Born: February 9, 1958 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Throughout his 20-year career as a solo artist, multi Grammy nominated saxophonist Bill Evans has explored a variety of musical settings that go well beyond the confines of traditional jazz, including hip-hop, fusion, reggae, Brazilian and slamming funk. Evans steps into more adventurous territory on Soulgrass, blending jazz, funk and roots music into a seamless and wholly unique hybrid of quintessentially American styles.
Bill Evans started playing piano before switching to tenor sax in high school. After one year of studying music at North Texas State University he transferred to William Patterson College in New Jersey in 1978 and also began private studies with sax great and former Miles Davis sideman, Dave Liebman. Through Liebmans recommendation, he was tapped by Miles in 1980 , at the age of 22, to play a key role in Miles celebrated comeback band. Bill became Miles right-hand man and soloistic foil in concert and on a series of recordings -- 1981s The Man With The Horn, 1982s We Want Miles, 1983s Star People and 1984s Decoy. After leaving Davis band in 1984, Evans joined John McLaughlin in a reconstituted edition of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, appearing on 1985s Mahavishnu and 1987s Adventures in Radioland. He also toured and recorded through the 80s with the band Elements (with keyboardist Cliff Carter, bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb) and through the 90s with Petite Blonde (an all-star fusion band he formed which was comprised of bassist Victor Bailey, drummer Dennis Chambers, guitarist Chuck Loeb and Evans on tenor and soprano saxes) and also with former Police guitarist Andy Summers. More recently, Evans has toured Europe and the States with the Soulbop band, which he co-leads with trumpeter Randy Brecker.
Bills solo debut came in 1984 with Living in the Crest of a Wave and he followed up in 1985 with Alternative Man. In the early 90s, he was one of the first to blend hip-hop and jazz in a musical way on a triumvirate of recordings -- 1993s Push, 1994s Live in Europe and 1995s Escape. He followed those groundbreaking recordings with 1997s Starfish and The Moon, 1999s Touch and 2001s Grammy nominated Soul Insider, which featured a guest appearance by soul-jazz legend Les McCann. Bill followed that success with 2003s groove-oriented Big Fun, which featured a cameo spot by country star Willie Nelson. In 2005, BHM Records released the exhilarating Soul Bop Band Live, which captured the all-star group fronted by Evans and Randy Brecker and featuring drummer Steve Smith, guitarist Hiram Bullock, bassist Victor Bailey and pianist Dave Kikoski in full stride during a whirlwind summer tour last year. His daring collaboration with Bela Fleck and Nashville session aces Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan and Jerry Douglas on Soulgrass is Bill's latest exploration in an ever-evolving career.
The ground-breaking Soulgrass recording was nominated for a Grammy in 2005. Because of his respect and adulation among fellow artists in the music world, Bill was able to call upon the stellar musicians who appeared on the recording. Joining the great saxophonist on this pioneering effort, which was recorded entirely in Nashville, was banjo legend Bela Fleck. Bela was so taken with the project that he not only played on but also co-produced 6 of the 10 tracks. Also joining Bill were progressive bluegrass greats Sam Bush on mandolin, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Jerry Douglas on dobro and Pat Bergeson on acoustic guitar and harmonica. Other special guests includes Bela Fleck Flecktones band mate Victor Wooten on electric bass, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Mark Egan on electric bass, Bruce Hornsby, Clifford Carter and Dave Kikoski on keyboards, David Charles on percussion and John Scofield on guitar.
Evans says that the idea of exploring an adventurous and unlikely hybrid of bluegrass and jazz was actually something he had in mind for years. Ive been an Americana fan ever since my Miles days. I liked the sound of mandolin, banjo, dobro and fiddle and I thought that music had a very cool rhythmic approach, even though I never really knew the names of the players or the tunes. But I just connected with that music in some way. So it had been in the back of my mind for years to do a project like this. I had been listening to some Americana and bluegrass stuff. I had some Bill Monroe CDs at home and also listened to recordings by Bruce Hornsby, the Flecktones and that project that Bela did with Mark OConnor and Edgar Meyer, Appalachian Waltz. So I was doing a lot of listening, just immersing myself in all of this Americana music to inspire me in that mode. And once I got in there, I just started cranking out the tunes, keeping these instruments in mind. Then when we all got together in the studio to record, I was pleased to see that it all fit like a glove.
Bill Evans has assembled another powerhouse touring band, featuring some of the most in-demand musicians on the scene. Bill Evans Soulgrass includes Joel Rosenblatt, who toured with Spyrogyra for 11 years, multi-genre improviser on fiddle, Christian Howes, and young banjo phenom Ryan Cavanaugh. Bill Evans now brings Soulgrass to the US audiences who have been writing him for years to tour the states. Bill says, Its amazing to see the ecstatic response from people every night who have never heard banjo, fiddle and saxophone together in this context. Bill Evans Soulgrass has been described by the newspaper El Mundo from Madrid Spain as the most energizing and fresh sounding blend of Americana and Funk, but Bills innovative music and high-energy live shows speak for themselves. More currently, Bill finished his new and latest CD titled The other side of something featuring, once again, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Sam Bush, Pat Bergeson, plus the addition of musicians like Dennis Chambers, Richard Bona, and his current working band of Chris Howes, Joel Rosenblatt and Ryan cavanaugh, etc. The other side of Something is the next step after Soulgrass. Bill sings on the Cd as well as playing all of the saxes. Tenor, Alto, Soprano, and Baritone. The music blends the styles of funk, soul, Amercana, with Bills' sense of melody and groove.
The CD was released in Europe nov 26 and is planned on a USA release for spring 2008.