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In this article, I will analyze the thematic material of Bill’s tune, “Peri’s Scope.” My purpose will be to gain insight into the principles of good melody writing and, in Bill’s case, to get inside the creative mind of a genius as that mind organized, developed and evolved his compositions by following the dictates of what Schoenberg calls the “BASIC SHAPE,” the seed thought, the germ or idea that generates the entire piece.
Because I use in these articles a specific vocabulary when I discuss Bill’s thematic material, I think it best to define these terms before I begin the analysis.
MOTIF-an interval, harmony, and/or rhythm combining to produce memorable shapes or patterns; a motif appears continually throughout a piece; it is repeated. Repetition alone often gives rise to monotony, and monotony can only be overcome by variation.
VARIATION-a change in some of the less important features of the motif and the preservations of some of the more important ones. FIGURE-a smaller rhythmic and/ or melodic feature of the motif that is repeated throughout the piece. A dotted quarter followed by an eighth note is a rhythmic figure Bill uses continually in “Peri’s Scope.” DIRECTIONAL TONES-the range and contour (high and low points) of the theme; the main pitches that outline the theme. INVERSION-an ascending pattern that later descends, and vice versa. AUGMENTATION-an increased time value according to a ratio (three eighth notes become triplets, etc.).
DIMINUTION-a decreased time value according to a ratio (eighth notes become sixteenth notes). RETROGRADE-the theme or motif played, or repeated backwards. BASIC SHAPE-usually the first idea which generates the whole piece. PHRASE-a complete musical thought, like a sentence in English (in this piece, 8 meaSures).
Let’s look at EX. lA to lC (measures 1-2). This is the BASIC SHAPE. The melodic figures are one lonely eighth note, a “g” on the first beat, rhythmic space or silence for one and one-half beats, a descending four note scale pattern, 11 g” to II d,” and an ascending interval leap of a perfect fourth, 11 d” to II g.” The DIRECTIONAL TONES and range are easy to calculate, 11 g” down to “d,” back up to “g.” The range is a perfect fourth. These are the memorable melodic features of Motif 1. But it’s the rhythmic, syncopated figures (EX. lE) which give Motif 1 its uniqueness and announce that “Peri’s Scope” is a jazz composition! I have found six different ways to break down Motif 1 into FIGURES. Can you find more?
Motif 2 is a development and repetition of the melodic and rhythmic figures of Motif 1. Compare EX. 2A with my analysis in EX. 2C. Bill’s V ARIA TI ON of the four note scale pattern results in a broken scale pattern in thirds. The interval leap of a perfect fourth he expands to a perfect fifth; that is, he leaped from “d” to “a.” The syncopation he shifts to the “and-of” 4, measure 3, and again on the” and-of” 3, measure 4. This last syncopated note of motif 2 is” g,” the same pitch that begins “Peri’s Scope”! And it’s also an eighth note! The rhythmic silence or space in measure 4 lasts for two beats, the same amount of rhythmic space that separates Motif 1 from Motif 2. Are these relationships accidental? I don’t think so. There is an inner “logician” at work here, the mind of the composer. Oh, yes, the range of Motif 2 is one octave.
Then in measure 5, Bill offers another VARIATION in the rhythmic pattern of measure three by introducing sixteenth notes and·a quarter-note triplet for the first time (EX. 3A). His ear immediately picks up on the sixteenth notes, so we get more of them in the very next measure! (EX. 3B).
With all of this incredible melodic and rhythmic variation.so far (measures 1-6), the DIRECTIONAL TONES hint at monotony. Why? They all hover around the pitcli “g”! What does Mr. Evans do? He lets the” composer” step in, and in measure 7 he writes not one, but two” gsharps,” the first chromatic note of the piece (EX. 4). How does he rhythmically treat these “g-sharps”? By holding the first one for one and one-half beats and syncopating the second one. This is breathtaking. It is in this measure that Bill reveals to us that he is inwardly singing. How does he reveal this? By following the” g#s” with six beats of rhythmic space: silence! Now he is able to make a new breath. And that is precisely how we can identify the end of one phrase and the beginning of another. Measures 1-8 comprise phrase one; measures 9-16, phrase two; measures 17-24, phrase three.
The syncopated FIGURE in measure 7 is not unique. It reappears in measures 13-16, the second part of phrase two, where Bill the composer fully exploit it (EX. SA), as the climax or high point of “Peri’s Scope.” It is the dotted quarter note, however, that is secretly exploited by alternate syncopation, i.e. every other quarter note is placed on the” and” of the beat. To make this clear in my analysis, I have rewritten these FIGURES in 6 / 8 meter (EX. SB). Because of this rhythmic complexity, the inner “logician” tells Bill to narrow the range. Now he has the opportunity to create melodic FIGURES on the intei:vals of a Major 2nd, minor 2nd, minor 3rd, and Major 3rd (EX. SC).
See Ex. 6 and 7 for further analyses of Motifs 1 and 2.
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“Time Remembered” must have emerged from very deep within the musical mind of Bill Evans or, as he might have put it, from the “universal mind.” It is a composition that harmonically pays homage to the Modal period in music history, the sixteenth century that gave birth to Palestrina, Byrd, Caccini, Morley, Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, and Schutz.
