Thursday, December 6, 2007

My response to Jan Stevens plug


Thank you for a great write-up of the Letter From Evans free availability on your web site, The Bill Evans Web Pages. It is very well done. The server where the pdf's are located has had a few problems in the past but it seems to have been upgraded recently. I think the download capacity is enough to handle those who want to download the publication.

When I first published LFE I was pigeon-holed by Orrin Keepnews and a couple of others as starting a "fan magazine" - Keepnews has always considered LFE to be only a "fan rag" and nothing more. Of course, I wanted it to be more and to some degree, I was successful in communicating to others my deep respect for Bill, his family, and my commitment to his music. Thank you for continuing to devote your personal time to "keeping the flame alive" with your comprehensive website, the one constant beacon of Bill's effect on you, and giving others the valuable information that we all seek to continue our search for the poetry, the sensitivity, the powerful personal way of swinging that Bill pursued.

We both know how scary it is to let oneself get so inextricably attached to one artist who said so much and continues to reach all sensitive musicians with his many recordings. Bill's magic continues to reveal itself on the umpteenth listening of the standard repertoire of his recorded output such as the all too few LaFaro-Evans-Motian tracks. Each time I listen I hear some new magic in the unique communication and role-playing explorations that Bill and Scotty made on those sides. When listening I might be reminded of a particular musical avenue that the trio took which I want to explore even more deeply. We each try to speak our own mind when we play this fantastic art form called jazz but sometimes Bill's powerful musical statements will consume our ears, hearts and minds, exercising a control on our personal music making. Sometimes that ethereal life-force of Bill's magic can consume us in all of life's roles. Some (perhaps our shrinks and maybe our family) might think this to be a dangerous pursuit. It is, and we both know that occasionally we must stand outside ourselves, examining the effect of this powerful force on our personal lives, in order to swim up to the surface and take a breath of reality, lest the force totally consume us. But, I think this power Bill holds over us has been good - it drove me to produce Letter From Evans and it continues to drive your wonderful web site.

Along this magical Bill Evans "Fun Ride" my wife and I met a couple who were ardent LFE subscribers on a trip to California. I'll call them "John and Marsha" here. John was an amateur pianist and stricken with the "Bill Evans Force." My wife and I were having wine and some snacks at their place on the northern California coast as they put us up for the night. We were talking about Bill, listening to particular tracks and inevitably the tune "My Foolish Heart" came up in our conversation. Recently I was listening to WGBH-FM in Boston on there website - There is a jazz DJ show called Eric in the Evening - Eric played the Bill Evans cut of "Young and Foolish" (with Sam Jones and Philly Jo Jones) which is played the way Bill performed "My Foolish Heart" - an extremely slow ballad where the tempo is so slow that all forward motion seems to be in some alien time zone. The challenge in playing at those slow tempos is to keep the energy happening. Bill was an expert at that - it is a jazz skill challenge that few contemporary players can meet. First John went to his piano and started to play the opening notes. He stopped after about 3 measures and found one of Bill's tracks of this tune on his stereo and played it, of course it silenced us all. After the track finished John whispered something to his wife and left us to be by himself in another part of the house. Marsha later explained to us that John had been fighting the early stages of what might turn out to be Alzheimer's Disease. The music had grabbed hold of John's brain and would not let go. It immersed him in the music so much that he could no longer communicate with the rest of us on this planet and needed to be by himself for a while.

When I see any reference to "My Foolish Heart" I am immediately in church and this tune is a hymn. It may be paradoxical to some jazzers who are used to taking any tune and making it fair game to do it in any way or style. I am sorry but tradition is just too strong for this tune. There will be no no "My Foolish Heart" cha-chas, mambos, meringues, or screaming up tempo shouts. What would Billie Holiday do? It's at the opposite end of the tempo spectrum of say a Charlie Parker version of "Cherokee," or "The Song is You." The only way it can be done is a death-ballad, slower than your heart beat while sleeping, maybe the same tempo if your were in a coma. Like I said before, no one is playing those slow hot wind tempos any more, and that makes it even more important to carry on the tradition, keep the flame burning.

When I was publishing LFE Bill's hold on me was similar to John's predicament. I needed to stop and "come up for air" in order to keep myself sane, personally, and for my family. But I am glad that I did get so personally involved with the "force" and I want to share that experience with others, hence my action of making the publication freely available to all who want it.

Recently I was playing bass with a keyboardist who categorized himself a "jazz musician" and proceeded to play "My Foolish Heart" as an up-tempo vocal. After about 4 measures I just quit playing and let him and the vocalist attempt to finish by themselves. Naturally, the vocalist found it difficult to squeeze all the lyrics into the reduced time and she quit singing after about an 8 measure attempt. Due to my preconceived perception brought on by Bill Evans I could not render, nor contribute to that questionable musical endeavor. The keyboardist called me again but I found an excuse not to work with him again. It was a bad experience I want to forget but it made me realize just how much Bill's take on things affects me.

Thanks again, Jan.


  1. Mr. Hinkle:

    I want to thank you so much for making LFE available off the internet. I just found out about this yesterday and spent the day downloading the entire series. Truly, it was a wonderful work that you did, and I'm grateful that you spent so much time and effort on LFE. I noticed that there is no updated address for a donation for cost of LFE. Could you give an address or Paypal account for donations?


  2. Hi Win,
    I'm enjoying your blog. I'm getting back to playing and seriously practicing jazz guitar in the last few years..... and starting to gig , again. I'm, also, getting back serious listening. Bill one of the players that I am, carefully listening to . I remember seeing Bill at the Vanguard in NYC when I, first, got into jazz in the 70's.

    I live in the Berkshires. I hope to get to meet with you or play with you at some time.

    Thanks for a great blog. Thanks for your Bill Evans newsletter.
    The newletter is astounding in its depth.