Bill Evans: Peace Piece
Bill Evans (piano)
Everybody Digs Bill Evans (Riverside 30182)
Bill Evans (piano).
Composed by Bill Evans.
Recorded: New York, December 15, 1958
Rating: 93/100 (learn more)
This is a unique entry in the Bill Evans discography: a pastoral improvisation built on a gentle two-chord vamp. "Peace Piece" is more a mood than a composition. Evans was often asked to perform this work in later years, but he usually resisted, claiming that it had been the inspiration of the moment, and not something that could be recreated.
Yet there are many ways of fitting this lovely, if peculiar, performance, into the overall flow of Evans's life and times. He would rely on a similar harmonic structure in other settings -- for example, on "Flamenco Sketches" from the seminal Kind of Blue album or in Evans's moving interpretation of Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time." We can also look at this work as anticipating the trend toward fewer chord changes that Miles and Trane would champion over the next several years. One could even focus on "Peace Piece" as the birth of New Age music, where sweet, two-chord vamps would come to reign supreme.
But Evans is not interested in providing unobtrusive background music or exploring simple modal improvisation. Halfway through his performance he starts incorporating more and more dissonance into his right hand lines. Soon we are in deep polytonal waters where the Windham Hills are just a blurry dot on the horizon. This is jazz music, my friends . . . But a type of jazz that no one else was playing, circa 1958. If more people had been listening, the jazz idiom might have been influenced by this performance. As it stands, only a few thousand copies of Everybody Digs Bill Evans were sold at the time of first release. But a few months later, when Evans participated on the Kind of Blue sessions, he would find a setting that would not only display his artistry but also change the art form.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia