The Artistry of… Bill Evans

His sensitive, artistic, creative mind was influenced by his love of reading. His signature eyeglasses gave him a studious, focused air, and his music making matched with a keen harmonic and lyrical view.

Bill Evans read everything from philosophy to humour, and there’s a bit of each in both — a signature of the music he made and wrote. Authors of interest included Plato, Voltaire, Freud, Margaret Mead, Hardy and Merton. Islam and Buddhism and Zen also were interests. All haunt his music.

He was a multi-disciplined artist, and he also drew and painted. The creativity was surrounded by this personal world of sensitivity, and with that also came pain and sadness that led to reaching out to narcotic use, specifically heroin, and then methadone to kick the using cycle.

Maybe it was an attempt to dull the pain of loss. Scott LaFaro, who worked with Evans, died at 25 in a car accident; Bill’s brother died by suicide, as did a girlfriend of his. Depression’s darkness can be deep. But, in tandem, in a balance too true to the bittersweetness of the cruelties of life, there also came an artistic outpouring of some of the sweetest and most lyrical music the universe of jazz has ever produced. A treasured wealth of music. A beauty that may well accompany and at the same time temper the challenging intoxicants of life.

The Artistry of… is a weekly series that reflects on the passion and essence of an artist. It airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.