September 15th “Bill Evans Time Remembered”

Art & Music

Bill Evans by artist Richard Boigeol      www.richardboigeol.com

 

September 15th  /  1980

For many years I ‘ve approached the anniversary ( of Bill’s ascension ) with a great deal of loneliness in my heart, for no one else was experiencing Bill’s death as an exhalted transcendence as I had.  I  knew in my heart that this was  what was happening for Bill,  under that golden September sun, 36 years ago. It was a release  from his suffering, an  un-tethering of his soul.  And when I felt his expansive presence in the Michelangelo clouds over the George Washington Bridge, I was witnessing his soul taking flight.

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Pure Transcendence.

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Over the years ,  I’ve  witnessed a dramatic change in the culture of our  understanding of death and spirituality, and I have been able to share this  experience with those who are ready to listen. And so it is profound to me that on this date in time, September 15th / 2016 a “Celebration of Love”  for Bill has taken place on the the anniversary of his Death.

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book-signingLaurie Verchomin greeting jazz fans

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September 15th / 2016

“Bill Evans Time Remembered”

                         – a jazz documentary by Bruce Spiegel

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Bill Evans Tribute

with live music by

The Miles Black Trio

featuring Dave Robbins on Drums & Darren Radke on Bass

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capilano-jazz-students-arrivingJazz students arriving

 

 

Capilano BlueShore Theatre

The Blue Shore Theatre at Capilano University

 

 

From my invocation to Bill…

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“Bill possessed a number of  “keys”. These keys were embodied in his gigantic talent and in his soul. These keys were able to unlock the depths of listener’s hearts; and in doing so, allowed the listener to enter a world of transcendental beauty, of overpowering poingancy, and enable them to discover their own soul”

  – Quote from guitarist/composer John McLaughlin

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I ‘ve had the  opportunity to do this through my study of Bill and his music and  know many of you have as well.  Tonight  I’m sure , will be a very personal evening for everyone

About Bruce Spiegel tonights film producer

I first met tonight’s film producer Bruce Spiegel, in 2008 when he came from NYC (for the weekend ) to my home on the Sunshine Coast to interview me for his project.  This was probably one of the first times I had had the chance to talk about my experiences with Bill.

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We got together again in September of 2010 at my book launch in New York and I got to see the first footage of the film. I knew it would be powerful because Bruce had Bill narrate the film. This came about through  Bill’s friendship with the  great poet Bill Zavatsky, who had the foresight in the late 70’s to interview Bill on tape in hopes of writing a book about him someday. Bruce’s use of these tapes follows Bill’s story line in a sublime  weaving of music and story telling.

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I’m very honored to be here tonight to share it with you.

 

Listen here for the live set with

The Miles Black Trio

(recording courtesy Miles Black’s iphone)  

            evans-tribute-sept15-16

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setting the stage

Bassist Darren Radke  & Laurie

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miles-blackMiles Black

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The Miles Black Trio

 

jazz-fans-discovering-my-bookJazz fans discovering my book

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Close to 300 people attended. A special gathering of jazz students, musicians, jazz lovers and Bill Evans fans. A few fans came up from the Bay area of San Fransisco, including chromatic harmonica player Neil Adler who  joined my crew as an usher and sat in on an astounding version of “Blue and Green” with the Miles Black Trio.

 

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violinist-blaine-dunawayViolinist Blaine Dunaway and Laurie Verchomin

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Thank you to the Miles Black Trio, Jared Burrows of the Capilano Jazz Studies Department, the students, the lovely staff here at the BlueShore Theatre, Lisa, Sandra and Lawrence and  thank you to you the listeners for opening your hearts.

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p1040984 My Jazz Crew

lA very big thank you to my jazz crew Paula Luther, Erica Snowlake, Laurie O’Byrne  and the ever enthusiastic Neil Adler for help in the creation of this event.

In Memory of Bill Evans

August 16th 1929 – September 15th 1980

#billevansPhoto of Bill Evans by Leon Terjanian 1980

 

“And while it is also clear – given the extreme suffering he experienced in his drug abuse – that through his sublime art he allowed us to experience this suffering as  victory for beauty, for marvelous sensuality and the fundamental tragedy of life – without which life would be absurd.”

