer of the last Bill Evans Trio and one of two men to drive Bill Evans to the hospital where he would soon after die. This would have more of a look on Bill Evans as a person and musician, however it would have a much darker overtone to it, and that’s something I didn’t want to do. Everybody’s speech was absolutely amazing, but I wanted mine to be causal. Everyone’s seemed to be formal and I wanted mine to be light. No death, sadness, despair. Only a musician and his music talking about another musician and their music. Really super chill. Because they were really super chill. So that’s when I turned to Miles Davis. This I felt was the best choice. He could highlight one of Bill Evans’ more high moments in his musical career as well as give some foreshadowing about his imminent influence over the trio setting. It can be found here.

I did a little bit of improvising the day of, as well as omitting things I felt was just unnecessary.

For the presentation, I was really focused on appearing confident in my presentation. Because even if I wasn’t confident, if I appeared to be, no one else would know I was quietly shaking in my boots. And you fake it until you make it (confidence might have also been an IEP goal). I also wanted to do something that was just stepping outside the norm of what speeches were going like. On top of that, making it informative and convincing everyone that Bill Evans is without a doubt, eminent.

The goals stated in my intro post were beginning to see themselves become accomplished by this time. I had learned how and why Bill Evans became to be the man he is known today. The speech really helped that along. It also gave me a different look on the jazz giant from another giant of jazz.

As for shining a light on my peers? How can I pick? Everyone’s is absolutely amazing. Special shout out to Brian and Kendra for keeping jazz going with Count Basie and Billie Holiday respectively.

The Power Within…terview

The second we were informed we had to do an interview, a little bit of me screamed and died. An interview meant talking to someone, and not just that. It would have to be someone we didn’t live with, or wasn’t immediate family. So that means we have to talk to someone we aren’t necessarily comfortable around. AND it would have to be arrange ourselves on the phone or otherwise. And the worst part? Having to actually do it. Gross.

Well I have to do it. Now what? I talked to my dad about it, and he recommended the same person who I had in mind, once fully understanding there was no way around it. A local jazz musician Brad Turner. Mr. Turner is a Vancouver trumpeter, pianist, and drummer. He has worked with many big names in Vancouver jazz and abroad (one of his university teachers actually being a Bill Evans band-mate). He is the Brad Turner in The Brad Turner Quartet and is part of the Jill Townsend Big Band just to name two. He is also a member of the Coastal Sound board of directors, which I know some of us are in or are/have been affiliated with.

I of course have met him before. over the summer I worked a bit with him in the Douglas College Jazz Summer Intensive, and my siblings are friends with his sons. But he isn’t “Uncle Brad” to me, and I don’t see him that often. So I thought, this would be a great person to interview. So I went ahead and did just that.

After a few email exchanges, we had set a time and a place and the interview was good to go. The following week, I was at his house, sitting in a chair oppposite a grand piano with a pen and notepad in my hand. The questions I asked included, but were not llimited to:

What about Bill Evans’ playing made him different from everyone else?
What do you think of him as a composer?
Is he an inspiration to you? If so, in what way? Is his influence limited to you playing on the piano?

These were the general question I had prepared for the interview. During it, I added questions if he gave an answer that might lead to another question, or if another question came to mind. Unilke some of us, I conducted my interview in person, and so I couldn’t copy and paste my questions and answers. I had to take answers in note form so we could keep the interview going. Even though I didn’t get every answer word for word, I got just as much out of the interview as anyone else. HIs answers were very informative on Bill Evans himself as a musician, the world of jazz, and being a jazz pianist and musician. His responses were invaluable to my project.

