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#1881326 - 04/17/12 05:33 PM Bill Evans Documentary
venice1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/11
Posts: 21
Hi all,

Never posted before but I think this 1966 documentary, "The Universal Mind of Bill Evans," is a worthy mention and some will definitely enjoy it. It was recently posted on the following website and can be viewed for free:

http://www.openculture.com/2012/04/the_u..._play_jazz.html

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#1881472 - 04/17/12 10:22 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
Scott Prell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/04
Posts: 101
Loc: Diamond Bar, CA
That was fantastic. Thanks for the link!
_________________________
"Amateurs practice until they get a piece right. Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong."

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#1881495 - 04/17/12 11:13 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
venice1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/11
Posts: 21
You're welcome Scott. As a beginner, I found a number of his thoughts concerning the relationship between jazz and classical very interesting, such as he stated near the 6:49 mark of the documentary:

"... but I think it's more of a revival in a different form of what went on in classical music before. In other words, in the 17th Century there was a great deal of improvisation in classical music..."

I was also impressed by his assertion that simplicity and structure were key elements in his development and later he stresses that it took much time and labor before he was able to achieve a certain level of play as he wasn't as talented as others, something on the scale of 20 years from when he first started playing at age 6.

Anyway, I wish there more exchanges/interviews such as this one.



Edited by venice1 (04/18/12 12:21 AM)

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#1881638 - 04/18/12 08:55 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2938
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
Look up Bill Evans will Marian Mc Partland on NPR Jazz. He will walk you you his thought process when playing something like 'the touch of your lips' its mind blowing. McPartland, who is a fantastic pianist is caught saying "wow" while Bill demonstrates.
Later, she joins him for a duet.

Also take a look at Dave Frank's Masterclass on Bill Evans, he will walk you through some of the technique Bill might have used on a tune like 'A time for love'.

Finally, there are books for beginners that will get you playing some of bills composition, played in his style. Look at Andy Laverne's book of Bill Evans' tune. Beautifully arranged.

++

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#1881675 - 04/18/12 10:23 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
venice1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/11
Posts: 21
Thanks for the encouragement, suggestions and resources knotty. I do have a piano teacher and will inquire about possibly incorporating any of the above if appropriate for the time being. The short minuet I'm currently working on is quite a challenge as it is.

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#1882173 - 04/19/12 06:09 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Originally Posted By: venice1


I was also impressed by his assertion that simplicity and structure were key elements in his development and later he stresses that it took much time and labor before he was able to achieve a certain level of play as he wasn't as talented as others, something on the scale of 20 years from when he first started playing at age 6.

Anyway, I wish there more exchanges/interviews such as this one.



Many thanks venice for joining this forum and for posting this video.
It was one of the best videos I've ever watched.
What an intelligent, analytical and humble gentleman.

Some of the key points for me were:

1. Evans' approach to music was a process of analysis followed by intuition. The structure of this process of improv is the mastering of a thing explicitly prescribed in order to burn it into the subconscious for later use.

2. Most don't understand the immensity of the problem so they either quit or they rush.

3. Do not approximate the final product. Be very real, clear, analytical at every level, however elementary your level.

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#1882222 - 04/19/12 08:36 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
chrisbell Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1310
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
A Bill Evans video tip. This is imo some of Bill's best playing, the interplay between them is marvellous.
_________________________
I never play anything the same way once.

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#1882439 - 04/19/12 03:04 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: custard apple]
venice1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/11
Posts: 21
Certainly custard and you're welcome. So far I've enjoyed reading the vast amount of posts but have been hesitant to jump into the fray as many of the posts on this site are informative and instructive. In fact, I can't keep up with a good percentage of them.

As far as Mr. Evans is concerned, it's too bad he wasn't with us longer but what he left us is more than most will ever contribute. Your, "What an intelligent, analytical and humble gentleman" can also be applied to his NPR interview with Marian McPartland referred to by knotty.

It will take me a few years to grasp what he and others truly say about piano playing and music in general, but I really expect it to be a long memorable journey. The three key points you stated about the video are on the money. Trying to apply them hopefully won't be too daunting of a task.


Edited by venice1 (04/19/12 03:06 PM)

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#1882821 - 04/20/12 06:11 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: chrisbell]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Originally Posted By: chrisbell
A Bill Evans video tip. This is imo some of Bill's best playing, the interplay between them is marvellous.


Thanks for this Chris, I really liked Elsa, I didn't know this beautiful tune before. The trio seemed to have such a great understanding of each other's rhythm.

Was Bill totally self-taught in jazz ?

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#1882826 - 04/20/12 06:24 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
chrisbell Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1310
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Not to be one to perpetrate any myths smile
I recommend reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/Bill-Evans-How-Heart-Sings/dp/0300097271



Edited by chrisbell (04/20/12 06:29 AM)
_________________________
I never play anything the same way once.

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#1882859 - 04/20/12 07:52 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: chrisbell]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
I will definitely order this tomorrow.

I'm on holidays in May and have lots of time to read.

I see from the Amazon sampler that the author interviewed Art Farmer, that's very cool as Art was never scared to give his opinion.
Also the last chapter is on Letter to Evan, I played Andy LaVerne's beautiful arrangement of this.

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#1883304 - 04/20/12 10:52 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: chrisbell]
Scott Prell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/04
Posts: 101
Loc: Diamond Bar, CA
Thanks for the vid, ChrisBell. I watched it streaight through -- felt like I was in a beloved jazz club!
_________________________
"Amateurs practice until they get a piece right. Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong."

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#1883441 - 04/21/12 04:54 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
chrisbell Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1310
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Just happy to pass it forward.
Jazz 625 was a unique TV-series, you can find T Monk and many others on the show.
_________________________
I never play anything the same way once.

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#1889143 - 04/30/12 11:47 PM Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Venice1

Before this thread, and therefore that wonderful interview, gets relegated to the "second browsing page" and beyond, I would like to bump it back up to the top.

I had almost forgotten how erudite Steve Allen was - what elegant expression! And the brief look into the mind of the then-young Bill Evans is absolutely priceless!

Thank you,
Ed
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1889207 - 05/01/12 03:15 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: LoPresti]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Venice1

Before this thread, and therefore that wonderful interview, gets relegated to the "second browsing page" and beyond, I would like to bump it back up to the top.

I had almost forgotten how erudite Steve Allen was - what elegant expression! And the brief look into the mind of the then-young Bill Evans is absolutely priceless!

Thank you,
Ed

Steve Allen was one of my favorite people. He was fearless about trying almost anything. I think the term "Renaissance man" is overused, but Allen certainly was one!
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1889295 - 05/01/12 08:35 AM Bill Evans Documentary [Re: Gary D.]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
. . . . . I had almost forgotten how erudite Steve Allen was - what elegant expression!

Steve Allen was one of my favorite people. He was fearless about trying almost anything. I think the term "Renaissance man" is overused, but Allen certainly was one!

Words to live by, Gary!
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1890921 - 05/04/12 08:12 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: LoPresti]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Venice1

Before this thread, and therefore that wonderful interview, gets relegated to the "second browsing page" and beyond, I would like to bump it back up to the top.



I don't want to see this Bill Evans thread die either.

http://youtu.be/0lZRf0p8Bmk

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#1891056 - 05/04/12 11:53 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 358
Revealing interview from 1965 (sorry, only text):
http://users.deltatre.net/cdm/Sounds/BillEvans/Interview.html

Here's a nice radio interview from 1980:
http://www.stevehillis.com/MP3s/Bill%20Evans%20Interview.mp3

Enjoy!


Edited by erichlof (05/04/12 12:37 PM)

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#1892076 - 05/06/12 05:29 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: erichlof]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
I enjoyed both interviews a lot.

1965:
1. Interesting that Bill credited his strong swing to Oscar Peterson's influence
2. I really believe him when he said his 1965 trio never rehearsed. To me, that trio had a telepathic sense of each other's rhythm

1980
1. What did Bill mean when he said at 3:12 that "there was a hierarchy in the changes, some changes were more important than others" ?
2. Interesting that Bill didn't learn by ear. He humbly admitted that he had to learn "stone by stone, layer by layer".
3. Bill didn't transcribe but rather would find the principle to apply with each recording.
4. Reinforces Coltrane's work ethic. When Coltrane started with Miles Davis', Coltrane kept on "fumbling" on stage.

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#1892640 - 05/07/12 12:55 AM Bill Evans Documentary [Re: custard apple]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: custard apple
I enjoyed both interviews a lot. . . . .
What did Bill mean when he said at 3:12 that "there was a hierarchy in the changes, some changes were more important than others" ?

We could sort of guess, based on the fact that Evans was describing having the bass player call to him the chord changes, that Bill learned which changes were essential, and which could be ignored.

