Evans Webpages: August 1980 Interview
In the summer of 1980, the last trio (with Marc Johnson, Joe LaBarbera) was in the midst of a European tour which had them for two weeks at the famed RONNIE SCOTT's in London, as well as performances in Germany, Belgium, Norway and Italy. In mid-August, after a performance at the Molde Jazz Festival , the pianist granted a brief interview after the concert, filmed for Norweiegan television. The following is a verbatim transcript by Jan Stevens, taken directly from a videotape copy of the event. Bill Evans, you gave us a marvelous concert. Thank you. And I want to test you, and this is a blindfold test. Oh, OK. Are you ready?. Yes. I'm ready. [interviewer plays a few bars on a tape machine of an Evans recording ] Oh sure, yeah, I remember that, “I Love You” from the first album. That’s many years ago. Yeah, many, many years ago but I still enjoy that record. Do you always listen to your own records? Well, I didn't for many, many years. But then last couple of years I’ve been listening to my own records more and going all the way back, trying to learn something. Because I did things then that I don't do now and vice versa, and I, uh, I can hear myself now more objectively, as another person would hear me, as I listen to my early records. So I have been listening to myself more. You did this record about 25 years ago? That's’ right, that’s right. Yes. At the end of the fifties, you played with Miles Davis? Yes. And you did a record with him too. Yes, a couple of records, right, yes. What record did you enjoy best, playing with Miles Davis? Well, I enjoyed both the ones with “Green Dolphin Street”, “Stella By Starlight” and “Love for Sale”. Then there was also one they released recently that we didn’t even know was being recorded. They called it “Jazz at The Plaza” -- it was a party. What I liked about that recorded was it has Philly Joe Jones still in the band, whereas “Jazz Track” with “Green Dolphin Street” and “kind of Blue” was with Jimmy Cobb. So this was an indication of how the band sounded with Philly Joe and how it sounded with Jimmy Cobb. Of course, “Kind of Blue” was the most popular of the three albums. But how was it -- I heard you made “kind of Blue” in one day in studio. Yes that’s right, very quickly. Was that a special experience for you? Well yeah, of course anytime you play with musicians like that it’s a special experience. But I think we all just do our professional best, and perhaps that day the chemistry was, maybe, a little better than usual or something. Because that you can’t predict. What you can do is to be a good professional; always do a good job -- and sometimes things come together, so that it’s even a little better than professional. Do you have contact with Miles Davis these days? Some. I saw him, well, now, it must be a year ago now, because I’d heard these rumors. There are so many rumors around, you know, that Miles -- somebody told me he was very sick and that they thought he was dying, and then, hey, you know, I saw him and he looked wonderful. I heard one some days ago that he was going to studio next week. You always hear those rumors too. And then he might go to the studio but he doesn’t record, or he might not go into the studio, I don’t know. But all I know is that when I last saw him, he didn’t seem to have any intention of coming out and playing in public. He might record, I don’t know... But you had a big trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian Yes. And you always perform with trios. Yes. And why is that? Well, for me it’s a very pure group. But primarily, I’m more in control of the music. I can shape the music and I state the theme, I keep the flow going -- and the way we work for instance, there’s no talking, it’s all done musically: indications; an it becomes a totally musical experience for the group and also the audience. If I just added a horn --now, I enjoy playing with horns; I record with horns frequently -- but that’s the main reason. Even if I use one horn, it changes the whole concept, because then, the thematic statements and all are out of my hands. Yeah, um what do you think about the audience in Molde today? Oh it was an excellent audience! But I notice that the audience are young people today, more than some time ago. Yes, everywhere its the same, it’;s maybe 80% young people. Ya know, I think they’re discriminating young people, or they wouldn’t be here. Otherwise, they would go, with the masses and just, you know... Why do you think young people listen more to jazz these days? I think some young people want a deeper experience. Some people just wanna be hit over the head and, you know, if then they [get] hit hard enough maybe they’ll feel something. You know? But some people want to get inside of something and discover, maybe, more richness. And I think it will always be the same; they're not going to be the great percentage of the people. A great percentage of the people don’t want a challenge. They want something to be done to them -- they don’t want to participate. But there’ll always be, uh, maybe 15% maybe, 15%, that desire something more, and they’ll search it out -- and maybe that’s where art is, I think. Does the audience response mean very much to you when you play? Well... [pause] it’s not primary. It means a lot to me, but primarily, I know what’s happening. And sometimes when I think it’s really happening, the audience -- they do pick it up -- but they may not pick it up as strongly as I feel it. And sometimes, I think nothing’s happening [chuckles] and they still respond. And they’re right, because we are professional and we are experienced, and therefore, we’re able to do a certain degree, always. You’ve got almost a new trio. Yes, this is almost two years now with this trio. I love this trio; it;s kind of a ‘live’ trio -- the music’s alive with this trio. It’s a wonderful trio, maybe the best one I ever had... Do you compare the trios you’ve had... well, I.. Do you compare this trio to the one you had with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian? Yes, I don't compare them qualitatively so much, but in, uh .... characteristically, I think this trio resembles the first trio more than any other trio I’ve had. Definitely. This trio is related to the first trio -- in some ways, the music is evolving and growing of itself like the first trio. But all the trios I’ve had I love, and we’ve, ya know, I’ve had a special experience... [Bill looks at his watch, and pauses] Gotta go! Yes. It’s been very nice talking to you. Thank you. Now you’re laughing. On the covers of your records, you’ve -- it’s always the serious... I know, I know, well, that’s what they picture. They picture me that way. If there’s four pictures and three are smiling and one is serious, they take the serious one. But we have to run to catch a plane, I’m afraid. Yes, you now have to go to Italy. Right. [gets up from the piano] And I want to thank you very much. Thank you. [a photographer:] So do you have two seconds? No, I really have to go. Didn’t you have a chance during all that? Yes, but we’d like to have you by the piano... No, its too late, Im sorry.