Bill Evans and his sophisticated jazz

15 August 2017
The most prominent jazz musician who was nominated for a Grammy over 30 times; virtuoso pianist, who left a considerable trace on the musical culture; the man the asteroid was named after and all this is about Ukrainian!

Everybody talked about Bill Evans in 50s-70s. Generations of pianists tried to achieve the same great success, but his chords were so complicated that only a few managed to play them. His skill became inspiration for star musicians like Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, John McLaughlin. His improvisations gained wide awareness among ordinary people, not only jazz lovers.

Chick Corea, famous pianist, once said of him: "Bill Evans’ value can not be measured by any scale. He is one of the best, and again, best pianists of the 20th century..."
You may ask how come Bill Evans is connected with Ukraine? The answer is - directly! The future virtuoso was born in New Jersey. His father was of  Welsh origin, but his mother Maria Soroka was Ukrainian. Her family emigrated to America when she was small. Maria loved music very much and often played piano at home. This probably played a part in Bill’s forming. When he was 6 years of age he began his familiarity with the piano, and later - with flute and violin. Although the piano remained his favorite forever. When he was a kid his idol was a famous jazz pianist Lennie Tristano, who influenced the musical preferences of small Bill.

Bill was really fond of receiving musical education. However, we all know that it provides a classic sound. A young pianist always felt a desire to play jazz. His career started with a group of his older brother, where he got at the age of 12 years. Training and practice were not useless.
In 1950 Bill began to play with a military band called Herbie Fields, and later with the Fifth Army Band. These were years of military service and the most difficult period in the pianist’s life. Bill’s physical health was not the strongest one, plus discipline, army food, mockeries and bullying remained as unpleasant memories. Persistent depression, drug addiction and stomach diseases, which Bill got after the army service, caused the early death of pianist.

After three years of military service was New York and the Tony Scott Quartet. It was Tony who recognized the potential of young perspective musician and gave him the first opportunity to perform on the big stage. At this time, Bill continues his studying. In the Mannes College he meets jazz composer George Russell, who will record with Bill joint compositions later.

The first Bill Evans solo album full of new ideas and improvisations, called "New Jazz Conceptions", was released in 1956.
One of the reasons why young musician became so popular was that fact that he was only one white musician at Miles Davis Sextet, who was influential artist on the jazz scene. However, such cooperation only lasted 8 months. In 1959 Miles and Bill released a joint album entitled "Kind of blue". Despite the fact that the album was a huge success thanks to Evans improvisations, Miles got all the glory. Dual authorship of the album will be recognized only many years later.
After termination with King of Jazz, Bill creates his own trio, which glorified because of amazing improvisations on stage. He always dreamed about his own band and a dream came true. In 1958 they released their first album called "Everybody Digs Bill Evans". The musicians could feel each other perfectly, so their improvisations sounded brilliantly. Just imagine: three people improvise on three different instruments and it sounds harmonious. Evans finally became a star. Miles Davis suggested to work together. But these plans were failed - a few days after the beginning of the cooperation guitarist Scott LaFaro dies in car accident. Evans leaves the scene for a year and secludes.
A year later Evans returned with a new guitarist and inspiration to begin new work. They started cooperation with bands and performers, began recording albums and started musical experiments. One of the Grammys went to Evans for the album "Conversations With Myself". His originality was in three piano tracks, imposed one on another. After this most young musicians began using this method.

One of the best Evans’ albums is "Alone", in which musician used the famous songs of Barbra Streisand, Tony Barrett and others. This was the best-selling album of 1968 which earned the title of platinum.
By the way,  Bill was nominated for a Grammy for 31 times and he won 7 times. The last statuette was awarded posthumously for his contribution to world music.

He was unique - in every composition you could see personality, a special approach, harmony and elegance inherent only to the most talented performers. Connoisseurs say that with help of classical music he gave new life to jazz compositions and made them lyrical and sensual.

Take the time to search his songs, you will get considerable aesthetic pleasure :)
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