   –  guitarist/composer John McLaughlin

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The Bill Evans Legacy Organization

Portrait of Bill Evans by Mauro Modin, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 centimeters

Portrait of Bill Evans by Mauro Modin

The Bill Evans Legacy Organization

The Bill Evans Legacy Organization was formed in April of 2012 to serve as a meeting ground for Bill Evans fans to contribute directly to the preservation and promotion of the musical legacy of Jazz Icon Bill Evans.  The first fan I contacted was Rob Rijneke, the venerable host of   www.billevans.nl an amazing site devoted to all things Bill.  I asked him to join me on the creation of the content for this initial page I had created for facebook.  Which can be accessed here:

The Bill Evans Legacy Organization Page

Through this page I have met many artists, musicians, fans and personal friends of Bill’s. I have seen Bill immortalized in music, art, and literature. His impact on humanity continues to widen, and  I am enjoying this creative dialogue immensely.

The portrait of Bill at the top of this post is by an  Italian artist Mauro Modin, whom I had the opportunity to meet last week .  A beautiful example of the introspection that many associate with Bill.   His work can be found  here :   Mauro Modin/Studio

If you are interested in becoming a part of this organization on any level, if these thoughts and ideas  resonate with you in any way, please feel free to make suggestions  and comments below. It is my intention to create an open platform for these ideas to emerge.

A few idea’s have been presented thus far.

1. Global Bill Evans Festival.

2. Documentary film.

3. Tribute Concert to raise money for a scholarship in Bill’s name.

4. Published transcriptions of his entire recorded works by Pascal Wetzel.

5. Permanent Home for Bill’s  Piano, manuscripts, and other archives.

6. Public statue, plaque, street, park, stamp or a parking spot next to the Village Vanguard,  NYC (one of my personal favorites)

We can do them all…but I am interested in hearing more ideas.

All is Love

Laurie

12/21/12

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Interview with Laurie for the German Magazine FROH

 

Bill Evans, Laurie Verchomin, Love Letters

Bill’s notecard to Laurie

Laurie Verchomin, in August 1980 Bill Evans played a concert in Germany: In a private home in Bad Hönningen. It turned out to be his last concert in Europe.

In 1994, someone gave me a copy of the recording of this private event. When I first heard the CD, it just broke my heart because it allowed me to go back in time. It was like getting a long lost love letter from Bill. That last tour was very difficult for him and I wanted so much to be by his side. He had called me from Norway, just a few days before his date in Bad Hönningen, to tell me that he was not sure if he would make it back to New York because he was so ill. All of this darkness is so obvious to me in this recording.

One can say it was a very special date – the concert took place exactly one month before Bill‘s death. And it was the eve of his last birthday.

When Bill came home the next day, he told me about the celebration. His host Fritz Feltens, had given him a very expensive watch as a present but unfortunately Bill left it somewhere. Apparently on the buffet table.

Maybe he didn‘t want to be reminded of time …

The funny thing is that during the tour someone else had given him another time piece, a very tiny digital alarm clock. Bill gave it to me as a present when he came home. He brought the two dollar alarm clock home safely but lost the fancy watch.

What did you do on the day of the concert?

I was in New York preparing things for Bill‘s homecoming. I had to organize some cash because financially we were in a very tight situation. Even though Bill had this great tour in Europe, I knew he would come home penniless, so with Bill’s permission I sold his Fender Rhodes piano to Cedar Walton for $650. I wanted to take Bill out to the racetrack, which was something he loved to do. However, when he got back we didn’t have much of a celebration. He was so ill, I had to take him to the hospital immediately.

By this time, Bill‘s end was clearly in sight. How did this influence your everyday life?

