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Bill Evans Biography

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Birth Name: William John Evans
Born: 1929/08/16
Birth Place: Plainfield, New Jersey, U.S.
Died: 1980/09/15
Genres: Jazz, Modal Jazz, Third Stream, Cool Jazz, Post Bop

William John Evans was born on August 16, 1929 in Plainfield, New Jersey, and was a jazz pianist and composer. Evans is known for his inventive interpretation of traditional jazz and for his harmonies. Evans was opposed to the new jazz movements of his time, such as jazz fusion and free jazz, and was more of a traditional jazz musician who had a unique way of expressing his perceptions of jazz. Evans began playing the piano when he was 6 years old and focused primarily on classical pieces. By the age of 7, Evans was playing the violin, flute, and piccolo, all of which he mastered with proficiency. Around the age of 12, Evans was exposed to jazz music and got his first professional break when he stood in as the pianist in Buddy Valentino's rehearsal band.

After graduating high school, Evans joined the army for three years. Upon being discharged in 1954, he relocated to New York City. Once settled there Evans continued his classical training and enrolled in graduate school, which he followed by working for bandleader George Russell.

Russell and Evans began to record for RCA Victor with trumpeter Art Farmer, guitarist Barry Galbraith, and bassist Milt Hinton. The ensemble took a year to record their album with Evans performing a solo on the track, “Concerto for Billy the Kid.”

Evans followed with his debut album, “New Jazz Conceptions,” in 1956. The album met with critical success and generated positive responses from fans and critics alike, which led to interest in Evans from Riverside Records. Three years later, after Evans had made a name for himself in jazz circles, he joined the Miles Davis's sextet.

In 1959 Evans set out on his own, leaving the Miles Davis band and embarking on a new outfit with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. The trio began to tour immediately and released their debut album, “Portraits of Jazz” that same year. In 1961 shortly after releasing the critically acclaimed “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” and “Waltz for Debby,” LaFaro died in a car accident. LaFaro's death sent Evans into a deep seclusion. He reemerged a year later with a new trio, featuring bassist Chuck Israels.

1962 saw the albums “Moon Beams” and “How My Heart Sings!” released by the trio. A year later saw the unconventional solo album, “Conversations with Myself,” from Evans. The album was met with warm responses and garnered Evans his first Grammy Award.

1966 saw the meeting of bassist Eddie Gomez and Evans, whom he developed an 11 year working relationship with. A series of albums followed, including “Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival” in 1968 which earned Evans his second Grammy Award, “Alone” in 1968 garnered another Grammy Award and “The Bill Evans Album” in 1971 picked up two more Grammy Awards.

As the 1970s emerged, Evans collaborated with a number of artists, including Tony Bennett on, “The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album” in 1975 and “Together Again” in 1977. 1974 brought the album, “But Beautiful,” which featured a collaboration with saxophonist Stan Getz. 1979 marked Evans' last studio album, “We Will Meet Again,” a homage to his brother who committed suicide. The album and song, “I Will Say Goodbye” won a Grammy Award.

Despite his success as a jazz artist, Evans struggled with an ongoing heroin addiction, and later cocaine abuse, for the majority of his career, in addition to bouts of depression. As a result, Evans' creative and musical output was unstable, inconsistent, and often erratic. On September 15, 1980, Evans was hospitalized in New York City after being unable to get out of bed for several days. He died that afternoon from a peptic ulcer, cirrhosis of the liver and untreated hepatitis. He was 51. Throughout the course of his career Evans amassed 31 Grammy Award nominations and was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.