Bill Evans Day

August 16, 1929 – September 15, 1980

A tribute to the innovative pianist

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Pianist and leader William John Evans was born in New Jersey.

Classically trained, Evans studied at Southeastern Louisiana University and the Mannes School of Music.

After moving to New York, he worked as a sideman and recorded with Jerry Wald, Dick Garcia, Lucy Reed, George Russell, Tony Scott, Don Elliott, Joe Puma, Charles Mingus, Jimmy Knepper, Sahib Shihab, Eddie Costa, Helen Merrill, and Hal McKusick, making his first album as a leader in 1956.

As a member of the Miles Davis Sextet in 1958, Evans played next to John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, returning to the group the following year to record Kind Of Blue.

Evans formed his first classic trio in 1959 with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, a group that featured the pianist having close interplay with his sidemen (particularly LaFaro) and displaying very original chord voicings that would become extremely influential on other pianists up to the present time.

LaFaro’s death in a car accident in 1961 resulted in Evans dropping out of music for a year, but he came back with a new trio that had Chuck Israels on bass and recorded Conversations With Myself, an intriguing solo set on which he overdubbed a second piano part.

Evans grew in popularity as the 1960s progressed, leading trios that for ten years featured bassist Eddie Gomez; the group from his last two years had bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera.

Drug problems shortened Bill Evans’ life (he only made it to the age of 51) but not his influence which continues to this day.

Here is Bill Evans performing “Someday My Prince Will Come” with Marc Johnson and Joe LaBarbera late in his life.

-Scott Yanow

Miles Davis remembers Bill Evans


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