Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Bill Evans

Dr. Bob Prescribes Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

We must contemplate the weighty. Jazz is, by its very nature, a conversational and dynamic art form, in which performers improvise on a chord progression or on a series of scales (the latter called “modal jazz”). In theory then, as in a spontaneous oration, there is no “right” or “wrong” in a jazz performance, just better or less better choices. Consequently, a given jazz performance is just one of a virtually infinite number of possible jazz performances. The fluidity, spontaneity, and variability of the art constitute the very core of its nature. Which brings us, then, to the potentially problematic issue of a “studio jazz recording.” We backtrack, momentarily. There are two sorts of jazz recordings: live recordings and studio recordings. A live jazz recording captures a particular moment in time, a “slice of musical life”: a “slice of musical life” aided, abetted, inspired, and magnified by the presence of an audience. But a studio recording is another thing altogether. A studio recording is an object: an edited, multi-take, often over-dubbed document that seeks to create as perfect a performance of a piece of music as possible. In the concert world, in which compositions are entirely notated (scripted!), this means […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes: Bill Evans: A Recorded Retrospective

Roommates Freshman year college roommates: talk about a crap shoot. You never know whether the individual in charge of pairing you up was having a good day or a bad day; whether he or she had a decent or a rotten sense of humor. My freshman year pairing (in 1972), knock on wood, was a good one: a fellow public-school guy from New Jersey: Rick deSante, from West Long Branch (Bruce Springsteen territory). We hit it off and remained roommates for three years, until senior year (when, as seniors, we had single rooms). Rick was (and remains) a tall, blonde guy, one-half Italian (his father), one-half Irish (his mother, whose maiden name was McGillicuddy). Rick played scratch golf and rugby, and majored in chemical engineering, a topic about as far away from music as it is possible to get. Nevertheless, opposites attract; I went to his rugby games, and he was okay with the music I played on my stereo in our room. Rick was someone who, up to the time we met, had never really listened to a note of music. He had never taken a music lesson, never been to a concert (concert music or rock ‘n’ roll); […]

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Music History Monday: William John Evans

We mark the birth on August 16, 1929 – 92 years ago today – of the jazz pianist and composer William John “Bill” Evans, in Plainfield, New Jersey. He died, tragically and all-too-young on September 15, 1980 in New York City at the age of 51. Just a week before his death, Evans had completed a nine-day run (from August 31 to September 8, 1980) at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco. That run was recorded and issued on an 8-cd set entitled The Last Waltz, which will be among therecommended recordings in tomorrow’s Dr. Bob Prescribes post. Apropos of that appearance at the Keystone Korner, Jesse Hamlin, music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle writes: “Evans played with such fervor during that nine-day stint that his enraptured audiences would’ve found it hard to believe that his body was wasting away and that he’d be dead a week later.” All early, unnecessary deaths are tragic. Bill Evans’ death holds a special poignancy in that it was not only self-inflicted, but he had, in the end, lost his will to live. In the end, he was only able to ignore his disintegrating body while he was playing the piano. But not […]

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Dr. Bob Prescribes the Bill Evans Trio

The Job of a Record Producer Here’s how The Recording Academy (formally the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, or NARAS) defines a record producer: “The person who has overall creative and technical control of the entire recording project, and the individual recording sessions that are part of that project. He or she is present in the recording studio or at the location recording and works directly with the artist and engineer. The producer makes creative and aesthetic decisions that realize both the artist’s and label’s goals in the creation of musical content. Other duties include but are not limited to: keeping budgets and schedules, adhering to deadlines, hiring musicians, singers, studios and engineers, overseeing other staffing needs and editing.” When it comes to making a recording, the producer, then, is the chief, the chef, the Jefe, the Geater-with-the-Heater, the Big-Boss-with-the-Hot-Sauce, that single person who makes (or breaks) a recording session. We should be aware that the job of a record producer will vary tremendously depending upon the genre of music involved (concert, rock/pop/country/hip-hop, or jazz) and whether the recording is made in a studio or live, in front of an audience. Let’s start with studio recordings and the differing role played […]

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