- Paperback: 366 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; New Edition edition (October 11, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300081138
- ISBN-13: 978-0300081138
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 46 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,958,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings Paperback – October 11, 1999
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The bad: This book leaves the reader hungry to understand Evans the man feeling a bit undernourished. "Who played where with whom" does not give much insight into Evans' passions and motivations outside of music. Evans lost many loved ones, but the relationships receive so little description that the reader cannot possibly identify with Evans' pain. Evans is said to have been a brilliant, well-read, personable, funny man, but the relative dearth of quotes from him require the reader to simply take the author's word for it. Although Evans played on Kinda Blue, arguably THE most influential jazz album, the account of it feels hurried and dry.
The result is the feeling of having watched someone through a sheet of glass for a very long time, with no opportunity to hear or speak to them. The reader is left knowing what Evans did, but not really knowing Evans. The book was worth the bargain price, but it left me feeling like I had gotten both too much and not enough of what I was hoping for.
For fans of Bill Evans, who tend to be obsessive, this is the ideal guide to his work. While some of the author's judgements about the quality of certain recordings or live performances are perhaps a bit subjective, this is the companion that all Bill Evans fans must have.
September 2010: I just went back and reread this book, and found that, the second time around, this book really isn't that interesting. It's a commented discography, as I said in my initial review, which certainly has value. But so little of Evans' life is discussed that it's disappointing in the end. One example: the author mentions that Bill Evans played on Glenn Gould's piano, and at another point he says that Evans and Gould were friends; I would have liked to know more about that. Evans certainly had a life beyond his recordings and performances, and this book doesn't cover that part of his life at all. (With the exception of a mention of his marriages, the birth of his son, and a couple of other events.) I don't want to see something that goes into detail about his love life, but I would like to know more about his relationships with non-musicians during his lifetime.
Also, as another reviewer pointed out, there's no discussion of the influence of drugs on his music, which, clearly, was very important. Evans was, for much of his career, a junkie, and this affected how he played. (That he was able to play so well in spite of the drugs is, in itself, amazing.)
I'll give this four stars for the coverage of the recordings, which is complete, but as a bio, it's far from that.
On some occasions, his writing captures the music with uniquely employed details, and the reader sees that he is genuinely passionate about Evans' body of work. As a musician, I enjoyed these parts, and I respect Mr. Pettinger's insight.
But there is an implicit focus on the importance of classical training in Evans' pianistic development, and I have to disagree with the emphasis placed on this. Evans' sound and nuanceful playing are more a result of his dedication and vision as an artist. Classical training does not necessarily make a great pianist, and Pettinger stresses in various ways that Evans' knowledge of classical music infinitely aided him in revolutionizing jazz with his sound. Perhaps--but this is a bias of the author.
Had he written about Thelonius Monk, he probably would have criticized his unorthodox technique, though clearly, someone like Evans had nothing but respect and admiration for Monk--precisely because Monk was unafraid to develop a unique approach that worked for him. Both pianists were obviously most noted for the unmistakable personalities of their sounds.
The refinement of style through years of practicing, performing, and introspection is more important--and exciting--than the author's erudite allusions to classical pieces pertinent to Evans' compositions.
Pettinger's writing is solid but incomplete for fans who want a dimensional presentation of this genius of the 20th century. Essentially, the writer lacks a risk-taking style and presents us with a thorough, well-documented companion piece to Evans' recordings.
When Evans is quoted, this biography comes alive. I only wish he had written a book (he was noted for excellent commentary in liner notes), for I believe his writing was just as eloquent as his music.
Most recent customer reviews
There are few books on jazz that make me wish I were formally schooled in music; this is one of them.Read more
Essential reading for any Evans fan.