Six poets, six poems on Bill Evans

October 21st, 2023

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© Veryl Oakland

Bill Evans, Berkeley, California; April, 1969

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Listening to Bill Evans

Hush, my friends.
Whispers of twilight
fill Bill Evans’ piano;
to hear the night in his music

requires stillness, an ability
to mentally and emotionally
float without anticipation,
to lift your face in acceptance

of life’s blood sailing you
into terrain that will change
your ability to perceive,
to pray, to accept, to discover.

You must enter this world
without preconception
or judgement; you must
sink into Evans’ sophisticated

wilderness where the quietest note
can lift you into flight
you cannot control, but which
can console all pain you daily sustain.

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by Michael L. Newell

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Poem for Bill Evans

The young man on an album cover from the late 1950s
Looks straight ahead, thin and serious,
A businesslike haircut

When I saw you play at the Village Vanguard in New York, October 1974
You were heavier, wearing a beard
Your brown hair hanging like a lion’s mane
As you hunched over the piano keys
Completely absorbed in your solo work
I was sitting just a short distance away
Close enough to see your thick hands,
And amazed they produced such delicate sweet sounds
The same held true in the summer of 1978
At a small club in Boston
I only remember “Purple” in the club’s title
Thankful I’d seen your show listed in the paper
and followed my instincts to catch you

You’d be dead two years later at 51

You made two albums with Tony Bennett
Just you accompanying him
Both looking forward to a third collaboration
But then you were gone
A bleeding ulcer
The after-effect of a long-ago heroin habit?
I heard Bennett interviewed some years ago
When his memoir came out
He spoke of his high regard for you and for your playing
And described a phone conversation when you were weak and sick
He quoted your advice:
“Think truth and beauty,
Nothing else matters”
Those two words aptly describe your music
And nothing else matters

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by Mark Donnelly

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Bill Evans Suite

1. Waltz for Debby
2. B Minor Waltz (for Ellaine)
3. The Two Lonely People
4. Like Someone in Love
5. You Must Believe in Spring

1. The fingers move lightly
across the keys, light-footed
notes three-stepping up
and sideways like a heart
with an extra beat, inside
my chest another waltz.

2. Another waltz for someone
lost, a heart stopped under
the wheels that moved horribly
unlike fingers rolling gently
along the keyboard, two hands
finding and not finding each other.

3. Finding and not finding
each other, drinking together
from the same lonely spring,
slaking the same thirst that
one drop from the tip of your
tongue could slake.

4. Your tongue slakes
my thirst drop by drop
until the spring runs dry
in summer’s heat.

5. Even in summer’s heat
spring lingers. We seek
refreshment from those sources
we can find, even in summer’s
heat believing in spring.

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by Gregory Luce

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Bill Evans at Dawn

she rises with the first notes
her body like the sunrise
ethereal, her curves leading me to
new adventures, she is woman
when she lies, her body an 8th
note, she bends in and out. like
a melody, her breasts are ripe
fruits, as only a woman could bear
she bares all in the early light
naked as a piano melody
softly she sings, she swings. when she
loves, her body is a monument to
lovers, she lies on her back and her
body becomes a foreign country to
me, i touch her lips, like bill touches
piano keys, i kiss her and feel the
warmth of her, for the love of her
i enter, and the piano song rises
i enter her, finding safe
passage…

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by Erren Kelly

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peace poem

and one night nobo-daddy sprinkled green oval rain drops
earth mutated atop crushed velvet piano notes
fondling immortal fingers
bill evans
as he composing peace piece
glorious calm spreads over hifi earth
prancing indigo moons, lemon stars and skid row diners
rustling through salvation red neon winds
universe cracks a warm gangly smile

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………………….originally published in  Jerry Jazz Musician  April 13, 2023

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by Michael Amitin

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The Scarlet Hour (1956)

The velvety tones of Nat King Cole,
highlighting this long-lost film noir,
mesmerize.

The orchestra’s lush strings belie the
haunting words of the scarlet hour –
when desire

no longer is returned despite the searing
plea, “Never Let Me Go.” The song
repeats,

this time with Bill Evans’ crisp, witty
piano rendition that precisely enters
consciousness

like the knife of betrayal. Did Evans ever play
this for his lover, Miss Heroin? Oh, how she
never let him go.

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…………………originally published in  Jerry Jazz Musician  on Aug 22 2023

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by Diana Rosen

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Listen to the 1968 recording of Bill Evans performing “Never Let Me Go” [Universal Music Group]

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Poet and musician Michael D. Amitin, originally from California, traveled the roads of the American West before settling in Paris, France where he now lives. Recently named International Beat Poet Laureate 2020-2021, Amitin’s poems have been published in California Quarterly, Poetry Pacific, North of Oxford. Love Love Magazine. and others. A current collaboration with Parisian photographer Julie Peiffer has given rise to the “Riverlights” project, and can be found at Riverlights.art

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Mark Donnelly is a professional writer of poetry, drama, short fiction and nonfiction. He has had poems published with Pure Slush, the National Beat Poetry Foundation, and the Long Island Quarterly. A short story and a creative nonfiction piece appeared in anthologies by Pure Slush in the summer of 2023. He has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. A native New Yorker, Mark now lives in Northern California in the town of Davis.

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Erren Kelly

Erren Kelly is a three-time Pushcart nominated poet from Boston whose work has appeared in 300 publications (print and online), including Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine, Ceremony, Cacti Fur, Bitterzoet, Cactus Heart, Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, and Poetry Salzburg.

Click here to read “Under Quarantine” — COVID-era poetry of Erren Kelly, published by Jerry Jazz Musician

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Gregory Luce, author of  Signs of Small Grace, Drinking Weather, Memory and Desire, Tile, and Riffs & Improvisations,  has published widely in print and online. He is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. In addition to poetry, he writes a monthly column on the arts for Scene4 magazine. He is retired from National Geographic, works as a volunteer writing tutor/mentor for 826DC, and lives in Arlington, VA.

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Michael L. Newell lives in Florida. He has had seven books of poetry published in the last three years.

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Diana Rosen is the author of the hybrid micro-fiction and poetry book High Stakes & Expectations from thetinypublisher.com/shop. She is a poet, essayist, and flash writer whose work appears in Rattle, Tiferet Journal, Drunk Monkeys, Rat’s Ass Review among other journals and anthologies online and in print in England, India, Canada, Australia, and the U.S. To read more of her work, please visit authory.com/dianarosen

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Veryl Oakland is a photojournalist who devoted nearly thirty years in search of the great jazz musicians.  His  Jerry Jazz Musician  series, “Jazz in Available Light” – a collection of his photos and stories from his book of the same name – can be accessed by clicking here.

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In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

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