Bill Evans was one of my earliest musical influences. What I found most inspiring about his playing was his sound, his approach to harmony, and the interactive way of playing within the trio of piano, bass, and drums.
Here, I have assembled five of my favorite tracks showcasing Bill in trio, duet, and solo performances spanning several decades of his career.
Dear Bill: From Brazil, With Love, Eliane
from Sunday at the Village Vanguard
by Bill Evans Trio
The group with Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums established the conversational conception of Bill Evans trios, which demonstrated amazing levels of freedom within structure. These performances, from the Village Vanguard in 1961, are amazing for the sound that was captured and the imagination the trio displays. Just beautiful.
The duo recording Intuition, with bassist Eddie Gomez, was very influential for me during my early teens when I transcribed some of this album. The clarity of the improvisations from both Bill and Eddie is truly remarkable. This whole record was a big inspiration.
Alone remains a significant achievement in the lexicon of solo piano recordings. Here Bill seems to reveal some of his deepest feelings, but the music never gets sentimental, nor does it wallow in self-indulgence trying to find itself. The statements are clear and directed and the time is always beautifully implied.
New Conversations is a sheer joy to listen to: Bill at the peak of his craft. He must have been at a great place in his life; these performances are full of joy, playfulness and humor. Beautifully orchestrated arrangements (at times, one and two piano overdubs) with that characteristic time feeling that belonged to Bill alone.
This recording from 1979 is with the last trio of Marc Johnson (bass) and Joe LaBarbera (drums), and one I discovered much later. I was truly surprised at the development of "Nardis," especially Bill's unaccompanied intro. This trio had a certain connection to the early trios in that there was a sense of exploration again in the music, as described by Bill himself.
Bill Evans' music spoke to me at an early age when I was growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Since that time, I have traveled in various musical circles, but my appreciation and respect for Bill's playing was recently reawakened upon hearing a newly discovered tape recording of unpublished pieces that Bill was working on at the end of his life. Transcribing and recording these pieces became the catalyst for my latest recording. I have included "Blue in Green" from this CD, which is a little more of a Brazilian approach to the classic tune that Bill co-wrote with Miles Davis for the album Kind of Blue.
Pianist and vocalist Eliane Elias developed her new album along with her husband Marc Johnson, who played bass in Bill Evans' last trio. The CD is called Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings and Plays Bill Evans.