For example, one can play through SUMMERTIME acceptably with only four different chords. Those would be the most important in Bill's "hierarchy". Many of us are going to use substitutes and extensions, bringing our number of chords up to 10 or 12 or maybe even more, but those "extra" chords are incidental colors, or "passing harmonies", and would be considered lower in that hierarchy.

That's my guess.
Ed

_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1892684 - 05/07/12 03:55 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: LoPresti]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
OK Ed. So for the ii V I progression, if I were most likely to use a sub on the V, does that mean that ii and I are more important than the V ?

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#1892805 - 05/07/12 09:47 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2938
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
i went to see a group last Sunday.
Soprano - bass - drums + piano.
The first 3 played together all the time, but the piano was filling in for the first time. My friend joe Holt for those who know him.

The Soprano would be calling random tunes, in apparently random keys. In addition, they'd be switching keys all the time in the middle of a tune. Some tunes I knew, some I recognized, and some I didn't know.

Seeing how the pianist would just seem to know it all, had intro for all of it, and just overall mess with the tune a lot, I asked him "How did you memorize all those tunes??"
And he said, "I didn't really memorize anything per se.", Then added "when you think about it, there are really only 3 kinds of chords. The release, the tension, and the way to get to the tension.". That's it, that's the basic structure I know about the tune.

Perhaps that is how Bill Evans would think of the structure of the tune also. Listen to the McPartland interview. He shows you how he sets up a basic Cmaj over a pedal point, and then that gives him all he needs to gravitate over that basic structure.

It's really interesting.

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#1892857 - 05/07/12 11:24 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: custard apple]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: custard apple
OK Ed. So for the ii V I progression, if I were most likely to use a sub on the V, does that mean that ii and I are more important than the V ?

Trying to second guess what someone like Bill Evans might think is akin to stepping out on very thin ice!

First of all, let's recall that, in the situation about which Evans is speaking, he is feeling his way into jazz. I BELIEVE that any of the traditional cadences, like our ii - V7 - I, he would think of as HIGH in his hierarchy, with each chord of high importance. Moving then to your question of substitutions, the ii7 is important, as is the substitute or altered V7, and equally the I, with color tones or extensions.
_________________________
In music, everything one does correctly helps everything else.

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#1894194 - 05/09/12 01:47 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
venice1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/11
Posts: 21
I've enjoyed the comments and links and hopefully Bill Evans will be continuously and further explored on this site as it seems his efforts and recorded works still have much to offer. Thanks also to chrisbell for recommending the biography, "How My Heart Sings" as I picked up a copy and am slowly digesting it. I found the following interesting written near the beginning of Chapter Four: Sideman -

"... and Evans retired somewhat from the live scene. After 'New Jazz Conceptions' he spent endless hours sight-reading Bach as an aid to developing tone control and technique.
Near the end of his life Evans told Jim Aikin: "Bach changed my hand approach to playing the piano. I used to use a lot of finger technique when I was younger, and I changed over to a weight technique. Actually, if you play Bach and the voices sing at all, and sustain the way they should, you can't really play it with the wrong approach. It's going to straighten you out in a hurry if you have a concept of what it should sound like."

As a beginner, I don't know if I have a valid thought on what he says but maybe his point is something to consider. What, how and when I should incorporate Bach into my playing schedule is an entirely different matter if it is appropriate.


Edited by venice1 (05/09/12 01:53 PM)

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#1894223 - 05/09/12 02:47 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
chrisbell Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1310
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Originally Posted By: venice1
As a beginner, I don't know if I have a valid thought on what he says but maybe his point is something to consider. What, how and when I should incorporate Bach into my playing schedule is an entirely different matter if it is appropriate.
It's a very valid point.
Glad you're enjoying the book.
_________________________
I never play anything the same way once.

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#1894321 - 05/09/12 06:00 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: chrisbell]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
I'm looking forward to starting the book too. I didn't know Bill retired from the live scene, although I knew he had always wanted the time to explore alone, do solo and to compose.

What does a weight technique mean ?

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#1894345 - 05/09/12 06:44 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: custard apple]
chrisbell Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1310
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
Originally Posted By: custard apple

What does a weight technique mean ?
Well, a simple answer is let the arms be heavy and relaxed, the hands sturdy but not tense. It's the weight of the arm that keeps the key down.

I know i know, it's much more complicated writing about rather than showing it. smile
_________________________
I never play anything the same way once.

