Waxing & musings. During last week's interview with Laurie Verchomin [pictured], Bill Evans' lover during the last 18 months of his life, I received dozens of e-mails, most praising Laurie's courage and willingness to share her memories—as raw and as tender as they were. But some e-mail writers knocked Laurie for not trying to get Evans off his cocaine habit or get him into rehab. The sentiments in these e-mails were understandable. I had much the same feeling—initially.
But after talking at length with Laurie, you realize that there really are only two ways to deal with people who are determined to destroy themselves: You can kill yourself trying to stop them or you can do your best to keep the person from self-destructing too soon. The hope always is that they will have an epiphany and turn themselves around. Unless the individual is willing to change, there's really very little you can do if you want to keep your sanity and heath.
It's easy to blame Laurie for not doing more to save Evans. But this assumes Evans wanted to be saved, which he did not. In truth, Laurie kept Evans going through much of 1980 and as a result is largely responsible for much of his enormous and important output between June and September of that year—recordings we may never had heard had Evans died many months earlier.
Late last week I asked Laurie whether she still thinks of Evans:
"I dream a lot about Bill. Several months ago in a dream, I was asking him something really important to me and he turned to me and said, 'Finish the goddamn book already.' The other night I dreamed about Bill's music. It was so deep and eternal. I really had a strong desire to create something that deep and eternal. When I told my son Niko about the dream in the morning, he responded with this line: 'You are that eternal—you created me and Evan and Tara. But writing can also be eternal, so I guess you are doing pretty good in the eternal category.' "
Yes, it's about the music. But jazz is also about the individuals who made the music, warts and all. That's what makes the music special. Fortunately we have Laurie's account to help explain the jagged turmoil so evident in Bill Evans' final months.
Charles Peterson. Michael Steinman, who writes the very fine Jazz Lives blog, posted a fabulous essay on jazz photographer Charles Peterson last week. Go here.
Separated at birth. Last week Wall Street Journal jazz writer Will Friedwald passed along a link to a fun two-part series by Oakland Examiner jazz writer Brian McCoy who showcases how famous jazz album covers have been mirrored by contemporary artists. In some cases the copies are acts of flattery. In other cases (like the one pictured here), they're complete lifts. Go here and here.
Bird and Prez on the air. New York's WKCR presents its annual end-of-summer around-the-clock festival celebrating the music of Lester Young and Charlie Parker. The festival runs from Thursday to Saturday (August 27-29). You can tune in worldwide here.
CD discovery of the week. For fans of the funky electric bass, Freddie Washington dominates. Currently touring with Steely Dan, Washington brings a hip groove to everything he plays. His current album, In the Moment, was released in June and has a terrific 1970s soul-jazz instrumental sound. Unlike many electric bassists of the past 20 years, Washington plays the instrument like a guitar, soloing with enormous clarity and impact. As a fan of 1970s and 1980s soul, I couldn't resist this one. Each track has an infectious groove.
You'll find In the Moment as a download at iTunes and at Amazon here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Nearly all jazz organists in the 1970s were saddled with notoriously risque covers featuring semi-nude black female models. This one for Jack McDuff's Sophisticated Funk (1976) is actually tame by comparison, but it's out there just the same. Makes you wonder what became of the "creative" designer who decided to turn a then-modern push-button lock into a chastity belt to illustrate the album's title. Very sophisticated.