Play the video, and listen carefully!
Wait. Have you played the video yet? And if you did, were you listening? I mean really listening? If not, go back and absorb it very carefully with your ears. The man at the piano is Bill Evans. This was recorded in 1964 with fellow Bill Evans Trio members Chuck Israels (bass) and Larry Bunker (drums).
I chose this particular tune to hip my readers to Bill because, even though he didn't write the beautiful ballad "My Foolish Heart", I can think of no one who played it with more feeling. I've tried, and I might get some Evans-esque licks in there, but the study of his harmonic sense and his touch are the subject of volumes. So relaxed, so laid back, so romantic, so impressionist...I've always thought that his music sounds like a Monet looks. Introspective, lush, exposing his soul for the world to hear.
Bill died in 1980, at the age of 51....before I really even knew that jazz existed. I first heard him on that classic of all classic jazz albums, "Kind of Blue" with Miles Davis and that all-star roundup of players. I was immediately drawn to that foggy, soft touch. Listening to him, you just know that he truly cares about that approach to pressing a key so as not to be too harsh, yet not too subdued....the perfect middle ground. Watch the video and pay attention to his hands....note that they don't stray far from one another. He really likes the center of the piano and he gets so much feeling and line from hands that seem to hardly move at all. Small subtle moves in the left hand that are getting the chord structure across, while evoking some dissonance (clash amongst pitches)....the right hand stays close and really disciplined, only occasionally throwing down a lick that borders on "busy". His note choice is astounding yet whimsical all at once.
Nerdy, perhaps, to the point of cool. The glasses, the slick hair. Always hunched over at the piano.....a nod to Beethoven? Always surrounded by the best players. As a bassist myself, I've met most of the bassists of Bill Evans....Chuck Israels, Eddie Gomez, and Marc Johnson. If I could travel back in time, I would plant myself at the Village Vanguard on June 25, 1961 listening to Bill, Scott LaFaro (his bassist, who tragically died 10 days later in a car wreck at age 25), and Paul Motian on drums. Far too young to have met Bill, I feel as if I know him through the hours I have spent listening to albums like "Sunday at the Village Vanguard". He's been gone for over 30 years now, but he's there for you to enjoy, too, through a huge discography, YouTube videos, reminiscences of others, etc. Seek out and savor my favorite pianist, Bill Evans.
David James teaches piano and bass lessons at his studio in Wichita, KS .... aptly named the David James Piano and Bass Studio. "Like" his studio page on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, check out his website at www.djpianobass.com.
About the Author
David James teaches piano and bass lessons at his studio...aptly named David James Piano and Bass Studio in Wichita, KS.