Statements by contemporary fellow pianists on Bill Evans
After the untimely death of Bill Evans in 1980, an impressive tribute album was recorded, one of the first to appear of the more than 50 tribute albums up to now. Herb Wong, producer and jazz writer, and Helen Keane, producer and livelong manager of Bill Evans 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. This resulted in the album Bill Evans: A Tribute. This recording, released initially in 1983 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). On the backside of the cover: “Proceeds from the sale of this album will be allocated to the Bill Evans Jazz Piano Scholarship Fund, to be administrated by Palo Alto Records, Keyboard Magazine and the National Association of Jazz Educators”.
On the inside of the cover of the double LP (Click to enlarge the original LP cover) the recorded contemporary fellow pianists made the next statements on the music and personality of Bill Evans:
Teddy Wilson (1912-1986): “But Beautiful”
He came through with chord voicings that were refreshingly new tonalities from what I had been hearing, and based on traditional harmonies he used his own voicings which gave them a new sound. His pianistic style influenced pianists all over the world and his concepts added greatly to the store house of jazz piano.
John Lewis (1920-2001): “I’ll Remember April”
Bill was both a great creative artist and a virtuoso pianist, and in addition, I heard from him some of the greatest accompaniment I know of in music. He added an immeasurable contribution to American music. He was my friend and I miss him.
Chick Corea: “Time Remembered”
Bill’s contribution to the world of music and aesthetics is unable to be measured. Those he inspired know. I personally have learned a great deal from him!
Jimmy Rowles (1918-1996): “How Deep Is The Ocean”
To me Bill was the Chopin of jazz. I loved him and respected him as a person. He was a great artist.
McCoy Tyner: “We Will Meet Again”
My memories of Bill, like his music, are beautiful. As a human being, he was a very sincere and gentle person. I first met Bill playing opposite him at Birdland when I was with Coltrane. He was one of the greatest pianists, and his memory will live in the minds of people and his fellow musicians forever.
Herbie Hancock: “Dolphin Dance”
Of all the pianists who have influenced my playing, Bill leads the pack as far as the quality and the amount of influence. I’ve always been influenced by harmony and touch. Bill was a master of both. The first time I heard him was on Kind of Blue with Miles – the whole concept of modal playing began with that piece. Aside from Miles, it was Bill who utilized the modal approach the most. I had been listening to Oscar Peterson, Horace Silver, and all, but I never heard anyone play like Bill before. He knocked me out – I loved it!
Dave McKenna: “Emily”
I knew Bill slightly for many years and admired his music. In the last few years I have learned just how much I loved his music and the man, and I miss him very much. It was towards the end of his life that listening to him got me deeply interested in modern music.
George Shearing: “Waltz For Debby”
Finally I was given an opportunity to pay respects to one of my all time favorite jazz pianists, the late and great Bill Evans. I wish to thank those who made this possible and trust you will consider this rendition the most sincere token of respects to Bill within my power.
Andy Laverne: “Your Story”
Bill Evans was always a great source of inspiration to me, both musically and personally. Musically, he was a true innovator in the realm of improvised music. In that way, he taught me to be true to my own voice musically, to absorb and use my influences, not to mimic them. Personally he was a true friend, always encouraging and supportive, but not in an unrealistic way. I will miss Bill and his music, yet through the music he left us, his spirit will live on. Bill, ‘your story’ will continue.
Warren Bernhardt: “Fun Ride”
It is to our great good fortune that Bill left us his many recordings. These span virtually his entire career and they accurately reflect what he was focusing on at any given time. In case you never knew Bill, or want to get to know him and his work better, or perhaps you have already begun to forget how marvelously he played the piano – please take full advantage of his recorded legacy. Thank you Bill, for not forgetting us.
Joanne Brackeen: “Song For Helen”
To me he relayed a very natural human spirit. He had a tremendous urge and love to communicate, and he did so by means of his magical connection with the piano, his way of looking at everything from many different angles, always endeavoring to reach to the inner side of things both musically and humanly. Through his music he turned fantasies into living, breathing realities that remain with us.
Denny Zeitlin: “Quiet Now”
I was in college when I first heard Bill on a George Russell Jazz Workshop album. I was tremendously impressed, and, of course, knocked out by the priceless series of trio recordings on Riverside that followed. his gift to piano jazz, and to the music as a whole, is immense. Not all great musicians have the capacity to take a non-competitive delight in the work of others. Bill did, and I treasure the enthusiasm and support he gave me at several important points over the year. I am veru touched that he chose to record “Quiet Now” on three different occasions. To me the piece has always had the quality of a requiem, and I would like to dedicate it to Bill.
Richie Beirach: “Blue And Green”
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best to make you like everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight. The important things do not cange, WE change…. Bill Evans had courage, the courage to wait. He fought the battle and won …He was and is my main inspiration musically. He inspired an entire generation of musicians … I feel very privileged to be part of this memorial recording, and hope that Bill can hear us playing for him.
Dave Frishberg: “Night And Day”
I first met Bill at Cafe Bohemia in New York when he was with Miles Davis’ group. A few years later we chatted from time to time when I played solo opposite his trio at the Top of the Gate. It wasn’t until a few months before he died that the two of us finally had some substantial conversations, in person and on the phone. Of course, I was impressed by his musical intelligence and his exquisite harmonic system. What struck me especially was the way he could play such assertive jazz time without sounding percussive. I enjoy hearing him egged on by an aggressive rhythm section. My favorite Bill evans album is Everybody Digs Bill Evans, where he’s accompanied by Philly Joe Jones and Sam Jones. Bill plays “Night and Day” on that album, and that’s the tune I chose to play for this tribute to him.
Undoubtedly the Evans memorial tributes will continue, just as the albums, old and recent, will be with us, while Evans students all over the world will continue to mirror his influence. “He was a pure, beautiful soul,” said Helen Keane. “Even when he was in the worst private torment, he kept on giving beauty to the world right up to the end. That’s how we should remember him.”