During a dank, drizzly Saturday afternoon in Soho, the screening of ‘Bill Evans: Time Remembered’ was being premiered at the warmly inviting Ronnie Scotts. The room gets busy with jazzheads dressed in turtlenecks and angular glasses, whilst sipping on Americanos. Before the film even starts, you know that Evans left his mark.
Bill Evans’ sold just 800 copies of his album in his first year of his career, fast-forward and he’s one of the greatest jazz musicians to date who’s received over 31 grammy nominations. Evans died at just aged 51, and the film follows the frictious nature between stardom, drugs and alcohol.
Evan’s jazz style was an intricate fusion of traditional jazz and experimental melodies, often performing in a trio. The New Jersey man challenged the role of the piano and produces sounds that still struggle to be matched.
This film took US director Bruce Spiegel 8 years to make, alongside his work at CBS News/ 48 Hours. He interviewed some of the key players from Evans’ life, including Paul Motion, Tony Bennett, Pat Evans, Orrin Keepnews, Chuck Israels, and Eddie Gomez, to name just a few. These interviews have grown all the more exclusive now that 10 of which are no longer with us today.
From these interviews, we learn the first-hand accounts of working with Evans, not just from a musical point of view, but the lifestyle he lived. He lived through the trauma of the death of his father and bandmate Scott LeFaro, and suicide of his brother and ex-girlfriend.
Evan’s grew addicted to heroin; the documentary mentions how Evans would often shoot up every 45 minutes. He had a son, Evan Evans with his ex-wife Nenette, which made him want to quit drugs, but sadly his drug abuse lead to fatal health complications.
During the Q&A, there was discussion that the documentary left a gap in Evans’ childhood, searching for any psychological reasons why his brother was schizophrenic, and why Evans abused drugs from having been brought up by an alcoholic father. In response to this, Spiegel felt that “these kind of junkies were normal for the time”, Evans was an honest man; “each time he borrowed money from people for drugs, he paid each person back”.
The soundtrack is a generous selection of Evans’ compositions. From working with Miles Davis on ‘A Kind Of Blue’; the bestselling jazz album to date, Paul Motion and Scott LaFaro on ‘ Explorations’ and ‘Sunday At The Village Vanguard’, to ‘Everybody Digs Bill Evans’ with Sam Jones and Philly Joe Jones, amongst many other works.
This documentary reflects on a profoundly successful life, but equally crushing personal life. Through extensive footage of Evans performing on his piano, trademark hunched shoulders and dipped head; music always took precedent for him, above anything else, including friends, family and personal health.
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