Well, it was a slow descent into that state. The last few months, while Bill and I had been touring in the states, it became clear to me that he was saying goodbye to his closest friends. Because of the nature of his illness (he died of drug addiction), it wasn‘t something he could even talk about. He was making his best effort to be present with the people he loved, showing them his respect. The last 30 days of his life, he became more and more internal. Unless he was getting on an airplane or playing, he was just going inside himself resting all the time, relying on me to communicate with the outside world. During this time he spent a great deal of time listening to his own music on the headphones. He had this plastic shopping bag filled with cassettes of himself playing at home and tapes of the trio from performances. When he died, I gave this collection of Bill’s personal music to his bass player Marc Johnson.

Laurie, let‘s talk about the day you and Bill met. A young girl and a fifty-year-old man, who is already at the end of his life …

Well, the first time I saw him was in Edmonton in 1979, a couple of days after my 22nd birthday. I was a member of the Railtown Jazz Society and they had asked me to waitress for the two nights the Bill Evans Trio was playing. The venue was a very strange place: a former Ukrainian church that had been turned into a discotheque and then a Chinese restaurant. It had this shiny silver disco-floor where the piano, bass and drums were set up. There was this weird vintage army plane mounted behind the stage. As soon as Bill began to play, everyone was listening in absolute silence. It was like a church. At the end of the concert, I went up to Bill and asked if he needed anything. He said no, he had everything he needed, but asked me if I would join him later, because there was something he wanted to tell me. Later on I saw him standing in the hallway, waiting for me and I did join him. He asked me if I‘d like to come with him to his hotel. At the time I had a young boyfriend who was a guitar player and a big fan of Bill‘s music. I thought my boyfriend would love to hang out with Bill, so I said to him “Do you mind if I bring my boyfriend?” He started laughing and said that this was not what he had in mind.

What did you do instead?

We went to my apartment where I had some cocaine. Not much, especially for someone like Bill. Some of the other members of the jazz society had come too, surrounding him in a semicircle, asking him questions. At the end of the night he managed to slip me his card. At the doorway, he kissed me on the cheek and I hugged him as hard as I could. He was quiet, reserved and reminded me of my father. I wondered why someone like him would pursue me. And although he was older, esteemed in the world, with so much power, I knew right in that moment that I was going to be the one to take care of him. There was something so lost and forlorn about him.

Did you fall in love with him at that point?

No, I didn’t. It was one month later when I visited Bill in NY for the first time that I fell in love with him. The morning after we made love, Bill put on the Roberta Flack album with Donny Hathaway singing “For All We Know.” It had that line “I’ll hold out my hand and my heart will be in it.” That one line became the basis for our entire relationship. He knew that his life would end soon and so he decided to give everything of himself away. So on that morning he offers me his heart in his hand and I begin to understand the nature of this kind of transparency in love. An infinite love. After that, I fell completely in love with him for the next … well for the rest of my life!

That sounds very romantic. But on the other hand your love must have been a harsh contrast to Bill‘s great agony and physical decline as a junky. Beauty and Death – did you ever figure out the link between these poles?

Bill’s life as a junkie was like watching someone playing Russian roulette. When I first saw the kind of damage he was doing to his body, I thought it was impossible for someone to survive even one day. Yet the next day, there he would be ready to do it all over again. It was like a cycle of transformation he had to go through to feel truly alive. By witnessing this, I began to realize that these self destructive things he was experiencing were connected to the creative impulses he was experiencing. An amazing cycle of beauty feeding into destruction feeding back into beauty.

What a about his professional life? Being a musician at this level demands some steadiness, doesn‘t it?

Well, as a musician he had two sides: On the one hand he was a very logical, organized, self determined person. The way he approached music was like that. But once he had that form in hand he started to experiment on top of it in order to have that free floating expression. That’s how he tried to live his life too: he created a career himself, where he was very respected, making good money. He created that whole form but on top of that, he just wanted to experiment. And he did experiment with some pretty dark things – like heroin. All those years he was winning Grammy Awards and getting articles in Time magazine, he wasn’t paying his rent or electric bills and was being evicted from his apartments, sitting on the sidewalk on his suitcase, improvising his next move.

You met Bill at a turning point in his life. Two weeks after his performance in Edmonton his brother Harry committed suicide. Did you think you took over his place as a spiritual companion?

