A classically trained musician, Bill Evans worked over his lifetime with famous Jazz musicians like Mile Davis. In 1962, he was innovative in using the process of “overdubbing” himself to produce a seminal album called “Conversations with Myself”, a rather introspective piece.
According to his biography, Bill was born on 16th August 1929 to Harry and Mary Evans in North Plains, New Jersey. He was the child of an abusive family with a father who was a heavy drinker, gambler and abuser. He started piano lessons at about the age of 5 and developed a “sight reading” approach to music. Bill graduated from the North Plainfield high school in 1946. He then attended the Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU) on a flute scholarship (obviously a talented musician) and studied classical Piano Interpretation.
Whilst at University, Evans composed his first piece, “Very Early” and “Peace Piece”. HJe was a founding member of the Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU) Omega Chapter of PHI MU ALPHA SINFOMIA and actually, strange for a musician, played quarterback for the fraternities US Football team. He started appearing in bands and ensembles at an early age, in fact from the age of 12 or 13. His albums (solo and in partnership) include “New Jazz Conceptions (with Teddy Kotick and Paul Motian)” and The Solo Sessions, Vol 1 and Vol2. He was influenced by composers like Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Bill was a widely read man and his library included works from Plato, Voltaire, Freud and Sartre and was apparently really interested in works by Thomas Hardy ( strangely, an author I found extremely difficult to relate to).
As a sideman or session man, Evans collaborated with the great’s including Herbie Mann, to see more collaborations. Like any top musician, he has left his mark on “followers on”, “super fans” including Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Rick Wright (Pink Floyd). His repertoire included the standard jazz standards of his time as well as his solo “self-written” compositions. He was awarded 31 Grammy nominations and after his death (September 15, 1980), was awarded with a “Grammy Lifetime Achievement” award which seems to be the best way to celebrate a fantastic but unrecognized artist after his death.
Working as a Jazz Band Leader he worked extensively with Teddy Kotick, Pail Motian, Stan Getz (The Sound) and Lawrence Benjamin (Larry) Bunker to name a few. Unfortunately, his descent into drug addiction (Heroin and eventually Cocaine) along with the death (by suicide) of his brother Harry led to his downfall. He played less and less and started to withdraw.