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#1894347 - 05/09/12 06:47 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: chrisbell]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Thanks for that clear explanation Chris.
Makes me want to get back into WTC1.

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#1894499 - 05/10/12 12:26 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 358
Hi all,
Check out his right hand 'weight' technique. You can see it in the closeups:



Also, is it me, or does he rarely, if ever, cross the thumb under any other fingers of his right hand? Or for that matter, cross any fingers over the thumb?
Growing up playing classical, I learned the crossing technique early on for scales and arpeggios and such. And although Bill must have learned this way in his childhood years too, it seems he has deviated from that school of playing, and found his own technique.

It appears to me he is using a 'planing' technique where higher notes are regulated to fingers 3,4, and 5, and lower notes are played with thumb and 2 only. It's like he locks his wrist position in place and just moves laterally left and right as the jazz line dictates, while avoiding any crossings.

Here's another look:



Anybody else seeing this?

-Erich

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#1894589 - 05/10/12 05:03 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: erichlof]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Originally Posted By: erichlof
Hi all,
Check out his right hand 'weight' technique. You can see it in the closeups:



-Erich


Thank you Erich for the interesting video.
I don't know if I'm imagining it but it seems to me that his wrist seems high at first and then drops more after 3 min. So is the heavy arm technique around the 4 min mark ?

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#1894628 - 05/10/12 07:52 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: knotty]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Originally Posted By: knotty
i went to see a group last Sunday.
Soprano - bass - drums + piano.
The first 3 played together all the time, but the piano was filling in for the first time. My friend joe Holt for those who know him.

The Soprano would be calling random tunes, in apparently random keys. In addition, they'd be switching keys all the time in the middle of a tune. Some tunes I knew, some I recognized, and some I didn't know.

Seeing how the pianist would just seem to know it all, had intro for all of it, and just overall mess with the tune a lot, I asked him "How did you memorize all those tunes??"
And he said, "I didn't really memorize anything per se.", Then added "when you think about it, there are really only 3 kinds of chords. The release, the tension, and the way to get to the tension.". That's it, that's the basic structure I know about the tune.

Perhaps that is how Bill Evans would think of the structure of the tune also. Listen to the McPartland interview. He shows you how he sets up a basic Cmaj over a pedal point, and then that gives him all he needs to gravitate over that basic structure.

It's really interesting.


I've watched this a few times and I'm still not sure whether I grasp the profundity of what Bill is saying.
So if you take There is No Greater Love, would you say there are really only 2 chords Bb maj 7 and G min 6, and the pedal point is G ?

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#1894657 - 05/10/12 09:03 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 358
Hi Custard Apple,
Yes, at 4:20 is where I see it up close. Like Chris said earlier, the wrist is relaxed and you use the weight of the arm as a whole to 'throw' the weight at the keyboard. I don't really use this technique myself, but that's how I see it being used anyway.

Bill Evans had large, 'weighty' hands and fingers too, so this technique is a no-brainer for him. Now for a person with skinny, small hands, the older classic finger technique might work better for that individual.

It is also interesting to note that Bill plays 'air'-time with his comping left hand while the keys are being held down. His wrist is keeping some kind of rhythm or time even though he might be playing a whole note chord!


Edited by erichlof (05/10/12 09:05 AM)

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#1894664 - 05/10/12 09:38 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2938
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
Cus,

I don't know that I get that either. But if we look at the A section of no greater love, I would say in Bb, the 2 chords are Bb and C7.
And how you move from Bb to C7 is chromatically or with substitutions of.
Bb - A7 / Eb7 - Ab7 / D7 - G7 - C7
So if you only take the tritone subs that's convenient, it's a circle of 4th to go to C7, or a chromatic bass down. As to which of the 2 tritones to use, you simply choose the one that's diatonic. So you could see No greater love in Bb as going Bbmaj7 Eb7 D7 G7 C7 then back to Bbmaj7 with a 25 (c-7 | f7) before

The bridge goes to the relative minor, that's an easy one, from D7 to G-6

When you think of it this way, it's not hard to memorize. And in fact, there's no real need to memorize it at all.

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#1894679 - 05/10/12 10:16 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 358
Hi again,
About the structure question, I have often thought a lot about this myself after I heard Bill try to explain it to Marian McPartland. By the way, don't feel bad, because I don't think she 'get's it' either! But due to time restraints, she has to keep the show moving along to the next segment. I feel that she would have liked to delve deeper into this subject with him if it was just the two of them talking without an audience.