25 minutes later, I had completed the interview. I thanked him and I left. Now what to do with this information. On the ride home, I talked to my mom about his responses. She gave me her opinion on his answers and added some of her own, not thinking I was writing them down mentally. But I was. I added them to my collection of notes supplied by Mr. Turner, and I noticed her answers were more or less the same as Mr. Turner’s. She emphasised some points that he didn’t and basically skipped over some points he emphasised, but in general, the points were there. I found this interesting and I took my interviewing further. So I asked my dad. For better or for worse, he is an avid listener of Bill Evans. On one hand, it meant a lot of information, but on the other, it meant a good 45 mins sitting on the couch listening. But it was in fact really helpful because he shed light on some facts that were hinted in the answers supplied by Mr. Turner as well as solidifieed some of his other answers while adding points of his own.

So now, I had done 3 interviews. With 3 professional musicians, all in jazz. I was sitting at my desk one evening and recalled something Bill Evans had said in one of his interviews. “I do not agree that the laymans opinion is any less valid than that of the professional. I would often depend mmore on the opinion of a sensitive layman”. This is basically saying, it can be technically amazing and something Beethoven would marvel at, but if it doesn’t sound any good, it doesn’t really matter. Because a professional in the field might have to fight to preserve the naievity of the music without prior prejudice, whereas the “layman” just thinks, if it sounds good, it sounds good.

SO over the course of the remaining evening, I hunted down 7 of my fellow TALONS associates and friends from other schools, and conducted an interview with them, via text/facebook/whatever. I first sent them a link to a video then got them to answer the following questions:

Do you like it? What about it do you like?
What do you think about the song itself (melody etc.)
How would you describe the group’s playing? How would you describe the pianist’s playing?

Above is the video I played for my interviewees. It is a Bill Evans piece called “Waltz for Debbie”, written for his niece. I chose those questions and this video to see what people thought of his playing in general and his writing.

The responses I got were interesting. Some people enjoyed it, some people less so. But the poeple whose favourite music genres were along the lines of classical, country, indie, and rock had generally the same thoughts on his playing. Whereas people whose favourite genres were father away from the genre of jazz disliked it and thought relatively the same about it.

By now, I have a sufficient amount of interviews. But there was one thing that interested me. In a video I saw of him, Bill Evans mentioned he liked to teach by doing as little amount of teaching as he could. To see someone else’s perspective on this, I asked Mr. Albright. After a good discussion I had some very interesting answers, many of which I agree with.

And now, I am done.

I would like to once again thank Mr. Brad Turner for his time and answers. I would like to also thank all the other people I interviewed, so thanks guys. Finally I would like to thank Mr. Albright for his insight on teaching.

Finding a Letter by Evan

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Outside the Library

Bill Evans was a writer. He did not write novels, nor did he write the occasional editorial in the Plainfield paper. He did not write in the way you may have assumed he wrote. No, Bill Evans wrote music. That was what I was searching for. The music perserved , invented hundreds of years before the iPod, CD, or record player. I was searching for sheet music by the pianist.

Not only was Bill Evans a groundbreaking performer, he was also a well-known composer with jazz tunes such as “Very Early” and “Letter to Evan”. His most popular work being  “Waltz for Debbie” for his niece, surprise surprise, named Debbie. Plenty of albums feature his work, not to mention the amount of times his compositions are played whether it be at a hotel lounge, a bar, or anywhere in between.

After 6 flights of vigorous search and 3 bookshelves of seemingly-hopeless looking, I had found it. The book containing pages of silent music. Among them, several of his original songs, as well as songs he made popular or was known for performing. FullSizeRender (1)

To the left is the song “Letter to Evan”. Within the music, it not only showed the melody, but how whe might have played it. His voicings, his improvised lines, and the general feel of his playing. This is what distinguishes him from any other jazz pianist. Those technical aspects of his playing that can be put onto paper, and his tone which cannot be replecated by anyone other than him Thankfully, I had some of his albums handy on my phone to listen along to with the written music. You could really hear the different voicings and lines when reading along with it.

