Of course it would be Glenn Gould who'd cast Bill Evans most appropriately as "the Scriabin of jazz"; leave it to a maverick classicalist to beat jazzbo crits at their own game. Gene Lees called him a Chopin, and more than one of Evans' works were highly synchronous with a revved-up polonaise or two. Hancock, Corea, and Jarrett were highly influenced by the genius, and his legion of fans were like religious zealots. Thus, this third in the Sesjun series vividly demonstrates the bias for all the adulation…but, underneath the sonic bliss lies a tale of tragedy.
Like many a transcendent soul, Evans found life on Earth rough, and he, as many, took to heroin as a method of coping. Early on, he and Scott LeFaro were divinely matched but not altogether at ease with one another due to LeFaro's detestation of Evans' habit. At 25, Scott was killed in a car accident, and it devastated Bill, nor was he able to find another ingenious bassist until Eddie Gomez entered the picture at an equally young age: 22. Heard on the entirety of the first disc here, one easily sees why Gomez's free-style approach appealed to the pianist, who needed a fluid contrast and counterpoint. Catch all the solos exchanges and organic interplay in TTT alone, and little more need be said.
But heroin, which Evans regarded as a daily death and transfiguration experience, took its toll, so he eventually gave over the entire scene, moved back with his parents, kicked horse, and had a few good years…until former wife Ellaine threw herself under a subway train, to later be followed by beloved brother Harry Evans, suffering from depression, also committing suicide. Bill therein thoroughly lost the will to live, dying a year later at age 51. Don't ever let anyone tell you that genius is unaccompanied by tragedy; the reverse is almost always the case.
But the celebration of life and unbridled creativity in Evans' luminous work is the exact opposite of his private hell, a glowing testament to a fertile mind never at rest—and Evans ever felt restive away from a piano. More, the jawdropping ease with which the man could abruptly but smoothly change up everything (tempo, volume, direction, you name it) was indicative of his desire to transcend norms and travel elsewhere…not, we may wish to note, unlike Stan Kenton but with far more homogeneity in trad jazz and classical rudiments (Kenton the neoclassicalist in such matters). As with all the Sesjun concerts, the audience here is into it deeply, and one would not have been surprised to have heard the show interrupted several times in order that the maestro be paraded on a gold palanquin through the streets before any allowance to carry on. This release, I needn't point out, is severely cerebral music, demanding complete rapt attention or, I'm warning you, don't even start on the twofer set. When done, though, you'll understand that a zen dharma transmission occurred between one god, Evans, and another, Jarrett, and, though we may not even know it yet, we're waiting anxiously for the next successor, for the line to be continued.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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