There he was, hunched slightly over the piano, with hair that respected his latest glasses and a suit without a tie with the collars of his shirt sticking out of the jacket. The double bass and drums finished wrapping the moment while a certain semi-darkness of the set surrendered to that unpublished, unusual and unique music.
Blessed jazz esdrújulas …
Then the camera zoomed in on the man at the piano. And in the image appeared two swollen hands, a duo of bulging backs, the least appropriate pair of limbs for a pianist. It couldn't be that the sound of that sky came out of the flesh of those hands, how was it possible that that hour and a half of sonorous lyricism, so slow and so fast, came from such lumps?
The answer is simple:
Bill Evans .
The recording dates from the end of 1979 at the San Cugat studios in Barcelona and was rescued years later by the program
Jazz entre amigos de TVE. On the set are the three musicians, the technicians and about fifteen guests, including a certain Tete Montoliú . On the black and white keys, one of the greatest pianists in history invents paradise, a 51-year-old man who solves the disaster in his hands with his fingers. He has been hooked on drugs for three decades and since he no longer finds clean veins to inject himself with , he pricks his daily dose of cocaine dissolved with whatever it is.
It's the same. The concert is intimate, powerful, sensitive, hard, beautiful.
Nine months later, Bill Evans will be dead.
40 years since the death of this fundamental pianist, a teacher who changed jazz and exerted an absolute influence on contemporary and future musicians , such as Keith Jarret, Brad Medhlau, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. One piece of information would suffice to understand the weight of Bill Evans in 20th century music: he was the only target of the six musicians who, under the command of Miles Davis , recorded Kind of Blue , the most important album in the history of jazz.
It is also 40 September since the disappearance of a
professionally obsessive man ; a polite, not very talkative, modest, ironic and sharp type; oceanic reader of Philosophy and Psychology; studious boy, flute player and football player; lover of Disney movies; An adult beaten by the death of his favorite double bass player and the suicides of his brother and his ex-girlfriend, and victim of a world of heroin and cocaine that devastated his liver and stomach, emptied his pockets, filled him with debt and it took him to the grave four days after offering what would be his last feat at the piano.
We are facing the 40th anniversary of the death of a character in capital letters: the musician Evans and the man Bill.
Although a bit cheesy, there is a phrase from Miles Davis that shows where Bill Evans' shots were going: “I
had a quiet game at the piano, notes of glass, bubbling water falling from some clean waterfall .” Or as critic Gene Lees put it: “He was the poet of jazz.”
Experts say that his sense of harmony, his rhythmic phrasing, his perfection of modal music, his classical training (Debussy, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Bartok) and his capacity for improvisation made him a genius.
One of his key contributions to jazz was the conception of the trio . Starting with Bill Evans, music on piano, double bass and drums is something else. The good one, of course. Evans matched the voices of those instruments as if they were in dialogue with each other. If you open your ears and close your eyes to the Portrait in Jazz album or to any piece from The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings compilation, you can hear a three-way conversation where there seems to be no leader. Actually, one can hear instrument conversations … and audience. Because those sessions were recorded in the mythical Village Vanguard amidst the noise of glasses and laughter while three excellent musicians left a treasure to the future forever . In that trio were drummer Paul Motian, a pioneer of rhythm, and double bassist Scott LaFaro, a colossal talent who helped Bill Evans elevate jazz. Eleven days after that recording, LaFaro died in a car accident.
Interval , the journalist and writer Owen Martell novels the pianist's social self-isolation after the death of his accomplice on the double bass. Bill Evans went to live for a few months with his brother and his family and isolated himself from the world . Deep in sadness, he stopped playing and almost talking. The only laughter escaped him with the occurrences of his niece, to whom he would later dedicate one of the great songs and albums of his career: Waltz for Debby . It was that time of silences, solitude in the room and escapes from home that Martell recreates like this: “Walk to Harlem, keep your wit and vigilance and try to cheat to survive the traffic. And you will get home again (… ) Then it will go to the nightstand, where it keeps the needle and the rubber strap, and everything will disappear instantly . “
His drug problems equated him with many musicians in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. But Bill Evans is not in jazz memory for that. Nobody like him took such sensitivity from the mathematical combination of notes, nor improvised better, nor was he able to play the same theme softly or hard (
Laurie , for example), nor handled the structure of music in such a way that his colleagues it seemed to them that there was always something new there.
Kind of Blue recording proves it.
Just the fact that Miles Davis chose a white musician to complete his sextet was a statement of history. “There is a white boy out there …”, the trumpeter was heard saying years before inviting him to play with him. In the essential biography
Life and Music of Bill Evans , the writer and pianist Peter Pettinger recounts a compelling anecdote related to Kind of Blue . A few days before the recording, Davis approached Evans and gave him a sheet of paper with two chords on it. “What would you do with this?” He asked. That night, Bill Evans composed Blue in green ,
a chilling ballad that Miles Davis ended up signing. Weeks later, Evans suggested to Davis that they share the
royalties for the song, and then the trumpeter agreed: he wrote him a check for $ 25 .
Davis and Evans worked together for eight months. “I felt physically, spiritually and emotionally drained. I told him and there were no problems. We are still good friends,” Evans said when explaining their separation from Davis. Fortunately, the pianist continued to play that ballad alone for years, like the exciting version he did at the 1970 Canadian concert that was recorded on an album with the same name:
Blue in green .
recorded 82 albums, 32 of them live, and won seven of 31 Grammy Award nominations . There are pianists who say that with him you have the feeling that a note is never missing or left over and that it is incredible that someone had not done it before.
It will be that 40 years after his death, Bill Evans plays better and better