The white face of Bill Evans stands out among the players of hard bop. It was under the fingers of this young pianist that some of the hottest preoccupations of the moment were crystallized.
When, on 15 December 1958, he recorded 'Peace Piece' as an accompanied piano solo, he pushed his taste for spareness to the extreme. In it, he improvised on two endlessly repeated chords for almost seven minutes. Concentrating on such minimalism, he explored the scale corresponding to these chords, but not without taking the liberty to wander off into neighboring scales.
In doing so,he drew on the teaching of composer George Russell, whose theories, found in his 'Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization', offered a new approach to jazz musicians: rather than contend with the increasingly elaborate chord changes required by fifties jazz, a modal approach (based on the notes in one scale) offered new simplicity. Modal jazz, often inspired by non-European musical forms, became widespread in the sixties. On the one hand, with modal jazz and the blossoming of a new lyricism harmonic language would be reborn; on the other, it would find its own negation in the upcoming explosion of free jazz.
|John Coltrane (L) and George Russell (R)|