Knotty's post earlier about his pianist friend who said "there are only 3 chords - tension, release, and a way to get to the tension" makes sense in this context of what Bill is trying to say, but only so far (more on that later). This is similar to Schenkerian analysis in the classical world. Heinrich Schenker said basically you can boil all tonal music down to I-V7-I, or I-IV-V7-I. So, in the key of C, we would boil everything down from a Beethoven symphony to a Gershwin tune to a Mozart C Piano Sonata to basically a C chord, G chord, and back to C chord. Or maybe C-F-G7-C. Like knotty's pianist friend was saying: Release (or tonic I chord), a way to get to the tension (IV chord), tension (V7 chord), release (resolve back to the I chord).

Almost all art follows this formula. Think about a movie or play: We have intro (Release, no tension yet), development (a way to get to the tension), crisis, conflict or climax (tension has built up all the way) and finally release or conflict resolution - end credits roll so you can head out of the theater. laugh

However, all this being said, I think it is a little oversimplified to assume that this is what Bill Evans is talking about when he says "structure". I think that we have to add a little more harmonies to the basic boiling down version to get at what Bill is referring to.

So, in your example of "There is No Greater Love", Schenker might say, "Oh this is just I-vi-V7-I." But I think this is an oversimplification for our purposes. You could say that I-vi-V7-I about a lot of tunes, even Bach's entire Goldberg Variations. I think what Bill is getting at is that he asks himself "What chords make this tune "There is No Greater Love" and not "Heart and Soul"? What is its essence? What can you strip away and have a stripped-down but still recognizable "There is No Greater Love"?

If we strip away the passing or colorful chords, what are we left with? Well, you have to start the song somewhere, and this one starts with the release chord or I. So we have: (each | is a barline)
(singing pick-up) "there is no
A section:
|I | something | something | VI7 |
| II7 | II7 | V7 | V7 |
| I | something | something | VI7 |
| II7 | V7 | I | something |
bridge:
|something | vi |something | vi |
|something | vi |II7 | V7 |
A section:
|I | something | something | VI7 |
II7 | V7 | I | something |

The "something" chords are chords that I feel you can safely omit or mess around with and still be left with the essence of what makes this tune "There is No Greater Love" and not some other random tune. Also, when I say "V7", that will of course be replaced by the more jazzier "ii7-V7".

I think it is like being a caterpillar on a leaf of a tree. He can only see the leaves around him and it is easy to get lost in a sea of green leaves. But a human can step back away from the tree and see the trunk and big branches and understand the basic structure of the tree and how each of those precious leaves got there and where they are coming from.

I don't mean to get all philosophical, but I think that Bill is stepping back away from the tune and looking at the basic trunk and big branches of the song. That way he can alter the "leaves" and not get lost! You can replace all the leaves ("something" chords) with chords of your choosing. This is part of what makes a pianist unique. But Bill is saying, "you must understand where everything is coming from - the basic structure or building blocks of the song - only then can you safely adorn or deviate from (the "leaf" chords) without fear of deviating from the essence of what makes that tune itself and not something else".

Sorry for the longish post, but I find anything Bill Evans said worth discussing and pondering. Hope this helps!

-Erich

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#1894694 - 05/10/12 10:34 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 358
Knotty,
I'm sure that what your pianist friend has in is head is something like the boiled-down version I posted above. Yes, it is much easier to build a catalog of songs this way, rather than trying to remember all the "leaf" chords one after the other.

Looking at the final 8 bars of that tune,
release (bar 1), a way to get to the tension (2nd, 3rd, and 4th bars), tension (bars 5 and 6), release (bar 7).

Or another way of looking at it:
I VI
II V,
I VI
ii-V I.
.. vi .. vi,
.. vi II-V.
I VI
ii-V I.

Notice the use of commas and periods - it almost becomes a big paragraph if you speed it up and play the boiled-down structure in your mind quickly. Much easier to memorize something like this than to try and go, "now what was it, Bb69 Eb7 Ab7 G7 C7 Dm7-G7 Cm7 F7... ARGH!!

Thanks knotty for your post on the tension-release topics - I'm going to use this technique myself.

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#1894722 - 05/10/12 11:33 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2938
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
you're welcome.

Here are 2 interesting short clips from Don Grusin:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRZTLD2Yn74
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2Xew9Ke6A0

If you watch the full thing, he expands on how he tries random way to get from one chord to the next. The first clip is him demonstrating on an F blues.