Actually, I never thought of it that way. You may be right, given the fact that, Bill was such an intensely private person, and there weren’t many people in his inner circle. Harry may have been the biggest spiritual support for him. After he passed away, Bill was in a constant state of mourning and maybe feeling scared knowing that he could take his own life. He did consider suicide a few times, but I happened to be with him on many of those occasions so it didn‘t happen.

If death was this close all the time, did it appear in his music as well?

I think that this element is probably in his music from the very beginning. But it takes on many different forms over his career. When you listen to the Village Vanguard Sessions from the early Sixties you can hear it then – everything is very slowed down, almost hypnotic. Now at the end, oddly enough, everything speeds up. Maybe this does relate to the drugs Bill used: being a heroin addict in the sixties he might have been very relaxed, while cocaine speeds everything up. In the late seventies he knows he is close to the end. At this point he is integrating all of his experiences into his music, trying to make sense of it. You could hear the agony and the ecstasy, while he is trying to come to completion. None of this was easy for him.

It‘s funny you mention the Vanguard Sessions. These recordings took place two weeks before Scott LaFaro, Bill’s bass player at the time, died in an accident …

You know I think Bill was highly developed as an intuitive player – and maybe when you are playing this intuitively you know everything at once. Perhaps he did know, when he met Scott that it was going to be a very brief dramatic relationship that would nourish him for the rest of his days. Losing Scott LaFaro would be his first really intense experience of grief.

The last month of his life Bill was very active and played some of his best performances. You were part of the audience – what was the atmosphere like?

There was no way you could not get what he was trying to say with his music. It was a great snapshot of his soul. Everyone was sucked into this vortex, experiencing their own version of his agony. The soul is a scary place to go to on your own. You could go there with your therapist or you could go there with Bill Evans.

Do you know – by chance – the song that ended his life as a musician?

No, I don‘t remember. But – ok – I‘m going to guess. “My Romance” might have been a good closer …

Many thanks to Sebastian Pranz and  the German Magazine FROH

To buy an inscribed copy of  “The Big Love Life & Death with Bill Evans”

     Click Here

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JFK Airport – New York City – May 25th 1979

Bill Evans Notecard

 

Bill Evans letters

JFK Airport

May 25 / 1979

I arrived at JFK not knowing if I would recognize him, wearing what I thought a man my father’s age would find attractive ~ something from the 1940’s. A long pleated skirt, platform shoes and a prim white blouse with a tweed jacket.

I did recognize him, and I’ve never forgotten the funny, toed-in way he walked. He was wearing what he thought a 22-year-old woman from the 70’s would expect ~ a vinyl jacket, multi-coloured polyester shirt and a pair of flared jeans.

He grabs the child-sized red Samsonite suitcase from my hand and leans in to kiss my cheek. A silver chain with a silver and turquoise bear paw amulet dangles from his grey-haired chest. He seems smaller, younger and frailer in his personal life. I can’t see his eyes behind the tinted aviator lenses ~ but he mentions straightaway that he’s been up all night.

We stop at the A&P all-night supermarket in Fort Lee to pick up a few supplies (hot dogs, Pepsi and cigarettes for him ~ soda water for me). And while we are standing at the check out counter I can’t help but wonder if people think I am his daughter. This gives me a little kick. Like we are getting away with something. The idea that everything is not what it seems.

 Apartment 9A / Completion and Beginning

His place is immaculate, not a crumb in the galley kitchen where he will show me how he has perfected the one egg omelet and brew his “chock full of nuts” coffee. The spotless fridge holds a few cans of Pepsi, his preferred drink, and I add the bottle of club soda he purchased for me at the A&P.

In the living room, everything feels spacious, serene, orderly. There are no newspapers strewn about ~ or ashtrays overflowing or unfinished projects piling up in corners. Everything in the room seems unified by order and function.

The Zen surrealist atmosphere ~ white walls, tidy bookshelves, careful arrangement of art ~ all nesting around the piano, the Chickering baby grand. Only the piano has the look of being lived in. Sheets of music on one side of the worn padded bench and an ashtray on a stand on the other side. This is where he lives.

He shows me his bedroom. The green on green on green room. No curtains, a single window covered by a roll-down shade. The Spanish Modern furniture.

And offers me a gram of cocaine neatly folded into a piece of magazine paper. He slides it across the chartreuse bedspread.

“For your personal use,” he says, “while you’re staying here .”

I am touched by his inclusiveness and accept the package politely. I carefully open this expensive gift and take a bit of the white powder onto my fingertip and apply it to the end of my unlit cigarette.

He has several lines of the stuff laid out on the back of the same magazine. I watch as he slowly clears them one by one, snorting them up a rolled dollar bill until the glossy magazine is empty.

I light my cigarette and inhale deeply. The cool chemical sensation of burning cocaine and tobacco hits the back of my throat and slides down my spine, numbing my mind and opening up my body.

I have no idea how our chemistry will play out ~ his hand reaches to touch mine, our eyes connect. I am slightly high from the cocaine, his eyes seem magnified by the removal of his tinted glasses. His quiet confidence draws me inside.

He begins to disrobe, shedding his street clothes , revealing pale thin legs scarred and cratered, something like the surface of the moon. I am seeing his body for the first time. I’ve never seen scarring like this. Something about the mid-calf length dress socks reminds me of my Dad standing in his boxer shorts.

The look he gives me in this moment has no shame, no regret. He explains to me not how he came to be scarred this way, but that they are old scars and don’t hurt anymore.

His hands begin to explore my body. I am amazed by the sensitivity of his touch. His intense desire to give me pleasure overrides my need to stay in control and I am surrendering to this experience of pure bliss.

Waves of orgasm travel through my body and exit through the soles of my feet.

This is how he hooks me. I am insatiable after this first lovemaking session.

At 22, I am like soft wax, waiting to be impressed, and Bill does impress me with images that will last a lifetime.

For All We Know

The next morning I creep quietly out into the living room. The hazy Jersey sun fills the room; it must be noon . As I lie back on the white sofa to light my first cigarette of the day, Bill shuffles into the room in his red pajamas and asks me if I drink coffee.

I wonder what I look like after a few short hours of sleep. Bill’s sheepish grin let’s me know that I am looking rather fine in one of his white v-neck T-shirts.

I agree to a coffee and finish my early morning contemplation. I guess he’s not a maniac, I would have sensed that by now ~ but he’s not as conservative as I thought either.

Bill serves the coffee in the living room and pulls out an orange and black album from the book case on the wall behind his piano bench.

“This is Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack,” he says. “There’s one track on here that I’ve been listening to a lot lately. It’s called “For All We Know”.

The piano begins very softly and then I hear Donny Hathaway’s voice. A mournful call to attention. I am immediately transported to another state. His voice is pure emotion ~ beyond Billie Holiday. I’m stunned.

We listen in silence together, Bill seated at the piano, me still reclining on the sofa.

At the end of the song, Bill lifts the needle off the record and begins to tell me the story of his brother Harry’s battle with schizophrenia, about the hours he spent listening to his paranoid ranting about the nature of the universe. How he really wanted to believe that Harry was just ahead of his time, onto something the rest of the world didn’t understand yet.

In the end it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head that took Harry out.

Bill goes on to tell me that Donny Hathaway had suffered from depression and that he had been found dead on the sidewalk, outside his Hotel, a few months ago. They said the windows in his room had been carefully removed. He was 33 years old.

Then he sits down at the piano and plays for me the tune he had been writing for Harry just before his death and tells me that he has decided to title it “We Will Meet Again”.

This is how I learn to be present.

With Bill.

He draws me in.

Makes a place for me beside him.

And the experience of knowing someone this deeply is irresistible to me.

This is where my mission impossible begins ~ the one where I drop off my dry cleaning and slip through the back of that Manhattan storefront directly into the underworld.

This is where Persephone goes underground.

 

excerpt from “The Big Love: Life & Death with Bill Evans