The eminence of Bill Evans is not only restricyed to his playing, both as a sideman and a leader, but also in his writing. The titles and the music he wrote reflected the time of his life and who he was and what he was going through. A true artist, he put his soul into his art. More upbeat songs like “Waltz for Debbie” with brighter, more cheerful lyrics (written by close friend Gene Lees) were written at one of the better parts of his life, and it shows in the music. Tunes written at later times of his life, such as “Letter to Evan” for his son, were more meaningful to him and that shows in the lyrics he wrote and the gentle melody of the piece. This shows the depth and human-ness of such a great artist.

I had come to the library, already having known my eminent person, and if anything, doing this research only confirmed the fact that I would be doing this man for eminent. I came on this trip, not expecting to find all that much, maybe a new song or two and to bond with my fellow TALONS, but I got so much more out of it than just that. Already an inspiring man through his music, discovering this inspired me even more to find out more, not only about him, but about music in general. How much of people’s souls they put into their music affects the quality and meaning of the piece.

Letter to Evan

September 15th, 1980 marked the end of one of the world’s finest jazz pianists. William John Evans was dead in the hospital after suffering what friend Gene Lees called, “the longest suicide in history”.

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Born to a heavy-drinking Welsh father and to a musical Russian mother in Plainfield New Jersey, Bill Evans was the younger of two brothers. He was raised a classical pianist and practiced for hours. In high school he played the flute in his concert band, and at the same time he first grasped the jazz idiom when playing the tune Tuxedo Junction on the piano. He had played something not written on the paper and the thought of playing something that wasn’t there thrilled him.

In college, he played 1st flute, majored in piano, and played quarterback for the winning intramural football. When studying jazz, he looked not only to jazz pianists, but also saxophonists, trumpeters, etc. One of his biggest influences, as well as one of mine, is singer and pianist Nat “King” Cole. By the end of his college experience, he was invited to play jazz in New York, where his career took off, eventually playing with Miles Davis and becoming the Grammy-winning musician he is known for.

At this time, his older brother Harry married and had a daughter named Debbie. Bill was incredibly fond of his niece, and wrote his most famous piece for her, “Waltz for Debbie”. However, his happiness wouldn’t last. One of his first trio members, bassist Scott LaFaro, died in a car crash at the age of 25. This event devastated Evans, rendering him unable to play for several months. This was the start of his heroin addiction. It worsened after the death of long-time girlfriend Elaine. What put him over the edge was the death of his brother at the age of 52. A year later, Bill followed his brothers footsteps and met him in death.

Bill Evan’s eminence in the field of jazz is immense. He has inspired many jazz pianists, singers, and instrumentalists from both contemporary times and times just after him. Jazz giants he influenced include Herbie Hancock, Vince Guaraldi (composer of Charlie Brown music), Michel Petrucciani, Keith Jarret, among many others.

His playing was and still is influential in the jazz world. His voicings and improvisation style rocked jazz to its core. The way he played inspired and influenced not only the musicians above, but nearly every other jazz musician after him. Cornerstone albums such as his collaboration with Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” and his trio albums at The Village Vanguard revolutionized the way jazz combos soloed and preformed.

The music of Bill Evans has surrounded me as far as I can remember. I have always known him as a musician, but I also want to learn more about him as a person. I want to know why. As in, why is he so enjoyable to listen to? What about his playing makes him better or at least different from everyone else? And what about him, just as a person in general? In short, my goal would be the fact I want to know how and why he became the Bill Evans. Another goal would be to accomplish this project in better time than many of my other ones, and making it something I would be proud of. This project, I believe, will be something I will now only enjoy doing, but something I will benefit from out of school. I enjoy playing piano for fun, especially jazz. So studying such a huge figure in jazz will help my understanding of jazz, as well as help my playing by researching the ways he played. He is an influence on great musicians, so he is an inspiration for me.

Is there a place that is all willing?
Is there a heart that is all beauty?
Is there a love that’s every answer?
A truth most dear lies within this song if you can hear it

Thought is the place that is all willing
You have the heart that is all beauty
You are the love that’s every answer
Just listen- mnn – there is but this one music
Evan you will need no other star

Letter to Evan (words and music by Bill Evans for son, Evan)