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#1894728 - 05/10/12 11:40 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
venice1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/11
Posts: 21
Hi Erich,

Your input above is well worth contemplating and appreciated. Also enjoyed the analogies but wonder what's going to happen to the caterpillar... perhaps an inspiration for a new composition? Thanks.


Edited by venice1 (05/10/12 11:41 AM)

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#1894739 - 05/10/12 11:52 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 358
Ha ha, yes the poor caterpillar can get lost, BUT... he is close enough to the action to see the details that everyone else might overlook!
That, and he gets to feast on the details! Food for thought? smile

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#1895150 - 05/11/12 04:27 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Hey Knotty and Erich
Many thanks for your detailed responses. I'm very excited as I think you two have cracked it for me. I memorise one standard per month, during which time I forget all previous standards.
For my next standard, I'm going to design the chords your way using the key chords method, and then I'll test whether I remember it one month out, 2 months out.
What standard for a beginner lends itself well to this approach ?

Erich
I had also wondered what Bill meant by architecture. I think you are right about building blocks.

Knotty
For the 4 note exercise in your Don Grusin video, should I practise this as 4 notes in the LH, since I am still doing single note RH melodies ?

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#1895207 - 05/11/12 07:59 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2938
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
Cus,

>>For my next standard, I'm going to design the chords your way using the key chords method, and then I'll test whether I remember it one month out, 2 months out.
This is a trick question. The fact that you expect to "remember it" in 2 months already is setting yourself up for failure. However, basic theory and analysis will go a long way.

Ultimately, this is an ear exercise. You train your ear to memorize the melody, and you use your ear to memorize the harmony under it, which is nothing but another melodic layer.
The more you do it, the more it happens. At first C-7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7 is just that. But then, that whole block never needs to be memorized ever. That's because you see it so much in all standards.
Look at this progression next
F maj7 | D7 | G-7 | C7
You got the G-7 C7 alright. Your ear already knows when the tunes comes back home. But what about that D7?
You might be surprised and have to memorize the D7 at first, but quickly, this will just be internalized just as much.
And so on.
Most tunes move through keys and progressions in ways that become easy to hear.

Where this becomes much more problematic is on non-traditional harmony. Those of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter or Pat Metheny. But even those difficult tunes use combinations of tricky changes and standard ones.

So start with all the standards. Better yet, start with all the standards that everyone is "expected" to know.

If you want to boost the process, learn your standards in 3 or 4 keys. By the time you learn All the Things you are in the 3rd key, the analytical part of the brain takes over.

I personally use a google spreadsheets of all the tunes I know. And I keep it up to date. If you're interested, I can share and you can copy it. I can also gather a list of 10 "most wanted" tunes for you. A good place to start memorizing.

Warning, this is a big time hog.

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#1895223 - 05/11/12 08:18 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: knotty]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
mmm are you saying Knotty that I don't have to purposely try to remember standards ?
Of course I'm interested in your spreadsheet. Thanks !


Edited by custard apple (05/11/12 08:49 AM)

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#1895246 - 05/11/12 09:01 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2938
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
Yes, I think you should try to memorize them, but only when your ear gets to a certain point will you actually be able to recall them.


I shared the spreadsheet.


Edited by knotty (05/11/12 09:02 AM)

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#1895306 - 05/11/12 11:09 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: knotty]
venice1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/11
Posts: 21
Hi knotty,

Originally Posted By: knotty
I personally use a google spreadsheets of all the tunes I know. And I keep it up to date. If you're interested, I can share and you can copy it. I can also gather a list of 10 "most wanted" tunes for you. A good place to start memorizing.


I would be interested in learning more about your use of google spreadsheets and memorizing standards. Perhaps I can begin to incorporate such measures into my program. Thanks for any suggestions you can offer.

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#1895327 - 05/11/12 11:41 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2938
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
venice,

it's a pretty simple spreadsheet. I say when I played it last, and I give myself a score on the tune from 1 to 3. 1 being I know it but it might take a chorus or 2 to get it right.
3 being I don't think I can really ever forget the tune.

Then I have a formula that reminds me when to play it. It's simple and easy to maintain.

It serves as a good list of tunes to call also. At jam sessions and such. If you send me a pm with your email, I'll share the spreadsheet.

++

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#1895342 - 05/11/12 12:06 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
venice1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/11
Posts: 21
knotty,

Much appreciated. I pm'ed you my email.

