Wednesday, September 7, 2011

So You Think You Know Bill Evan's Music

The Bill Evans Tune Test(s)

Announcing The Bill Evans Tune Test(s). 

Evaluate your knowledge of the music of one who many consider to be the fountainhead of modern jazz piano.

Warning: This test is aimed primarily at musicians who play an instrument and listen to Bill Evans. Some answers you'll know right away. Others might require some critical listening or research. Some of the answers can be looked up in a real book but to play fair you should listen to the indicated recording by Bill to discern the answer. There is no prize for having the best score other than the pride of knowing the subject matter. Above all else, have fun discovering the answers.

1. Name the key that Bill always played "My Foolish Heart."

2. Name at least four Earl Zindars compositions that Bill performed and recorded.

3. It is widely acknowledged that Bill was the composer of the tune "Blue In Green," not Miles Davis. First, how many measures is one chorus?  Second, what were the intended performance instructions Bill attempted to communicate to the members of the Miles Davis Band on the album "Kind Of Blue?" You'll probably need to listen to the "Kind of Blue" track a few times to put this into words. Also it's helpful to listen to Bill's solo and trio recordings of the tune on other albums.

(The standards in questions 4, 5 and 6 are of the type that the second 16 measure segment of the total 32 measure chorus starts out exactly like the first 16 measures. Their structure is that there is no "bridge" but instead two 16 measure halves.)

4. The standard “Come Rain or Come Shine” has been screwed-up by many a musician. Bill's playing of thetune has pretty much codified the way most play it now. 
Part One: What key did Bill play "Come Rain or Come Shine?" 
Part Two: Sketch out the changes that Bill plays on the tune (omit the turn-around). Please do this from listening, not looking in some real book.

5. What was the ("in-chorus") modulation scheme that the last trio used for the
Mancini tune, "Days of Wine and Roses?" Bill Played an "in-chorus" modulation - the first half (16 measures) in one key, the second half (16 measures) in another.

6. Bill occasionally played the tune "Like Someone In  Love" in the later concerts.
What was the "in-chorus" modulation scheme used with that tune?

(“In-Chorus” refers to actually changing keys within the tune, then returning to the starting key sometime before, or at the start of the next chorus.)

7. Bill's last trio performed the "Theme From M.A.S.H." quite often. What was the
arrangement or (complete-chorus) modulation scheme that Bill used with that
tune? Name the starting key and the subsequent keys the trio played the tune,
before returning the first key. Were there added measures to the tune?

8. There are three main "types" or qualities of chords used in jazz. Bill's
composition "Time Remembered" never uses a particular type of chord. Name the type of chord that never appears in this tune.

9. When performing the tune "Autumn Leaves" with bassist Eddie Gomez, there is a point in the playing of the head that Bill and Eddie always play a little sixteenth
note lick together in unison or sometime in thirds. In what measure of the 32 measure chorus does this always occur? (number between 1 and 32)

10. What are the origins of the tune "Sugar Plum?" This tune does have lyrics!
What 60'-70s folk singer conceived the title and lyrics of the tune?

Well that does it. There are many areas of Bill's which we have not covered. I
would love to have readers submit their own Bill Evans Tests questions to me and I'll publish them here. There's a wealth of music to explore and it's great fun to find new ways to experience it.


  1. "I can name that tune in one note" ~ Bill Evans 1980

  2. Very cool. I announced the same thing to my family about the same time. Especially true with "Waltz For Debby."

  3. Hello Win,

    Great, original idea.
    For me a real challenge, since I'm not a professional musician, but only well-trained listener and Bill Evans aficionado.

    As a start only an attempt on 2 questions:

    Earl Zindars:
    "Sareen Jurer", "How My Heart Sings", "Elsa", "Mother of Earl", "Soirée", "Lullaby for Helene".
    See also the release "At Home With Zindars" by the Italian pianist Luciano Troja.

    "Sugar Plum"
    Ike Clanton from the early sixties? Right or wrong?
    It features for the first time on "The Bill Evans Album" (1971). He wrote the song for Nenette?
    He recorded the song later on more than 15 albums.

    I've got a girl and
    I call her Sugar Plum
    Of all the girls I know
    She's the only one
    That makes my heart go
    Plum plumpedum
    My little Sugar Plum

    Pass or fail?
    Thinking about your other questions ....


  4. OK, Here goes...

    1) 3 sharps (A Major)
    2) Elsa, How My Heart Sings, Mother of Earl, Sareen Jurer
    3) 6 bars
    4) a) D minor / F
    b) pass
    8) Dominant Seventh (its totally modal)
    10) a) 4-bar excerpt from Bill's solo on "Angel Face" on Intermodulation, extracted by John Court (also reputed to have written lyrics?)
    b) Folklore has it that Richie Havens lay claim to the lyric, but I'm skeptical.

    Best I can do just now,
    Craig Starr

  5. Best answers so far, Craig. Good job on No. 10.

  6. 1. A major
    2. Elsa, How My Heart Sings, Quiet Lights, Mother of Earl, Soiree, Sareen Jurer
    3. 2,5, 5 or 10 measures depending on the tempo. Instructions from BE to play in three different tempos.
    4. F major.
    F13 or Fmaj7 B7 | Em7b5 A7 | Dm A7 | Dm D7 |
    Gm7 Gm7b5 |Gm7 C7 | F7 Db7 | Cm7 F7 |
    Bbm7 | Fm7 F7 | Bm7 Abm7 | Gm7 C7 |
    Bm7b5 E7 | Am7b5 | turn | around ||
    F13 or Fmaj7 | Em7b5 A7 | Dm A7 | Dm6 |
    Abm7 Db7 | Gbm7 B7 | Em7 A7 | Fmaj7 Bbmaj7 |
    Am7b5 D7 | Ebmaj7 Ab7|Dm7 G7 |Dm7 G7 |G7 Bb7| Dm7 B7+9 |Bb7 A7| Dm7 Gbo | Gm7 C7 ||
    5. F and Ab.
    6. Ab and D.
    7. G, Eb and B.
    8. Dominant seven.
    9. 24
    10. A phrase from the tune Angel Face played with Jim Hall. Pass on the singer.

    Christer Frossen, Sweden

  7. Sorry, question 9 shall be 23.
    Christer Frossen

  8. [Scuse my english, I'm French"].

    Interesting "test".

    For "Sugar Plum", it exists a "polemic".
    Lyrics by John Court (? according Fred Binkley) or by Richie Havens (???).
    In the original vocal version : 7 repeats of a four bars issued of a chorus on "Angel faces" with no modulations (in Evans tune, First segment in G then modulations to the descending 5th all the 8 bars if I well remember... a real challenge for chorus).

    Eric Min-Tung

  9. Question 4.
    LAst 8 measures should be:

    Am7b5 D7 | Ebmaj7 Ab7| Dm7 G7 | B7 Bb7|
    Dm7 B7+9 | Bb7 A7| Dm7 Gbo | Gm7 C7 ||

    Thanks Win, you have always interesting topics.
    Christer Frossen

  10. Christer and Eric are tied for the winners. Just a few clarifications.

    RE: "Sugar Plum" Richie Havens sang and recorded "Sugarplums" on his second album. They added Warren Bernhart on piano for that session to insure the mood of the lick was correct. John Court was the producer and was in love with that lick. Bill played it as sort of a warm up, modulating in all keys around the cycle of fourths. Great tune and story.

    RE: M.A.S.H Where do you encounter those three keys or key areas in another tune that's not Bills? What tenor player and fantastic composer did Bill work with in Miles's band? So, what Coltrane tune am I referring to?

    "Blue In Green" is a 10 bar tune. All choruses are in the following tempo change scheme: 1X, then 2X (twice as fast), then 3X, (twice as fast as 2X), the 2X, then 1X. Then the scheme repeats. I emailed Jimmy Cobb about this but have not heard back from him yet. Anyway, when performing the 1X should be pretty slow.

    Thanks for all the responses. Test Number 2 in a few months. Also, I'm going to change this blog to a real hosting site so I can post videos and MP3 files.


  11. [Scuse fo my english]

    Thanks for your "clarifications" about "Sugar Plum"...
    If I well remember on you "old site" you had put a short "manuscrit" made by Bill Evans (on a "paper towell" or something like that) of "Sugar Plum" for Warren Berhnard (or perhaps another pianist... I'm not sure)....I had still the jpg file of this moving document on my pc hard disc.

    It's a really good new that you will change your blog to a site with videos, mp3. It will be very interesting for all Evans fans and music lovers.
    It would be also interesting if it possible to have some solos transcriptions.


    Eric Min-Tung

  12. Good effort with emailing Jimmy Cobb... I wonder what he'll say. I never really analysed the form of Blue In Green, I was too busy listening to the beautiful playing, but the harmonic structure is clearly 10 bars.

  13. The Coltrane tune is of course Giant Steps.
    Christer Frossen

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