The harmonies and progressions of “Time Remembered” suggest four modes or scales that formed the basis of many of the works of that period: the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, and Aeolian. The Bach chorales of the sevente_enth century mark the transition from Modality to Tonality (major/minor system). We then had to wait three hundred years for a reincarnation of the modes in the compositions of Debussy and Ravel.
Bill knew these two Impressionistic masters inside and out, and in “Time Remembered,” he has compressed within 26 measures four hundred years of musical evolution from Modality to Tonality to Impressionism.
The unique thing about “Time Remembered” is the inconspicuous absence of the dominant 7th chord and its derivatives, the half-diminished and the full-diminished. When Bill had eliminated these, he was left with only major and minor chords. For this reason, the piece sounds impressionistic and modal.
He has met the challenge of writing a tune with only two harmonic qualities by introducing unusual root movements and by exploiting the use of the upper partials (9, 11, 13) in the melody. Let’s look at EX. 1 in which I have reduced the original to four parts. The root is always in the bass” The 3rd, 5th, and 7th, however, are voiced in a variety of ways, according to the new voicing categories that I will explain shortly.
The original Bill Evans score of “Time Remembered” (EX. 2) is one of Bill’s most complex contrapuntal scores-. It’s equal in difficulfyto Bach’s Five-Part Fugue in C-sharp from Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier. To help you to achieve a better legato, I have written a set of fingerings. Also, you might have a look at the Fugue. It’s a good preparator.y piece for “Time Remembered.”.
Now look at EX. 1 and listen for the harmonic qualities of Ma7 or m7; observe the voicings; feel them in your hands. Now visualize the 5th omitted. What’s left? The root, 3rd, and 7th, of course: the three-note concept. By adding the 5th to all the chords in “Time Remembered,” Bill has quadrupled the voicing possibilities.
He has also created five new voicing categories. The voicings in measures 1, 2, 6, 9, 15, 25, 26, and 29, I call category” A”: the root, 7th, 3rd, and 5th. In measures 5 (third beat only), 10 and 18, the voicing is root, 5th, 7th, and 3rd. Let’s call this category “B.” In measures 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, and 21, Bill voices the chords root, 5th, 3rd, and 7th. We’ll name these the “C” voicings. Next we read root, 3rd, 7th, and 5th in measures 11 and 24. This will be the “D” voicing category. Lastly, in measures 3, 4, 5 (first beat only), 22, and 23, Bill uses block voicings. This makes up our fifth category, the “E” voicings.
To make it easier to follow this analysis, I have rewritten and organized EX. 1 by voicing categories. Refer now to EX. 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, and 3E (bar numbers under EX. 3A-3E indicate which measure(s) contains the voicing category. For example, bars 1 & 15 are examples of” A” voicings, etc.).
I have also written out all inversions appropriate to each voicing category. Exhaust all possibilities! That’s my motto. Bill did. He spent hours and hours practicing these fundamental four-part voicings, in every category, in root position and all inversions, and in all keys, until they were “second nature.” Nobody else since Art Tatum has had such an enormous voicing vocabulary “in the fingers.” And Bill has surpassed Tatum in this department owing to his broader knowledge of classical music, especially the music of Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky.
Now I will analyze in detail measures 7 and 8 from the original score. See EX. 4. Bill has written an Eb Ma13th resolving up a fourth to Ab Ma13th. Can you see the basic four-part seventh chord voicings and categories hidden in these seven-part chords? Not yet? Then look at EX. 4A.
Here I have isolated the basic four parts from the upper partials. (This is what the harmonic reduction in EX. 1 is all about). It is now clear that both chords belong to the “C” voicing category (See EX. 3C). Separated in EX. 4A, the upper partials now look like major triads. But they also-belong to the Eb and Ab Ma7 chords as the 9th,+ 11th, and 13th. H€re’s a simple rule to follow: by visualizing major triads superimposed one whole step above Ma7ths, you will learn to play seven-part Ma13th chords quickly. Such practice is also the first step toward thinking in polytonal relationships.
Now look at EX. 5, SA, and SB. In these examples, I have placed the upper partials of the EbMa13th with the inversions. Further experimentation will reveal other possipilities. Then you can do what Bill did: at the piano transpose your experiments to all keys until they are “in the fingers.”
In EX. 6 and 6A, my analysis of measure 6 from Bill’s original score (see EX. 2) follows the same procedure as in EX. 4 through SB. Only this time I have chosen the minor chord quality, which in this measure is a Gm13th.
Analyze each measure of Bill’s score in a similar manner and you’ll complete the harmonic picture of “Time RememberecL” By a careful study of all tl:!e chorg categories in this article, you will now have a method by which to work out the analysis of all Bill’s original scores on your own. Continue to experiment with all the chord categories from EX. 3A through 3E by placing the 9th,+ 11th, and 13th within the voicing of the basic four-part 7th chords that I have written out for you in these examples.
In the final example (EX. 8), I have written a seven-part voicing arrangement of “Time Remembered” based on all the principles discussed above and in the “Peri’s Scope” articles. Examine each measure and try to separate the basic four-part voicing by writing it next to my seven-part realization. Analyze the chord voicing category. I have worked out the first three measures for you (EX. 8, measures 1- 3).
