Taking some time for myself this morning. A fire, a book, music streaming as a gentle rain falls beyond my window.
This “unspeakable beautiful” song was created as a tribute to Bill Evans, one of the greatest jazz pianist/composers ever, who died 38 years ago today. He played with Miles Davis and Chet Baker before creating his own trio. He greatly influenced the work of many jazz musicians who came after him and who are creating music today.
Bill had this quiet fire that I loved on piano. The way he approached it, the sound he got was like crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall. I had to change the way the band sounded again for Bill’s style by playing different tunes, softer ones at first. -Miles Davis
Bill Evans is seen as the main reformer of the harmonic language of jazz piano. Evans’s harmonic language was influenced by impressionist composers such as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.  His versions of jazz standards, as well as his own compositions, often featured thorough reharmonisations. Musical features included added tone chords, modal inflections, unconventional substitutions, and modulations. –Wikipedia
Bach was another huge influence on his music and the way he played. Perhaps it’s these classical influences on his jazzwork and improvisions that move me so much. Below the tribute by Methany and Mays is Evans “Peace Piece”, a favorite of mine and so many others.
Hoping you have a lovely and mellow weekend.
I first fell in love with Pat Metheny’s music when listening his seminal album “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls.” I couldn’t agree more Carter B. Horsley in The City Review:
“As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls,” [is] perhaps the most important jazz recording of the past 15 years or so and on a par, in terms of historical importance, with John Coltrane’s, “My Favorite Things,” and some of the great Miles Davis and Charlie Parker classics, which is to say it is a masterpiece.
The title track of the album is a mysterious 20-minute-and-42-second excursion into sound effects that seems to turn a playground into a stadium and has riveting interruptions of great authority followed by digital narration, literally, interspersed with glorious crescendos and great anthemic sweeps of emotion. What is most extraordinary is that the incredible music is performed by just four individuals, one of whom was Nana Vasconceles, a Brazilian percussionist.
I used to listen to this CD on my way home from Cal Poly University as a graduate student, my mind still reeling from all I was reading, weaving together the poetry of Whitman, Wallace Stevens and Emily Dickinson with the transcendentalism of Emerson and deconstruction of Derrida, Lacan’s Mirror Stage and Bohm’s Implicate Order. Seeing how all these insights and ideas flow into and out of each other, creating a rich tapestry of potentiality. Each seemed to sing to the other, play and dance, tickle and tease. Somehow it was all related. At some deep level it all made sense.
Within that fertile mindframe as the sun melted into the sea and the ribbon of highway curled along the coast, I let myself be swept away by Metheny’s music. The title track starts off so softly you can barely hear it. Soon you make out distant voices, children’s laughter, like some dream you had of childhood long ago. This soft rambling mixture of ambient sounds and gentle waves eventually turns into something else, recreating itself into a rich exotic sound experience, what my granddaughter calls “China music” when I play it for her. This too breaks apart into something else as the music reinvents itself. Now we are zinging through interstellar space with weird pings and synthesized sounds carrying us along as the night darkens. Then the music mellows and rises, mellows and rises, moving slowly, steadily, over and over until it sweeps into a an ecstatic crescendo. This too mutates into something else, low slow rumbles, voices chanting code, a strain of conversation too low to make out, then laughter, children calling to one another, as if we’ve taken a journey through time and space and back again. To where it all began.
I wish I could find a video recording of this track to share here, but all that seems available is a live performance, which is substantially different from the CD recording I fell in love with and, for me, does not capture the richness and nuance of the original.
But I will share here another Metheny favorite which showcases the beautiful permutations of his music and especially his masterful handling of the listeners expectations as his music rises and falls, rises and falls, gathering momentum until you feel you are in the hands of a very experienced lover who is taking you slowly to new heights of pleasure, then backing away and building again, over and over, until finally it comes: What you’ve been waiting for, expecting, at long last. It washes over you and carries you away and afterwards you feel sublimely satisfied. I always turn the sound up in those final moments as it nears the climax to intensify the experience.
To feel that extraordinary effect there must be no distance between you and the music. You must allow yourself be carried away, give yourself over completely to it. As you must immerse yourself in any great work of art to truly experience all it has to offer.
This one is called “The Truth Will Always Be.” Enjoy.
Bill Evans’s “Peace Piece” is “an unrehearsed modal composition that he recorded for his “Everybody Digs Bill Evans” LP in 1958. It is hailed as one of the most beautiful and evocative solo piano improvisations ever recorded.”
I discovered this music at Ken Chawkins’s website The Uncarved Block, and I quite agree. I played it over and over again, it was so soothing and deliciously eloquent. You can read more about this work and Bill Evans, who is considered by some as the world’s greatest jazz pianist, at the link above.
“Peace Piece” pairs so beautifully with the evocative artwork of Maurice Sapiro, which shares the same sense of depth and richness. I discovered Sapiro’s work years ago when I first began blogging, and I’ve been a fan ever since. His ethereal, dreamlike images capture ‘the moment when natures fuses light and air.” From that fusing comes a haunting beauty and deep, abiding peace. Like Evans’s “Peace Piece.”
I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.