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#1895374 - 05/11/12 01:45 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 358
Hi Custard Apple,
+1 What knotty said about hearing the chord changes under the melody inside your head. And knowing the melody is an absolute must. If you can sing the melody (it doesn't have to be note-perfect, just correctly up and down), then the chords will kind of 'follow' in your mind. Take the first 16 bars of Green Dolphin Street for example: (by the way, I play it in the forbidden key of C - haha)

Melody -> C..... B G E Bb....... A..... Ab F Db G.......
.G D E F G Ab Bb G....... .Bb F G Ab Bb B Db Bb.......

Each period . is a quarter note.

Now when I sing or hum this, I try to get whether the melody is rising or falling correctly, even if I can't sing or hum the perfect pitches (I neither have perfect pitch nor an acceptable singing voice - haha). And the general rhythm of the melody is nice to have correctly so that you are on the right measure!

Next, with standards like this, the melody dictates what harmonies must go along with it in the chord changes. Take the first 4 notes of the tune, we have in chordal order C E G B - well, that says CMaj7 to me! So I can safely assume that this tune starts on the tonic/release (Key of C) Cmaj7. It might not be so obvious for the Bb and A notes next - because they could fit a lot of different harmonies. But actually for our "structure" purposes, they are passing or color chords, or a way to get to the tension, so we can skip it for now. Then we have Db F Ab next (in chordal order), followed by a resolution to a G melody note. That says Db major to me (more likely DbMaj7). Without getting too technical, that is a sort of substitute for the tension chord which would have been G7 in this key - this is kind of a tritone substitution. The resolution should come next, and we have that nice fat G sitting there in the melody at the end of the first line. The resolution chord would have to be CMaj7 and yes, there is a G inside a CMaj7 chord so this is a very likely fit.

So finally, to memorize this piece, I first hum the melody and try to have either a tonic (CMaj7) harmony in my mind, followed by a way to get to the tension (the EbMaj7,D7 that follows) , followed by a tense chord (G7 or DbMaj7 in this case), finally coming to the resolution of CMaj7 once more at the end of the first line. So it looks like this in my mind while humming the melody:

C....B.G.E.Bb............... A......................... Ab.F.Db.G......
Tonic......Way to get to..Way to get to..the Tension..Release

Go ahead and try it yourself. Hum the melody to Green Dolphin Street, and imagine a tense or non-tense chord underneath. Again, it doesn't have to be note-perfect, and the chord symbols could be a lot of different possibilities, but what you are striving for is to have the release, getting to tension, and tension chords in the right general areas while the melody is playing in your mind.

Finally when you sit at the piano and you must accompany a trumpet/sax/vocal and you are not allowed to play the melody, you must think Tonic, Way to get to tension (something something) Tension, Release. In the key of C this could mean..
C... Cm7...Dm7...G7... C........ or,
C... Eb ...DM7...DbM7. C........ or,
C... Csus..Dm7...G(b9).C........
you get the idea. Notice that the release and tension stayed in the same spot and were often the exact same chord every time. But the way to get to the tension can change all over the place, and this is what makes you a different pianist than someone else playing this tune. We constantly have to make choices like this that make up our harmonic personality. But as Bill Evans says, you have to do that within the framework or structure of Green Dolphin street, so that the listener will know that you are playing that tune and not something else, and that they can hear where you departed with the "leaf" or extraneous chords, which defines your style.

On a personal note, I've heard many jazz pianists other than Bill Evans take this too far and lose the structure of the original tune. I once listened to a piece and about 3 minutes through, realized the guy was playing Misty - OMG I said to myself. He did not do ONE of the original chords. But that is getting into a subjective area and the grey area of personal taste when deciding how much spice chords to sprinkle into your arrangements. I think the happy middle is a good place to be. Learning the tune how it is in the fakebook, and changing some of the less important chords (as we have seen), all while keeping some of the original tune in tact for the listener's sake (this is what Bill is talking about when he says 'depart from' or 'play off' the structure).

Sorry for the longish post again - I've learned a lot from this discussion - stuff I will impart to my jazz students in the future. Thanks all.

-Erich


Edited by erichlof (05/11/12 02:05 PM)

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#1895521 - 05/11/12 09:39 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: erichlof]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Hi Erich
I agree that this discussion has been very helpful. Thanks for your Green Dolphin Street illustration.
I'm on There is No Greater Love for a few more days, then holidays, then I will start a new song which will most likely be Green Dolphin Street.
I know my melodies in the standard key and an alternate key. Melodies are the most important element to me in that I am trying to learn thematic improv the way Sonny Rollins and Bill Evans constantly refer back to a motif.