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This analysis totally ignores the harmonic progression composed by Bill, in order to observe the theme as a complete entity; one that doesn’t need harmony to prove its existence.
In the Modal period (pre-Bach), polyphony reigned supreme; harmony was accidental and therefore not a factor in determining the form or length of a composition. The theoretical basis derived from this period was the MODES or scales: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, MixoLydian, Aeolian, and Locrian, all beginning on the pitch “c.”
After Bach, the modes disappeared, or rather, were swallowed up, allowing for a synthesis which gave birth to the major/ minor system and a theory of harmony based on 12 major and 12 minor scales ( called scales to differentiate between the pre-Bach Modal period and the Tonal post-Bach era). This tonal period lasted roughly 300 years before a new and higher synthesis-Atonality-came into being.
When a synthesis is reached, it always inherits the previous period. Inherent in the Tonal system is the Modal system; inherent in the Atonal system are both the Modal and the Tonal systems. Bill Evans was born with this awareness, and through his study of the Schoenberg harmony, counterpoint, and compositional books, he created his wonderfully rich compositions, full of the past and present and achieving a new synthesis: the conscious merging of classical music with jazz.
There is a term coined by Gunther Schuller: “Third Stream Music.” It means the synthesis of two streams, classical and ja,zz, to produce a third stream. Bill Evans’ compositions are Third Stream, and the following analysis of “Time Remembered” is an attempt to prove that statement true. Here are eight examples that break down the theme into eight phrases (the measure lengths are altered slightly for Part 1 ).
Each example show how the theme expresses a mode based on the gravity caused by the succession of tones in each phrase. The clue lies in the Directional Tones in each phrase. In EX. lA, our ear retains (remembers) the opening “f#” at the arrival of the last note “b,” and identifies these pitches as the dominant or 5th note (f#) and tonic (1st note) of the B Aeolian mode.
The rest of the pitches in this phrase support this conclusion. “C#” is the super-tonic note, “a” is the leading tone, “e” the sub-dominant, etc. The high point on the pitch “d” links up with the” f#” and “b” to form a tonic B minor triad, but I must not use that to support my conclusion, since I stated above that this analysis is linear (horizontal) and not chordal (vertical)!
Our ear does, however, group (link) tones to form chords because it’s almost impossible to forget our 20th century inheritance: harmony! I have therefore included an analysis of what our 20th century ear picks up chord-wise in each example.
Looking at EX. lA again, you’ll see that my ear groups these pitches vertically to form a V7, 1 V7 & I chord (F#m7, Em7 & Bm triad respectively). The modes are very slippery and our ear could very easily shift the tonic to the pitch” e,” giving us an E Dorian mode. This is obvious because both the B Aeolian and E Dorian contain the same pitches. In the latter instance, my ear picked up the Directional Tone” e” (low point, and linked it with the “b” in measure 4, plus the opening “f#,” pulling me gravitationally to the “e” as a tonic note).
In each of the following examples, you must sing (and/ or play) the phrase as written; then sing the analytical sections above and below; then sing the modes; then repeat and repeat until your ear gravitates toward the tonic of each mode. It is entirely with_ill !he realm of probability that you will arrive at other modal conclusions, but rememoer, it is the Directional Tones-the high and low point in each phrase-that will support my conclusion. I’ll stand firmly on all of them! Ultimately, it should be child’s play when you finally sit down with thiswonderful composition, “Time Remembered.”
Bill Evans Trio – Waltz For Debby: The Complete Pescara Festival (1969).
01. Emily (Marcer/Mandel)…(00:00) 02.A Sleeping Bee (Arlen)…(05:43) 03.Alfie (Bacharach)…(10:44) 04.Who Can I Turn To? (Bricusse/Newley)…(16:15) 05.Very Early (Evans)…(22:15) 06.’Round About Midnight (Monk)…(27:09) 07.Autumn Leaves (Kosma)…(34:09) 08.Quiet Now (Evans)…(39:19) 09.Come Rain Or Come Shine (Arlen)…(44:49) 10.Nardis (Davis)…(49:56) 11.Waltz For Debby (Evans)…(56:52).
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“Peri’s Scope” is a perfect model to initiate a discussion of two-handed piano voicing principles that are root oriented. There are three rules or directions to follow:
Use the root, third and seventh under the melody;
Omit the fifth of the chord;
For added, optional color, add a ninth, eleventh, or thirteenth
Observe in all of the examples that the root is always the bass note and above the root you place the third, seventh, and melody. The voice leading alternates-EX. 1: R (root), 3rd, 7th leading to R, 7th, 10th in measures 1 and 2; or R, 10th, 7th leading to R, 7th, 10th in measure 3- depending upon the root movement. In this tune the root movement is mostly down a fifth ( or up a fourth, i.e. II-V, III-VI of measures 1 & 2). I call this the diatonic cycle of fifths, and since “Peri’s Scope” does not modulate to another key, I rate it as a very imaginative diatonic composition for that reason. Bill had a composer’s ear for variety and learned how to effectively use secondary dominants (see measures 7, 8, 14, 15, 16 & 20). This makes Peri’s Scope a challenge to the improviser. The challenge is unique because you meet the secondary dominants in different ways and in different parts of the phrase.
For example, in EX. 2 below, the IIIx (E secondary dominant seventh) lasts for two bars (7 & 8) and it’s the climax of the first phrase of the tune. It’s very sudden. It jumps out at us.
E7 (Sec. Dom.) E7 FMa7
From Bar 1 to 6 all we heard were diatonic chords in C Major, then “boom!”, we’re hit with an E713 for two bars. A real surprise. Look at EX. 2 and see and hear the colors:1 .E713, then E7b13, then E7 and finally E7+ 11 !!
At the end of the second phrase ( also eight measures), EX. 3 measures 14, 15 & 16, we meet three secondary dominants in a row, B713 to E9+11 to A713!!! The alterations on the Illx at measure 15 begin to look and sound like its tritone substitute, a B flat dominant seventh +5. It is at this point the improviser has a choice to use one or the other: an E913 or Bb9+5. Here the progression becomes chromatic if you use the Bb9 and remains diatonic if you use the E911.
In this second phrase, measures 14-16, the improviser has a choice to think diatonically by using B7 to E7 to A7, or chromatically B7 to Bb7 to A7. A chromatic progression is one in which the root of the chord lies outside the key signature of the tune. All others are diatonic progressions.
In phrase three, at bar 20 of the final e1ght measures (EX. 4), we meet a secondary dominant for one-half of the measure only. It is the Vlx (A7b13) again on the 3rd and 4th beats. In Bill’s improvisation in this measure he plays B-flats, revealing to us that the chord on the downbeat of measure 20 is an E minor 7bs, a III half-diminished. It is only implied in this arrangement. The symbol for half-diminished is 0. The symbol x stands for secondary dominant.
In EX. 5, we can see at a glance how imaginatively Bill used the secondary dominants in different parts of each phrase. Here’s a look at the phrases by measure -number. – It will give you a quick overview of whererhe secondary dominants occur.
EX. 5Peri’s Scope
Phrase One (measure s 1-8)
When I teach tunes, especially Bill’s, I always analyze the phrase structure first, then the key changes, if any (modulation principles), and then the use of secondary dominants, how they resolve and their duration. For example, the A7′ sat measures 16 and 20 resolve to the D minor chord, and we can infer that it is borrowed from the region or scale of D minor, which is only one flat removed from C Major, the scale or key of “Peri’s Scope.” In other words, the A7 suggests the key, the scale or “the region of” D minor, which is very closely related to the tonic key of C Major. I include in my thinking the relative major keys when discussing minor key relationships and relative minor keys when discussing major keys.
This sounds confusing, I know, but as I analyze other compositions by Bill, you’ll begin to grasp the principles I’m trying to explain. In fact, if you pick up the Theory of Harmony by Arnold Schoenberg, you will find out where Bill learned these principles and you’ll be able to follow my explanations more intelligently.
Now go back and look at EX. 2, measures 8 & 9. The E7 at measure 8 resolves to an F Ma7 at measure 9. This E7 is borrowed from the scale of A minor, the relative minor of C Major, and it resolves deceptively, i.e. V to VI, or up a half step” as if” it were in the key of A minor. These are important considerations when studying this tune in terms of its horizontal or linear implications. We know that E7 is the dominant of A Major and A minor. But we probably wouldn’t improvise on an A major scale at this point for two reasons: 1) the chords surrounding the E7 do not suggest a progression in A major, and 2) the resolution at measure 9 would have to be to an F# m7, the VI of A major, a deceptive resolution in the key of A major!
Let’s get back to the voicing concepts. In EX. 2, measures 7 & 8, the voicing of the E7 is root, 7th, 10th (or 3rd), and in measure 9, the F Ma7 and G7 voicings are the same (R, 7th, 10th) because the root movement is stepwise, lllx to IV to V. When progressions move by steps (IV-V or 11-111, etc.), you can often move or lead the voices parallel. This makes for smoothness and clarity in the rendition of the tune. Any song will lend itself to this treatment. I call this the 3-note voicing concept and I learned it from Bill’s model, “Peri’s Scope.”
In EX. 3, measure 14, the B7 is voiced root, 7th, 10th resolving to E7. The E7 here is the only voicing in our model that has no root. Or does it? I think Bill meant Bb7+5 at this point (last beat of measure 14). The B-natural in the bass was supposed to be a B-flat but was delayed to the next bar, measure 15, second beat. What do you think? If you accept my analysis, then the voicing to the Bb7 is parallel -R, 7th, 10th-and the resolution from Bb7 to the A7 in measure 16 is also parallel-R, 7th, 10th. Here’s a look at these three chords in isolation (EX. 6). Play them!
In EX. 7, measure 11, we see another variation in Bill’s voicings, and a very simple one at that. He reduces the left hand voicing to two notes: Rand 7th on the downbeat (D m7) and then R, 3rd on the third beat (G 7), while the melody in the right hand is harmonized in thirds. This gives us relief from the five part voicings in phrase one. 11} later performam:es of this piece, Bill changed measure 12 to Gm 7, C7, suggesting that the middle phrase (phrase two, measures 9-16) can be heard as a modulation to the key of F Major, a very closely related key to C Major, one fifth down and one flat away from C Major.
These root-oriented 3-note voicing concepts formed the foundation of Bill’s early style and permeated his later playing as you will see in my analysis of tunes like “B Minor Waltz.” In EX.8, measures 20 & 21, we observe more variety, the block chord voicing with melody on top and bottom. Bill knew his jazz piano history. I heard him play Boogie Woogie and Teddy Wilson styles in 1951. The block chord influences are from Milt Buckner and George Shearing.
And Bill even knew how to “sit” on the quarter note a la Lester Young at measure 19 to make it swing in the old style ( EX. 9). Listen to Lester Young’s solos on “Taxi War Dance” or “Blue Lester” with the Count Basie Orchestra for the quarter note swing “feel.”
Notice the Boogie Woogie influence in the left hand of measure 19, the ultimate in sophistication. Bill truly “ingested” all the jazz styles of the past and they appear spontaneously in his writing and playing in extremely subtle ways. As a student of composition in the 50s, he “ingested” all the classical music of the past. In 1951 I heard him sightread, at the piano, the orchestral score to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Of course, Bill’s intuition is at play here; this is a welcome relief from all that rhythmic displacement, tension and syncopation in the previous phrase (EX. 10, measures 13-16.)
I have made EX. 10 easier to learn: Lets look at my voicing-arrangement (EX. 11) to explain what I mean. What I did was to notate in 6/8 what Bill notated as rhythmic displacement. I have subdivided the beat and createdrour measures in 6/8outofBill’s three measures in4/4.
Bill may have conceived of this tune diatonically but his use of rhythmic displacement in phrase two makes the tune unmanageable for a beginner in improvisation unless_he “evens out” those measures (see EX. 5, measures 13-16). Each phrase has wonderful variety of harmonic color (the addition of 9ths, 11 ths, and 13ths ), and unusual phrasing ‘· in the melody and in the piano voicings.
To conclude the article and at the same time offer you a recapitulation of the 3-note concept, here are two examples I use in teaching the Blues in F. In EX. 12, which you can analyze for yourself, you will see that I connect the chords by observing the voice leading rules explained earlier in this article. Analyze also EX. 13 and observe the addition of one color tone (9,11,13) above each of the 3-note voicings. (I make students write as many variations as possible using the color tones). Try singing “Billie’s Bounce” melody while playing examples 12 & 13; or “Blue Monk,” or have a friend play and improvise with you.
EX. 14 is the opening theme from the “Concertina for Strings and Piano,” third movement, titled “Resurrection,”orchestrated brilliantly by Jack Six and premiered in December 1980, in Plainfield, New Jersey, Bill’s hometown. The Concertina is dedicated to Bill’s memory. In “Resurrection” you have a 3-note voicing arrangement of this very simple theme and yet it still sounds complete and satisfying. Incidentally, in this third movement, the piano soloist is called upon to invent variations on this theme, therefore the 3-note setting in the exposition of the movement creates a clear and solid statement of the theme. Bill was a master at arranging the opening chorus so as to set the mood for the listener in a positive and clear manner.
The final example (EX. 15) is an illustration of a more elaborate method of study for “Peri’s Scope” and all of Bill’s tunes, and in fact any tune, and that is to arrange the progression in 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 parts in half-note chorale style. Bill would write out three or four examples like this and then practice them in all keys. For “Peri’s Scope,” I used the 3-note concept, adding a fourth part chosen by” ear,” but notice that the soprano or top note I have chosen suggests or outlines the melody shown in the top staff. This is a good first step to get “inside” the tune. In the articles that follow, I will show many other procedures.
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Composing is the highest calling for a musician. Performing, whether it be interpreting or improvising, always takes second place. The musician in the 20th century, compared to one in the 16th century, is in a unique position; at his disposal are the great compositions of the past 400 years. The inheritance is prodigious. Bach didn’t have Mozart or Beethoven; Mozart and Beethoven didn’t have Brahms or Schumann; Schumann and Brahms didn’t have Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Boulez, Stockhausen, Carter, Bernstein, Gershwin, Copland, Barber, Ellington, or Bill Evans.
Jazz music is a players’ (improvisers’) art. The written or composed parts used in jazz performances are always subservient to the solo (improvised) sections. The Herman Herds are memorable because of the soloists (improvisers). Stan Getz’s solo on “Early Autumn” will far outlast the song itself, as will Lester Young’s solos with the Basie band, Ben Webster with Duke, Earl Hines, and Charlie Parker. Jazz is most exciting and exhilarating when played by a soloist, or in a duo, trio, quartet, or quintet setting.
In order to fully develop as an improviser, the jazz musician, like the classical musician, must also play in large ensembles. But the real commitment and challenge that faces the jazz player comes when he is alone with his instrument. He must sit (or stand) with that instrument and improvise hour after hour, day after day, year after year, with NO LET UP!
He or she must be convinced that there will always be a deeper level of creativity that has not yet been tapped. He or she must have the faith of Saints that these deeper levels will be reached, sometimes by leaps but mostly in upward spirals. He or she must sense, feel, and visualize a light shining inside the body and mind that grows ever brighter as each new level is mastered; and only when that light completely engulfs one during a performance will he or she know the meaning of Joy: a joy beyond description, one that will be felt by all, and that Joy shall be called MAGIC.
Bill Evans had Magic. He was a Magician on the highest plane of consciousness. He knew all music; all 400 years. He chose to-develop and express his Magic through the art of jazz improvisation. He made a name for himself both as a soloist and with his trio. He was an interpreter of the American popular song. His improvisations were based on the Blues, Song Form, and Free Form structures. Historians and musicians have already acknowledged him as one of jazz’s great innovators, but it may be a while before they rank him as one of America’s great jazz composers.
The purpose of these analytical essays on Evans’ compositions, including his standard repertoire, is threefold:
to give the jazz musician and the enlightened public insight into the compositional process;
to inspire jazz musicians and the enlightened public to play and learn his music; and
to reveal the depth and richness of his compositions, for they are organic, and therefore complete. There is absolutely no need to change a note, chord, or rhythm in any of his works. Evans never wrote a tune, a melody, or a riff over someone else’s chord progression. He did not consider that the art of composing. Nor do I.
A composer worthy of the name conceives and hears ideas in his mind’s ear. These ideas will eventually be worked out on manuscript paper. A composer worthy of the name knows how to work these ideas on paper through a complete study of harmony, counterpoint, analysis, compositional forms, arranging, and orchestration. A composer worthy of the name is constantly developing and cultivating his sensitivity to the inner creative impulses so as to recognize them when they arrive. Then he/ she takes-makes!-the time to think, sketch, write, and experiment on manuscript paper so the ideas will find outer form. The composer worthy of the name then completes these sketches and experiments info full-blown compositions. A man I nominate worthy of the name COMPOSER, is Bill Evans.
THE EDUCATION OF THE JAZZ MUSICIAN by Sean Petrahn
The shelves of all the major book stores house at least one volume devoted to the evolution of jazz, this uniquely American folk phenomenon. I will not attempt, therefore, to create a curriculum that necessarily complements or parallels the importance and influence of the leading figures of each era in jazz found in the history books. Rather, I shall boil it down to two major talents.
The evolution of jazz from 1890 to 1980 can be summed up in the music of two pianists: Art Tatum and Bill Evans. They are the towering figures who will outlast, historically, the Jelly Roll Mortons, the Duke Ellingtons, the Bud Powells, and even the Lennie Tristanos.
That is to say, in the year 2080, only these two names need be mentioned in a jazz history course, because they were the synthesis of all that came before and all that will ever come after. Both men absorbed the innovations of not only the lesser piano talents (mentioned above), but also of the horn players: the Armstrongs, the Beiderbeckes, the Prezes, the Birds, the Zoots, the Getzs, and the Coltranes, those other interesting yet inevitably lower talents who forged the melodic paths of the jazz improvised line. Art Tatum and, more so, Bill Evans, also absorbed the music of the Western classical world, from Bach to Schoenberg, and any analysis of their styles must bring this to the fore.
What is it that makes jazz different from Western classical music? The answer is deceptively plain and simple. Jazz is almost totally improvised, while classical music is almost totally written down.
Classical music is a composer’s art: even the greatest geniuses and fastestworking composers in history-Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gioacchino Rossini, Franz Schubert, Frederic Chopin, Hector Berlioz, Richard Strauss-took hours, days, or weeks to compose even so much as one minute’s worth of music. And this is even true of those composers (Bach, Mozart, Chopin) who were known as great improvisers. Very little of their improvisations actually made it into their finished, published works; there was always some finishing or refining process that took place before their’-work went to the publisher.
Jazz, conversely, developed as an improviser’s art. Despite the fact that there have been some very clever jazz composers and arrangers who formulated, in advance, introductions, main themes, bridges, and codas-Morton, Ellington, Eddie Sauter, George Handy, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus spring immediately to mind-the principal interest in a jazz performance is not the pre-arranged formalities, any more than it is in a classical performance.
The central crux of the listening experience is the manner in which themes are interwoven or developed. In classical music, this development is written down, while in jazz, it is improvised. There is no editing when you improvise; there is constant editing when you compose. In jazz, then, it takes exactly one minute to create one minute’s worth of music … and therein lies the excitement, the danger, of playing jazz as opposed to playing classical music.
Despite this difference, there is ( aside from the fact that both utilize Wes tern musical forms and tonalities) one great similarity between the two musics. One learns to compose by imitating the best composers; one learns to improvise by imitating the best jazz improvisers. In other words, the quality of the present in music is always dependent, to some degree, on the quality of the past. It is implicit in this dictum that one learns how to p lay one’s instrument in a virtuoso manner, before one can imitate Art Tatum or Bill Evans. One must be able to read (play) the masterworks before one can learn composition. In this light what, then, is the proper curriculum for the jazz student? Should there be a curriculum at all? Well, yes and no.
Let’s take a brief comparative historical look at Western music.
Jazz began when classical music had exhausted itself, circa 1910 – 1913; and if we isolate the elements of music (melody, harmony, and rhythm), we can-by comparison, analogy, and metaphor-gain a clearer picture of what I’m saying.
The modal (1100 – 1600 A.D.), tonal (1600 -1900 A.D.), arrd atonal (1900 – present) periods in Western music are arbitrary divisions that define and classify the way composers think, and organize their music. Each period created a synthesis of the previous one, and therefore generated more complex structures and vocabularies. This does not mean that I adhere totally to the Kantian principle of evolution, i.e., that for each new stage or period there is a logical progression into the next, therefore, making it more complex. The motets of Gesualdo (modal period) were more complex than, say, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms (end of the tonal era).
I like to think of each stage in musical evolution not as “progress” but as an unfolding gradually, layer by layer, of the total musical universe. A synthesis does create new problems in form, but also new possibilities.
A composer living today has, indeed, much more to absorb and learn than one who lived in the 16th century, and therefore has greater demands placed on his artistic integrity in order to avoid rewriting the past. At the same time, however, he also has an enormous repertory from which to draw his inspiration. Each composer taps into a layer of the musical universe. The greater the genius, the clearer he translates his vision, and the greater demands he makes on the interpreter and listener.
The jazz improviser is limited by his technique. There is not one fraction of a second hesitation while improvising, otherwise he loses the “flow.” It is a myth to think that an improviser hears internally more than he can play. It’s always the other way around: you only create ideas that can be executed with precision; otherwise, you would stutter and stammer, hopelessly. NO mistakes are made when one improvises this way: mistakes mean that you are not hearing an idea internally. The hand is the medium of the message.
The secret is that you only play what you can conceive in your mind’s ear on the spur of the moment. Then improvising is easy, and technical development becomes the means to a greater end … and that greater end is ease, subtlety and eloquence in your playing.
The jazz curriculum is divided into three stages:
THE BLUES FORM
THE SONG FORM
THE FREE FORM
Each stage parallels the classifications mentioned above-modal, tonal, and atonal-with regard to the evolution of classkal-music. The Blues Form is modal, the Song Form is tonal, and the Free Form is atonal. This may appear an oversimplification, but categories and labels are necessary_when one decides to teach such a vast area of musical thought. I like to think of each stage as paralleling the history of the human race, from instinctive to-intellectual to the stage yet to come, intuitive.
The student of jazz becomes reacquainted with this long process through the Blues Form (Instinctive), i.e. playing from the “gut” or solar plexus center. The Song Form engages the Intellect. This stage is more concerned with structure, key relationships, and harmony. The study of the Free Form (Intuitive) stage always comes last.
The student, at this stage, should be a master improviser, his or her knowledge of the past now sunken into the unconscious mind, its function slightly analogous to a main-frame computer that stores billions of bits of information about a subject and its related topics (and subtopics, and subdivisions of subtopics).
The student must then go through this experience, or rather process, from instinct to intellect to intuition, of improvising at each stage in the curriculum. For example, 1) he must try to improvise on the very basic blues structure-twelve bars, three scales, three chords-and in 4/ 4 meter, totally by instinct, i.e., “feeling his way through,” playing and making up melodies that sound good to him; 2) he must consciously learn and memorize the modes that can be applied to this basic twelve-bar structure, and on which he can experiment. This stage (and every stage) must be accompanied by listening to, and singing along with, the recordings of the improvisers playing the blues.
This is eartraining and must also include the singing of the modes. 3) He must then “feel” and “know” that what was learned and memorized in Step 2 is second nature and fully absorbed by the unconscious. (I agree with Carl Jung that the unconscious mind is just as active, and probably more so than the conscious mind, and therefore continually digesting the information and readying it for use by the intuitive mind.) It is, in fact, in the unconscious mind that we develop understanding and wisdom. The sense or feeling of “second nature” cannot be defined, yet one knows it when it “arrives.”
And you know it through your playing. At the intuitive level of improvising, one has the feeling that one is NOT doing the playing; that someone else has taken over your mind, and is using YOUR hands to make music.
Bill Evans Master Class by Dave Frank
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Portrait in Jazz
00:00 – Come Rain or Come Shine (1959) (Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer) 03:21 – Autumn Leaves (1959) (Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert, Johnny Mercer) 09:20 – Witchcraft (1959) (Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh) 13:55 – When I Fall in Love (1959) (Victor Young, Edward Heyman) 18:50 – Peri’s Scope (1959) (Bill Evans)) 22:06 – What Is This Thing Called Love? (1959) (Cole Porter) 26:41 – Spring Is Here (1959) (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart) 31:41 – Someday My Prince Will Come (1959) (Frank Churchill, Larry Morey) 36:44 – Blue in Green (1959) (Miles Davis, Bill Evans)
Eight months after his successful collaboration with Miles Davis on the album Kind of Blue, Evans recorded Portrait in Jazz with a new group (the Bill Evans Trio) that helped change the direction of modern jazz.
Most noticeably, LaFaro’s bass is promoted from a mere accompanying instrument to one of almost equal status to the piano (though not to the extent that it would be on later albums such as Sunday at the Village Vanguard). It is one of Evans’ more up-tempo and swinging albums (the presence of several ballads notwithstanding).
Reviewing it for Allmusic, music critic Scott Yanow wrote of the album: “… the influential interpretations were far from routine or predictable at the time. LaFaro and Motian were nearly equal partners with the pianist in the ensembles… A gem.” Danny Eccleston of Mojo wrote: “Portrait In Jazz – Evans’ fifth record as a band leader – gets you every which way. At its least great, it is merely brilliant… But what makes Evans extra-extra-special is the way his playing drags you in and shares the vulnerability at its core. Oh, the humanity!”
Born August 16, 1929, in Plainfield, NJ Died September 15, 1980, in New York, NY
William John Evans (August 16, 1929 – September 15, 1980) was an American jazz pianist and composer who mostly played in trios. His use of impressionist harmony, inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, block chords, and trademark rhythmically independent, “singing” melodic lines continue to influence jazz pianists today.
Bill Evans was born in Plainfield, New Jersey on August 16, 1929 and began his music studies at age 6. Classically trained on piano; he also studied flute and violin as a child. He graduated with a degree in piano performance and teaching from Southeastern Louisiana College (now University) in 1950, and studied composition at Mannes College of Music in New York. After a stint in the Army, he worked in local dance bands, and with clarenetist Tony Scott, Chicago-area singer Lucy Reed and guitarist Mundell Lowe, who brought the young pianist to the attention of producer Orrin Keepnews at Riverside Records.
Evans’ first album was New Jazz Conceptions in 1956, which featured the first recording of his most loved composition, “Waltz for Debby”. It’s follow-up, Everybody Digs Bill Evans was not recorded for another two years; the always shy and self- deprecating pianist claiming he “had nothing new to say.” He gradually got noticed in the NYC jazz scene, for his original piano sound and fluid ideas, when in 1958, Miles Davis asked him to join his group (which also featured John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley) He stayed for nearly a year, touring and recording, and subsequently playing on the all-time classic Kind of Bluealbum — as well as composing “Blue in Green”, now a jazz standard. His work with Miles helped solidify Bill’s reputation, and in 1959, Evans founded his most innovative trio with the now-legendary bassist Scott LaFaro and with Paul Motian on drums. The trio concept of equal interplay among the musicians was virtually pioneered by Evans, and these albums remain the most popular in his extensive catalog. They did two studio albums together in addition to the famous ‘live” sessions at NYC’s Village Vanguard in 1961. LaFaro’s tragic death in a car accident a few weeks after the Vanguard engagement — an event which personally devastated Bill — sent the pianist into seclusion for a time, after which he returned to the trio format later in 1962, with Motian again, and Chuck Israels on bass.
His 1963 Conversations With Myself album , in which he double and triple-tracked his piano, won him the first of many Grammy® awards and the following year he first toured overseas, playing to packed houses from Paris to Tokyo, now solidifying a worldwide reputation. The great bassist Eddie Gomez began a fruitful eleven year tenure with Bill in 1966, in various trios with drummers Marty Morell, Philly Joe Jones, Jack DeJohnette and others — contributing to some of the most acclaimed club appearances and albums in Evans’s career. His recorded output was considerable — (for Riverside, Verve, Columbia, Fantasy and Warner Bros) over the years, and he also did sessions (especially early on) with some of the top names in jazz. Musicians like Charles Mingus, Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Oliver Nelson, Jim Hall, George Russell, Shelley Manne, Toots Theielmans, Kai Winding /J.J. Johnson, Hal McKusick and others all featured Evans. In the seventies, he recorded extensively– primarily trio and solo piano now and then, but also including several quintet albums under his own name as well two memorable dates with singer Tony Bennett.
His last trio was formed in 1978, featuring the incomparably sensitive Marc Johnson on bass and drummer Joe LaBarbera, which rejuvenated the often-ailing pianist, who was elated with his new line-up, calling it “the most closely related” to his first trio (with LaFaro and Motian). He suffered yet more family problems and upheavals in his personal life, (often due to bouts with narcotics addiction) and yet brought a new dynamic musical vitality, a surer confidence, fresh energy and even more aggressive interplay to the trio’s repertoire. Evans’ health was deteriorating, however, though he insisted on working until he finally had to cancel midweek during an engagement at Fat Tuesday’s in New York. A few days later, he had to be taken to Mount Sinai Hospital on September 15, 1980, where he died from a bleeding ulcer, cirrhosis of the liver and bronchial pneumonia . He is buried next to his beloved brother Harry, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
While Evans was open to new musical approaches that would not compromise his musical and artistic vision — such as his occasional use of electric piano, and his brief associations with avant-garde composer George Russell — he always insisted on the purity of the song structure and the noble history of the jazz tradition. It was a point the highly articulate Evans was quite forthcoming about in the various interviews he gave throughout his career. Consistently true to his own pianistic standards, he continued to enhance his own singular vision of music until the very end.
In his short life, Bill Evans was a prolific and profoundly creative artist and a genuinely compassionate and gentle man, often in the face of his recurring health problems and his restless nature. His rich legacy remains undiminished, and his compositions have enjoyed rediscovery by jazz players and even some classical musicians. Even twenty-five years after his passing, Bill Evans’ music continues to influence musicians and composers everywhere and all those who have been deeply touched by his expressive genius and sensitive, lyrical artistry.