Bill Evans and the Secrets of Jazz

If you’re up for a bit of a lecture, this is a very articulate expression of many important points about jazz.

First, that jazz is about “freedom with responsibility” – a profound openness to the passing moment, but also a sense of duty to those around you. Second, that jazz requires what the Daoists call wuwei, effortless action, which is achieved when great discipline and rigor is let go. Third, that the “avant-garde” in jazz, though healthy in its way, contains a danger: namely, mistaking self-expression at any cost for communication. Evans wonderfully compares certain forms of jazz to a crying baby: definitely expressive, but completely inarticulate.

For the past couple weeks I’ve been listening off and on to his great recordings made at the Village Vanguard in 1961. Bill Evans hasn’t always appealed to me, though “Blue in Green” off Kind of Blue has always been my favorite track. But lately I’ve been enchanted by his great trio (with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian). He’s so introspective, so inward, and yet it never doesn’t communicate outward. It’s like he’s unburdening secret after secret, late at night, after it doesn’t matter anymore. I can definitely understand why someone might dismiss his playing as too fragile, too much in the mode of reverie, too quiet, too misty. But it would be a mistake to do so. It’s not too anything. He says he likes Bach best of the classical composers. I do too. But his sensibility reminds me more of Chopin and Debussy.

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2 Responses to Bill Evans and the Secrets of Jazz

  1. Mary says:

    i couldn’t see the secrets of jazz because the computer i was on doesn’t have an adobe flashplayer, so don’t worry, it’s still a secret. You should find the part of the movie Duck Soup with the Marx brothers where they’re singing we’ve gone to war.

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