Hi Knotty
I found your advice encouraging about not stressing over memorisation until my ear gets more developed.
And after looking at your spreadsheet, I plan to implement a spreadsheet system today.

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#1895539 - 05/11/12 10:35 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
knotty Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 2938
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
Cus,
Sounds like you have a well balanced approach!

Green Dolphin Street is a very fun tune. If it looks tricky at first, well, it isn't. And you can do lots of things with it. This is a great tune to apply everything and anything you want to try.

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#1895566 - 05/12/12 12:40 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
shepdave Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/10
Posts: 42
Loc: Vienna, VA
I'm so glad I've stumbled upon this thread. Not only listening to and watching the clips of Bill Evans, but also reading the thoughtful musings of those of you engaged in this dialogue, is very helpful to me in my early stage of trying to learn to play jazz piano.

In reading about Evans's hierarchy of chord changes, I am starting to think that my years playing bass guitar in bar bands will actually be of considerable help to me in developing as a pianist. A good bass player has to develop the ability to quickly sense what the essential chord changes are, and what the important passing tones are.


Edited by shepdave (05/12/12 12:40 AM)

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#1895585 - 05/12/12 01:39 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: shepdave]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Hi shepdave
It must be wonderful to play 2 instruments, I think the best jazz players know another instrument.
When I play the bass notes of There is No Greater Love, it sounds really different to the standard tune.
How did you interpret what Bill was saying about pedal point ? Is Bill thinking the pedal point is his base, rather than the primary chords ?

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#1896201 - 05/13/12 01:41 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
shepdave Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/10
Posts: 42
Loc: Vienna, VA
Cus, I don't know whether I missed it or was listening to/reading the wrong thing, but I can't find where he's talking about pedal point. Can you point to a time in one of the video/audio tracks or a place in an article?

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#1896564 - 05/14/12 07:05 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
Hi Shepdave
It's from the Marian McPartland "Touch of your lips" interview with Bill @ 3:45

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y9g0EQcZXI

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#1897610 - 05/15/12 09:48 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
shepdave Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/10
Posts: 42
Loc: Vienna, VA
Sorry to take so long in responding, custard apple. I wanted to listen to the interview a couple times and think about it.

If I understand what you said in your comment a couple slots above, I think you're right: I think Evans is thinking of the bottom of what he's doing in the LH (which, for example, is a G on the bottom of his tonic C chord) as the springboard for what he wants to play.

It's a little elusive, though, and he doesn't make it crystal clear.

Incidentally, I'm sad to note that trying to follow that Open Culture link to the original Steve Allen / Harry Evans / Bill Evans documentary now results in a 404 error. I'm really glad I watched that interview twice through!

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#1897650 - 05/15/12 11:21 PM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
oh no ! I just tried the openculture link and it didn't work for me either. But I found the Bill Evans Universal Mind interview on you-tube.

Thank you shepdave for confirming my understanding of using pedal point as the springboard for improv.
I'm soloing over There is No Greater Love at the moment, I believe that in this case, Bb is a pedal point for the whole tune as well as the tonic for the A sec.
But Bill's example was more interesting, that in his improvisational thinking, he treats this C maj tune as a G maj tune. I will see if I can start thinking this way for the next tune I work on.

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#1897749 - 05/16/12 05:27 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
shepdave Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/10
Posts: 42
Loc: Vienna, VA
The documentary's back now on Open Culture, no worries. It looks like the Open Culture site had a temporary server problem.

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#1897779 - 05/16/12 07:15 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: shepdave]
custard apple Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2261
Loc: Sydney
That's cool, thanks for letting us know.

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#1927468 - 07/16/12 11:08 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
Chopinlover49 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/11
Posts: 612
Loc: NY and NC
Bill Evans was the Chopin of jazz (I read that somewhere.) I love everything he did and it has made me a more thoughtful player.
_________________________
2004 Mason-Hamlin polished ebony BB.
Working on jazz standards and Chopin nocturnes, preludes, and mazurkas (the easier ones.)

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#1928937 - 07/19/12 08:06 AM Re: Bill Evans Documentary [Re: venice1]
pbluesman Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/08/10
Posts: 9
Thoroughly enjoyed that documentary. Thanks for posting.

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