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Write an essay about a jazz pianist, a jazz piano solo, or an analytical concept related to the jazz piano idiom.

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Bill Evans
Name
Institution
Billy Evans
Thirty-five years after his death, Bill Evans legacy, as one the greatest jazz pianists, still lives on. He introduced a new way of playing jazz piano and influenced renowned jazz pianists such as Herbie Hancock, Steve Kuhn and Keith Jarrett among others. Bill Evans gave jazz a new tone that rivaled bebop – the most popular jazz style at that time. Evans changed the modern jazz piano language, as Terry Teachout wrote, “incorporating harmonic devices derived from the music of French impressionists and forging an ensemble style noted for its complex yet fluid rhythmic interplay” (Teachout, 1998, p. 46).
The two things that made Evans approach jazz unique were his style of playing and approach to harmony. They form the basis of comparison to his style by modern day jazz piano music reviewers. More often, do we come across notes that a particular jazz piano music was influenced by Bill Evans’ style. His trios are among the most magnificent trios in jazz piano history. Musicians born several years after his death may fail to appreciate his role in the development of piano trios because his style has become a common feature of piano trios. This collective approach to balancing the rhythm part for piano, bass and drums rather than perform traditional roles was introduced by him.
Evans was an excellent composer. However, this side of him has found very little focus. Instead, many books and literature have concentrated on his playing and improvising skills.

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Jazz cannot be jazz without improvisation, and most composers of this genre write a piece that will set the stage for improvisation by the musicians. Evans took the same approach in his composition. However, he insisted that the improvisations had to follow the original idea of the piece, to maintain the message of the composition.
Great musicians are influenced by their background and the experiences they go through. Bill Evans is not a different case. He was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, in August 1929. His father was abusive and an alcoholic and Mary (mother), often took Bill and Evans (elder brother) to Somerville, to stay with Justine (aunt) whenever Evans Sr. (father) was destructive. It was in Somerville that Evans had his first contact with music when he joined his brother Harry in taking piano classes. He was six years old at that time. He began playing the violin at around seven years of age. This may have influenced his style of composition where he claimed that he wanted to make the piano sing. He then studied classical piano music and played Mozart and Schubert. He continued to improve his sight reading skills, and in high school, he joined the school band where he played with his brother Harry. Notably, it was in high school that he learnt how to substitute chords for harmonic change. What eluded him and this age, which he strived to master, was harmonic music composition.
He studied music at Southeastern Louisiana College, miles away from New Orleans. The fact that Evans was not exposed to the bebop style that was developing in the 1940s allowed him to focus on a new and unique style of jazz music. In college, he studied Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy and Schumann among other composers. The Western European composers influenced the style he would develop. For instance, he claimed that Bach music helped him master the tone of his compositions and also improved his contact with the piano. He modified classical styles such as tonal ambiguity, chord intervals, and bitonality to fit into his piano trios.
Evans listened keenly and learnt a lot from other jazz musicians. At one time, he spoke of his admiration for Nat “King” Cole’s rhythm, the voicing of Dave Brubeck and George Shearing, the swing from Peterson Oscar and the structure of Earl Hines. However, the biggest influence on his jazz piano was Nat “King” Cole. He admired his fresh ideas and tone, and how he approached his melodies. Lennie Tristano also influenced his music. He borrowed from his approach and construction soundness. Evans was able to learn from numerous jazz musicians and incorporated what he liked his style.
Though Evans composed numerous pieces, he rarely considered himself a composer; rather, he viewed himself as a jazz pianist who composed. He did not have one particular way of composing. At times, he would get ideas and create a melody spontaneously, like he did with ‘Time Remembered.’ Also, there were times he would sit and work for hours until he was satisfied with his composition like he did with ‘Waltz for Debby.’ Evans settled on his unique style rather than expand on the style of his predecessors. He did whatever pleased him and concentrated on the exploration of the components of his style. He admitted in an interview that he wrote music his way to perfect his art, and not to be popular (Murray, 2011, p. 13).
References
BIBLIOGRAPHY Murray, J. (2011, March). Billy’s Touch: An Analysis of the Compositions of Bill Evans, Billy Strayhorn, and Bill Murray. Retrieved from Towson University: http://grad.towson.edu/program/master/musc-mm/files/Recital%20Research%20Paper%20(Murray).pdf
Teachout, T. (1998, December). Does Bill Evans Swing? Commentary, pp. 46-48.

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