Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
Evans and Gould shared another similarity: They had the same characteristic posture behind the piano, hunching down with the face close to the keys, as if lost in prayer to the muse and bent to his inventions. "Bill Evans would sometimes get so involved in the piano that he would lean over and lean over and you'd think he was gonna be swallowed by the piano" (From a Nat Hentoff interview for Ken Burns Jazz series, 1996).
The Italian piano virtuoso Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
(1920-1995) attended a concert of Bill Evans in Milan. After the performance the maestro made the next comment: "Bill Evans would be an ideal interpreter of the music of Gabriel Faur". Michelangeli was like Bill Evans known for his note-perfect performances. According to Peter Pettinger in his biography Michelangeli was in turn much admired by Evans (page 90).
The impressionistic tonal way of music is characterised by tone paintings based on this whole tone scales, chord transitions, elimination of functional harmony and a preference for modality with use of major and ninth chords. These features were consistently used, for instance, in the impressionistic piano works of classical composers like Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. These impressionistic structures have also been applied to jazz since halfway the twentieth century. Corresponding to the predominating tonal stage of development, tonal impressionistic style approaches were used in almost all the style periods of jazz. Especially by musicians like Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Red Norvo, Pete Rugulo, Lennie Tristano and Paul Bley, but particularly in connection with the modal style of playing of George Russell, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Lalo Schifrin. Generally speaking modern jazz harmonies from the nineteen forties of the last century onwards represents a fusion of impressionistic chords and European functional harmony with specific tonal expressions of African-american music.
From the beginning of the early twenty-first century, it seems that the world of music is embracing a wide variety of musical styles as never before, and jazz-oriented music is one of the main influences. Contemporary classical performers are including transcriptions of Art Tatum (Steven Mayer) and Bill Evans (Jean-Yves Thibaudet) in their recordings and concert programs. An example par excellence is the Ukrainian composer and pianist Nikolai Kapustin (1937). He has combined a classical approach to composition with an authentic command of jazz styles. A striking example of this are the Twenty-four Preludes, Opus 53. It's an assimilation of the stylistic language of jazz and its application to written composition. His work combines classical and jazz in a more integrated way than many others who have attempted such a synthesis.
• The influence of Claude Debussy's and Maurice Ravel's music on jazz, as seen in the compositions
of Bix Beiderbecke, Bill Evans and Miles Davis (Ed Byrne, 1989)
• Maurice Ravel and Bill Evans: Observations on certain aspects of the French music in the piano
score in the beginning of the modern era of jazz (Cesare Grossi, 2006)
• French Music Reconfigured in the Modal Jazz of Bill Evans (Deborah Mawer, Lancaster University)
• French stewardship of jazz: The case of France Musique and France culture
(Roscoe Seldon Suddarth, University of Maryland, 2008)
• A study of the exchange of influences between the music of early twentieth-century Parisian
composers and ragtime, blues, and early jazz (Geoffrey Jennings Haydon, 1992)
• Jazz and the Classics: A Study of American Crossover Solo Piano Works from 1920 to 1935
(Kristen Joan Helgeland, 1999)
• Impressionism in jazz: a study of the influence of the French musical idiom, from Bix Beiderbecke
to Bill Evans (Philippe Fourquet, master's thesis, 1993, Bill Evans: page 162-203)
• Classical influences on the jazz styles of Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Cecil Taylor, and Dave
Brubeck (Peters, Jason, Northern Illinois University, 2013)
In the preface of his thesis Fourquet refers to a broadcast interview with the The House Of Sound, recorded in Washington in 1979, just before a concert of Evans at the Blues Alley jazzclub. Interviewer: I imagine you’ve studied classical music... Bill Evans : Yeah... Question: ... and you .. eh... were into Alban Berg and into Schoenberg as well... B.E.: Hum...hum... Question: … eh… in your playing, I hear more of romanticism and more of impressionism… B.E.: Yeah… Question : ... so I assume you’ve done over all there is to it ? B.E.: Yeah !
"To me there's not much difference between classical music and jazz. I play classical music at home for my own pleasure, still, but I think I've already drawn as much from the classics as I could. If you get deep enough into any music, the language and fundamental principles are the same, but if you're just imitating a style that's another thing. By trying to learn the language of music I look to all kinds of music."(Bill Evans talking to Frank Everett in the British Jazz Journal, Aug 1968)
Art Farmer, jazz trumpeter, expressed surprise that serious classical study had not hurt Evans' jazz playing: One of the rare things about him is that he started as a classical player, and it hasn't hung him up in any way. It has added to his taste, but he's not a prisoner of his taste. (Down Beat 32, January 28, 1965: 30)
Bill Evans, sometimes wrongly accused of aesthetic conservatism, in an interview: "That may be more the type of harmonies I am using, which, anyway, coincides with the way jazz was developing. I mean, I love impressionism, but I don't strive for a cloudy effect; I'm striving for a lot of clarity really. I haven't thought much about this parallel because I'm just trying to reflect what I like to hear . . . it's just me, whatever it is. . though I'd be happy to be associated with Debussy in any way!"
Various observers have noted the apparent influence of certain classical composers in Evans' voicings, particularly Ravel, Debussy and Chopin. Was the influence absorbed directly and deliberately? "No more than from jazz," he said. "It's whatever I've liked the sound of. I've built it by my own study, never consciously looking at a voicing in a score and saying, 'Gee, this would be nice to use'" ( Gene Lees, Down Beat, November 1962)
Evan Evans, the son of Bill Evans , is film music composer and produced in 2000 an album Practise Tape No.1 with originally magnetic recordings of unknow date at Bill’s New York City apartment in the 70s during personal practise sessions. “My father practised an average of eight hours a day in later years”. That this music was so powerful can only be a testament to the importance of perseverance, dedication, and above all, as he and I agree, discipline.
"I love impressionists. I love Debussy. He's one of my favorite composers. I'm not crazy about painting, but if I was, I would prefer the Impressionists. Sometimes, I feel like I'm living two
Three excerpts from interviews with classical pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (left), the former Bill Evans drummer Eliot Zigmund (middle) and Bill Evans about his classical influences of (right).
Orrin Keepnews, the former producer of Riverside Records, looking back recently: "I couldn't discuss Bill Evans with other piano players back in the day - they couldn't stand the direct comparison to Bill - they could not figure out what he was doing ..... I still can't after 40 years ..... It's like having Ravel, Debussy and Satie coming back through Bill ..... how incredibly lucky we are to have been a part of his music and soul - well, they will never "Turn Out the Stars" on Bill ..... even in 500 years!"
About inspiring musical events and experiences in his life: "I can remember the 78 album of Petruschka by Igor Stravinsky
which I got as a requested Christmas present in high school; and just about wearing it out and learning it. And my first hearing
of the polytonality in the piece "Suite Provenale" by Darius Milhaud , which opened me up to certain things.
From Jazz Spoken Here by Enstice, Wayne, and Paul Rubin. (Da Capo, 1994)
A consequence of the priority of the composer's written score is that improvisation plays a relatively minor role in the
European and classical traditions, in sharp contrast to jazz, where improvisation is central. Improvisation in classical music
performance was more common during the Baroque period than in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and recently
the performance of such music by modern classical musicians has been enriched by a revival of the old improvisational practices.
During the classical period, Mozart and Beethoven sometimes improvised the cadenzas to their piano concertos
but they also provided written cadenzas for use by other soloists.
Bill Evans discussed this issue in an interview on the DVD the Universal Mind
of Bill Evans: