A few weeks ago I received an email from two ardent Bill Evans fans—James Farber and Larry Goldberg. They wrote to say they had interviewed Evans back in 1976 on a radio station in Madison, Wis., and asked if I wanted to hear it. I said I'd be happy to and, if I loved it and the sound was clean, I'd be most interested in hosting the clip and sharing their story at JazzWax.
James and Larry are big JazzWax fans and were thrilled. When they sent along the clip, I gave a listen and was amazed. Their interview was highly revealing about Evans's personality and sense of humor, and the fidelity was terrific. As you will hear during the 43-minute audio clip, James and Larry (both 22 at the time) put Evans at ease and sounded as if they had been cooly interviewing jazz legends for decades. But before you listen to the clip, let's set the stage:
In the fall of 1976, Jerry Dahlke, a Madison, Wis., concert promoter, booked Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund into Madison’s Memorial Union Theater. To build buzz for the trio's concert, Dahlke asked James, a huge Evans fan, if he'd like to interview him on WORT, the local FM radio station where Dahlke was a board member. James immediately agreed, and the on-air interview was set for Sunday Nov. 14, the night before the concert.
Just before the interview, Dahlke introduced Bill to James and James's friend and co-host, Larry “L. Roy” Goldberg, at the WORT studio. James picks up the story:
“When I shook hands with Bill, I remember noticing that his hands were huge. I also recall he was incredibly relaxed and such a nice cat during the interview, speaking freely and openly on a wide range of topics. Larry and I started out a bit nervous, but we quickly relaxed and ended up having a great time. Bill seemed to appreciate the fact that we were familiar with his music and dug it. Bill was 47 at the time and, sadly, would live only for another four years. Luckily, Larry and I recorded the broadcast. [Photo above of James Farber in Madison, Wis., in 1976]
“Growing up best friends in Springfield, N.J., Larry and I shared a love of music and radio. This led to our first radio show in the summer of 1971 when we both had attended Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts. I was the engineer and Larry was the on-air DJ of the “L. Roy Show”— Roy being Larry’s middle name. [Photo above of Larry Goldberg in Madison, Wis., in 1976]
“Inspired, we both applied for our FCC 3rd Class Radio Operator’s licenses in preparation for hosting college radio shows. I attended the University of Wisconsin/Madison and Larry went off to SUNY Binghamton in New York. When I graduated in December 1975, I remained in Madison, playing the Fender Rhodes in my jazz group. Listener-sponsored WORT-FM was launched around this time, and I volunteered to host a late-night show playing jazz, Frank Zappa and experimental music. After having transferred to the University of Southern California, Larry graduated in the summer of 1976 and moved from Los Angeles to Madison. It was great to have him as co-host of the show.
“A day after our interview, I attended the concert sound check, since, in addition to knowing the promoter, I now knew Bill, and Larry was the concert sound mixer. On a break, I gave Bill a copy of one of my original compositions, Caboose. I'll never forget what happened next: Bill sat back down at the piano and played the chart, nodding approvingly.
“Following the concert, Larry and I were invited to a reception for Bill and the trio, the promoters plus Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach, who had played the opening set. Hanging out with these jazz cats was a real thrill for us. I would later get the chance to work with Dave on numerous recording sessions in New York.
“The next day, Larry and I listened to the tape of our interview. We went into shock. The WORT tape recorder had been running slow, so our voices sounded sped up when the tape played back at its normal speed. We sounded like the Chipmunks! We stopped the playback, and the tape went back into its box, where it sat for almost 40 years.
“Recently, it hit me that I should transfer the tape, with speed correction, to a digital audio file. After I did, Larry and I listened back. This time, we were convinced we were in possession of something very special and that it should be shared with Bill Evans fans everywhere. We contacted Marc Myers, who expressed interest in posting it on his JazzWax blog. Now, here it is for the world to hear.”
James Farber, above, is a New York recording engineer whose credits over the past 35 years include Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Brad Mehldau, John Scofield, Dave Holland, James Taylor and Nile Rodgers
Larry Goldberg, above, is Director of Accessible Media for Yahoo after having served for decades in that same capacity for WGBH in Boston.
A special JazzWax thanks to Bret Primack, the Jazz Video Guy, for helping with the video packaging.
Here's Bill Evans on Nove. 14, 1976, at radio station WORT-FM in Madison, Wis., being interviewed by James Farber and Larry Goldberg: