A survey of tribute albums dedicated to Bill Evans
The jazz world has saluted him with numerous tribute albums, but his true influence can be heard in the music of every musician today who would claim to be a jazz pianist. Evans’ impressionistic chords, interweaving melodic improvisations, and lyrical touch have become a part of the jazz lexicon, and that is his legacy to the musical world. (Scott Pollard for All about Jazz, 1999) A tribute album is a recorded collection of cover versions of a specific artist’s songs. A cover version, or simply cover, is a new rendition of a previously recorded song. Bill Evans died in 1980. Already the same year the first “tribute” album was released by pianist Gordon Beck in memory of Bill Evans. Since then more than 55 albums were realized, fully dedicated to the pianist who influenced a generation of pianists. As showed below Bill Evans’ musicianship has been a model for many musicians in various genres: pianists, guitarists and singers. Classical albums are produced by the French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the Kronos String Quartet with bassist Eddie Gomez and guitarist Jim Hall.
Recent release At Home With Zindars by the Italian pianist Luciano Troja
Earl Zindars (1927–2005) was a prominent American composer of jazz and classical music. Like Bill Evans he was especially captivated and inspired by the music of the Impressionists, including Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. He met Bill Evans in 1951, both of them enlisted in the navy during the Korean war.
He became well-known for the close and fruitful working friendship and musical empathy with Bill Evans, who played and recorded his compositions along his entire musical career. He composed for Bill “Sareen Jurer”, “How My Heart Sings”, “Elsa”, “Mother of Earl”, “Soire”, “Lullaby for Helene”. Evans particularly favored the waltzes “Elsa” and “How My Heart Sings”, which evolved into jazz standards over the pianist’s productive recording career. “Bill Evans always said he was a 3/4 person”, Earl told me “and I likewise agreed, that I was, too”. Bill Evans was not the inventor of the waltz in the jazz idiom, but he developed as a specialist in this genre. Pianist Bill Cunliffe produced in 2003 the album How My Heart Sings, dedicated to Zindars’ music. Recently the sensitive and creative Italian jazz pianist Luciano Troja recorded At Home With Zindars with 14 compositions from the Earl Zindars songbook (Record Label: Luciano Troja). The album is a unique and intimate piano-solo journey with several songs written by Zindars for Bill Evans. The album includes a 40-page book about the life of Zindars and his songs and about his role in the artistic evolution of Bill Evans. An extensive interview from Win Hinkle with Earl Zindars: in the Letter From Evans vol.5 no.1, 1993, pages 18-21, or this Scribd site, included an interview with daughter Helene Zindars about Bill Evans. The album has been awarded as a “Record To Die For” in the February 2011 issue of Stereophile magazine. The choice comes from Thomas Conrad (Jazz Times, All About Jazz NY). The album has also been awarded “Top Ten Record Poll 2010” on Cadence Magazine (USA), and his composition “Earl and Bill” has been inserted on “10 Best New Songs 2010” by Ken Franckling (Jazziz, Downbeat).
Worth mentioning are three Dutch “tribute” albums dedicated to the music of Bill Evans:
Het Kwartet Sings And Plays Bill Evans of pianist Thijs Borsten, with voice, piano trio and string quartet was released in 1999. The Kwartet found it challenging to choose unknown compositions as part of its repertoire. Apart from existing lyrics by Carol Hall and Gene Lees, songwriters with whom Bill Evans used to work, Het Kwartet added its own lyrics to several instrumental compositions of Evans. Het Kwartet constitutes a true collective, in which the individual musicians function on an equal footing, just like Bill Evans’ trios used to do.
• Symbiosis with the Gustav Klimt String Quartet, the saxophone quintet Saxion V and Joost Swart, piano & Fender Rhodes dates from 2006. The original was released by Claus Ogerman and Bill Evans in 1974, with Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morell on drums. This somewhat neglected work of five movements is a very successful integration of jazz and modern symphonic styles and idioms. As a third stream “cross-over” it is a real ‘symbiosis’ of classical music and jazz. In 1975 however Bill Evans himself played in the VARA studio in The Netherlands two parts of Symbiosis with Eddie Gomez on bass and Elliot Zigmund on drums together with the Metropole Orchestra, taped and broadcasted by the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting.
• Simone Honijk is a Dutch vocalist who started a project with a mix of Evans originals and some particular standards often played by Bill Evans. In 2008 she recorded an album with songs of Bill Evans at the homestudio of Bert van den Brink, pianist and winner of the Boy Edgar Award 2007, who played with Toots Thielemans, Chet Baker, Enrico Pieranunzi and Dee Dee Bridgewater. The album title Interplay is an original Evans composition, like the other tracks on the album. This duo album, without a rhythm section, shows a real interplay, the singer’s control, intonation and steadiness are in bold relief. Not all Evans songs are singable and he rarely accompanied singers. With the singing and challenging pianolines of Bert the album shows beautiful interpretations of the lyrics like “Time Remembered” and “The Two Lonely People” by Simone. She added her own lyrics to some other instrumental compositions of Bill Evans.
• The most impressive tribute was one of the first to appear. Herb Wong, producer and jazz writer, put together an all-star line-up of pianists, perhaps the most impressive collection of keyboardists ever assembled for a single project. Fourteen artists gathered to record solo tributes to the late Bill Evans in the spring and summer of 1982, some doing tunes by Evans and others songs associated with him, but each in their own style. The resulting Bill Evans – A Tribute showed off the following pianists: Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Teddy Wilson, George Shearing, John Lewis, Dave Mckenna, Denny Zeitlin, Jimmy Rowles, Richie Beirach, JoAnne Brackeen and Andy LaVerne. This recording, released initially as double LP on the former Palo Alto Jazz label, quickly disappeared from the market and was later reissued in 1991 as CD (TBA 8028).
• New release About Time by Ari Erev
Ari Erev is an Israeli pianist in the tradition of Bill Evans, but with a very personal authentic character. The structure of the album appears as Bill Evans At Town Hall with the long solo “In the memory of his father” with a “Prologue”, “Story Line”, “Turn Out the Stars” and “Epilogue”. The Erev album starts with a Prelude”, halfway an “Interlude” and at the end as a Postlude “Turn Out the Stars”. The title of the album About Time reminds of “Time Remembered”, that wonderful deeply-felt ballad composed by Bill Evans. Erev’s originals are beautiful ballads like “Past Desire” and the melodic “Fading Memories”. Piano playing with a lot of elegance and sensitivity and respect for the history of Jazz.
Something For You
Blue Note 2008
Letter To Evans
Video Arts 2006
Ten Strings For Bill Evans
Gil Goldstein Trio
Tony Gaboury/Steve Grover Quartet
Play The Music of Bill Evans
Self Published 2010
Bruno Heinen & Kristian Borring
Postcard to Bill Evans
Babel Label, 2015
Anne Hartkamp & Thomas Rckert
JAZZsick records, 2015