What people are saying on Amazon…
“Excruciatingly raw account of the Demons that plagued a master.”
By Brian Whistler – May 30th, 2012
I have been a huge fan of Bill Evans since I was a young man. It was his playing that inspired me to become a jazz pianist. Up until now, Bill’s personal life was relegated to rumor and a few apocryphal stories. In his book “How My Heart Sings”, Peter Pettigrew made a point of leaving the shadows of Bill’s life on the cutting room floor. In The Big Love, we are finally given a glimpse of the inner Bill Evans, his struggles with addiction and seemingly inevitable path towards self destruction.
But the Big Love is something more than an account of Evans’ last tortured year. It is also a courageous and unflinching memoir of a young woman in search of herself who was drawn into the subterranean world of artists, actors and musicians living on the outer edge of experience in a time that encouraged wild experimentation. Thus it also serves as the story of one woman’s journey of self discovery and her own artistic awakening.
I found Big Love to be a passionate and vivid account of the last year and a half of Bill Evans’ life. Although The Big Love suffers occasionally from awkward prose which at times distracted this reader, the story is so compelling and the writing so honest that despite its shortcomings, I devoured the book in two short sittings. For devotees of the ‘church of Bill,’ this will be a painful but worthwhile initiation into the demons that haunted Mr. Evans, and in taking the journey into the shadows, perhaps we gain some insight into what drove the man to be able to move us to emotional and spiritual depths that artists aspire to but rarely achieve. Bill’s music carries with it the imprint of the human spirit’s universal dilemma, the archetypal suffering of spirit caught in flesh and the soul’s longing for transcendence and unification with (as Bill would put it,) Universal Mind.
I have always found it bewildering that a man possessing such extraordinary gifts and intelligence wouldn’t have been more balanced, and that the feeble consolations of substance abuse would have tempted an artist and human being of his caliber. This book offers few insights into what drove him into compulsive addiction, but in reading between the lines I grew to suspect that Bill may have had a brain chemistry imbalance that resulted in some kind of chronically depressive state. His brother Harry had suffered from depression and eventually committed suicide,which certainly added fuel to the fire of Bill’s final descent. But then one wonders, if he hadn’t been so troubled, would he still have been able to create at such a high level?
For anyone who loves Bill Evan’s music and wants to understand what made Bill Evans tick, this is a must read. ( 4 Stars )
– By D. Perrine December 15th. 2011
Just another boy meets girl story. Another 50 year old coke fiend picks up 22 year old waitress in a bar story. Except that the bar is a church converted into a Disco/Chinese restaurant with an army plane over the piano and the fiend is a musical genius. The waitress is a young women adrift in the world, not sure if she wants to be a writer, dancer, or actress, about to be sucked into a vortex. In the preface she notes that these are 25 year old memories and therefore subjective, but it’s largely the unfiltered subjectivity that makes the writing so compelling. The narrative jumps back and forth in time between life before Bill and life after Bill. Sometimes a chapter will begin in past tense and end up in present tense, as if the memories are coming back to life in the telling.
There are only a handful of photos but they are as evocative as the prose: Elaine clinging to Bill, her eyes uplifted in a look of total devotion. A startling closeup of Nenette’s beautiful face framed by art deco hair, eyes floating in mystery, mouth half open with the upper lip slightly raised on the right side like the faintest hint of a sneer. Five year old Evan at the funeral listening to a tape of Bill’s last performance, eyes shut, mouth open, lower lip bruised where he’s been biting it. Bill playing, eyes squeezed shut, mouth open in a grimace. A close-up of Bill’s face looking furtive, eyes frozen in a way seen only in coke fiends and zombie movies. A cover photo of Laurie at the funeral looks like a mug shot.
Two weeks after she first met Bill at the Chinese restaurant discotheque, his older brother, whom he idolized, committed suicide, triggering Bill’s final descent. It’s as if Laurie and Bill are riding together on an elevator but she’s going up and he’s going down. A fascinating story, not for the squeamish.
“Memoir, Bill Evans, jazz and the nature of art.”
– by M. Hampton September 9th, 2011
As a jazz pianist and lover of Bill Evans my perspective is surely biased: the content of the book is inherently interesting. But even more interesting is the complete lack of moralism (as distinct from true morality) and complete presence of compassion in her book. Every day that is covered reveals a very young woman coming of age and also reveals a Bill Evans slowly dying all the while performing, arguably the greatest music performances of his career. (I am often reminded of Edward Said’s book On Late Style). Evans’ late playing is exuberant and unafraid; it has the rawness of a scene from a Cassavetes movie yet the form of an old melodrama. Verchomin’s artistic and aesthetic strategy of using bits of poetry and the journal form as we stay with the experience of this young woman and this far older celebrity and greatest of jazz artists on a daily basis has a directness that would have otherwise been unavailable to us had she travelled a more worn path.
The Big Love it is a must for anybody involved in jazz and certainly for anyone interested in the history of the 1970s, and, above all, anybody interested in the subject of female experience in the twentieth century. The Big Love is a short book. It is concentrated, precise and sharp. But it is a creation of pure love. It builds to a powerful and inevitable end that seems far vaster than its surface size. It is unabashedly spiritual and mystical and never downplays such interests for the sake of a purely secular or scientific culture.
For a personally inscribed copy of
The Big Love: Life & Death with Bill Evans