“The Big Love – My Life with Bill Evans”
Laurie Verchomin, the “Laurie” of Bill Evans’s famous composition. This gorgeous ballad has been written for her by Bill on May 31, 1979. After some changes the final version is dated July 29, 1979. During the final year-and-a-half of his life, when he was in physical deterioration and creative resurgence, Bill and Laurie had a romantic and intellectual relationship of depth and intensity. His years of drug addiction had doomed him, and he knew it. She dedicated herself to him in his final months. On September 15th 1980 she accompanied him to the Mount Sinai Hospital, where he died moments later. Laurie Verchomin wrote her book The Big Love / My life with Bill Evans. In October 2010 the book was ready in a Limited Collectors Edition, but now available on Amazon or in bookstores. Recently came out the ebook version. Next an excerpt of the book:
Bill floats effortlessly above his body on the emergency room table. Flouresant lights no longer compete with the diminishing breath of his physical body.
We are in union now. Bill watches over me sitting in the waiting room clutching his blood soaked jacket. He follows me to the bathroom and helps me to empty the last of his cocaine stash ~ barely a gram into the trash.
He encourages me to record my impressions of this moment ~ which stretches out into eternity. He stands beside me between lives ~ making an opening for me too. Never abandoning me ~ but continuing his gentle encouragement.
I see the void he has entered and desire with all my heart to join him ~ in his entry into bliss. This I am denied by my youthful body and unfinished work.
I remain behind to reabsorb our perfect love into the extra chamber I have created in my heart. ( 5 against 4 ) The extra beat to carry me forward over the bar.
No one knows about this special internal rhythm I now carry. It is our secret. Our perfect love ~ no one can touch it. It is ours for eternity.
We are locked together in this embrace of love and death and blood.
Bill is remembering his life, stories flood into his evolving consciousness seamlessly flowing toward an understanding. Beliefs disintegrate and the stories become colors and then music and finally the insight he has been reaching for makes him laugh.
The perfection, the beauty, the radiance.
He begins again.
This excerpt is used by permission of the author. All copyrights are reserved by Laurie Verchomin 2009. Laurie will be releasing her book The Big Love / My life with Bill Evans in the autumn of 2010. To read more about her experiences with Bill Evans go to Marc Myer’s blog JazzWax or visit her site Laurie Verchomin
The book is now available on Amazon.com. See the review of the book by bassist Win Hinkle on his blog Win’s Bill Evans Blog. He is a double bassist and teacher/lecturer on Bill Evans, in Boston and Florida. He is the author of the Letter from Evans (26 issues).
During the spring tour in 1979 Evans had met his new young girlfriend, Laurie Verchomin, in Edmonton, Alberta. “Laurie”, “written for her, is a fine example of the composer’s way with mutually supportive melody and harmony; it was hardly surprising that his creations should effect this union, in view of his long-standing ability to reconstruct standards by judicious harmonic substitution. So often with Evans, the first recording of a number was formally definitive, its freshness the key to its essence, it was so now with “Laurie”. On his solo the pianist penetrated the upper echelons of the keyboard like a delicate glistening rainbow. (Peter Pettinger in Bill Evans, How My Heart Sings, page 264, Yale University Press, 1998)
Bill Evans recorded “Laurie” for the first time in August 1979 on his Grammy Award winning album for the best jazz instrumental performance group We Will Meet Again (Warner Bros. 1980). It is a tribute album to Bill’s brother Harry. The album is comprised exclusively of original Bill Evans compositions. It is notable that it is Evans’ last studio recording, a quintet album, with two horns being Tom Harrell on trumpet and Larry Schneider tenor sax. Subsequently he recorded the song more than fifteen times; the last time on the bootleg album Last Note, his very final recording of a performance – live on September 10, 1980, at the jazz club Fat Tuesdays in New York with Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera.
The first times Bill Evans recorded “Laurie” in a trio setting, was during a South America tour in September 1979 (Live in Buenos Aires, West Wind Records). Later in November he recorded the tune at his alma mater the Southeastern Louisiana University (Homecoming, Milestone Records) and in Paris (The Paris Concerts, edition two, Warner Brothers). All volumes document Bill’s last working trio with Marc Johnson on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums, which he compared favorably to his “classic” trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motion. In these albums, Bill Evans’ playing is freer, exuberant and more rhapsodic compared to his long established impressionistic style. I made next YouTube video based on the Buenos Aires track.
Pianist Harold Danko recorded the first vocal version of “Laurie” on his album Alone But Not Forgotten with singer Bob Dorough (Photo Bob Weidner), bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera (Sunnyside, 1989). Speaking of Evans: “My favorite Bill Evans tune is Laurie,” volonteers Danko. Lyrics and the arrangement were written by Bob Dorough especially for this session. He also sings on the track, sounding snuggingly right for the piece. A dreamy quality wraps around this appealingly pretty closer of the disc, communicating a genuinely natural air. This tune is a magnificent ending punctuation mark to one of the loveliest statements of the recording.
Laurie (The Dream)
Deep in a dream
I stir and speak the name of her
When I call Laurie.
Is she real or is she just a name I dreamed of, Laurie?
Sweet lovely vision.
See her come smiling!
Then I tumble down.
Out on the street
I hear the sound of traffic
While I look for Laurie.
Searching every face
But still no trace is there of Laurie.
In sweet desperation
I sleep once again
But to dream
For it seems that Laurie
Only loves me when I’m dreaming.
Lyric by Bob Dorough and music by Bill Evans
Jack Reilly is a pianist, composer and educator in both the jazz and classical genres, who made an extensive in depth analysis of Bill’s harmonic development of several Evans tunes in his books The Harmony of Bill Evans, volume one and two (Hal Leonard Corporation, 1994, 2010). In volume two he makes an analysis of “Laurie”: “This composition is one of the most sublime examples of the marriage between melody, harmony, and their offspring rhythm (mother, father, child). And in this instance, melody is the boss!” From the accompanying audio CD two short tracks: the melody with chords and the voicings. (Published here with permission of Jack Reilly).
Other songbooks with a transcription of “Laurie” are published by the Hal Leonard Corporation.
Bill Evans – 19 Arrangements For Solo Piano – Series: Piano Solo – Publisher: TRO – The Richmond Organization – Arranger: Andy LaVerne
Bill Evans Fake Book – Series: Richmond Music Folios – Publisher: TRO – The Richmond Organization
Bill Evans – The 70’s – Publisher: TRO – The Richmond Organization
Bill Evans – The Last Compositions – Publisher: TRO – The Richmond Organization
Bill Evans – Play-A-Long Book and CD Volume 45 – Jamey Aebersold Jazz Series