To modern jazz aficionados the name Bill Evans is spoken with a degree of reverence; for Delft guitarist Erwin Beijersbergen the American pianist has been an inspiration for the best part of thirty years. Evans, who died in 1980, is perhaps not that well known to the general public but he was widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. When Beijersbergen first heard him there was an instant connection. They shared the same love of classical music – Chopin, Debussy and Bach and for Beijersbergen, Bill Evans created the same divine experience as Bach’s Art of Fugue, Well-Tempered Clavier and St. Matthew Passion.
But if Beijersbergen was to pay homage to Evans, he had a problem – Evans played and composed for piano, Beijersbergen is a guitarist. So, transposing the eighty-eight notes of a piano for the much smaller range of a guitar was not an easy task. But over the years Evans’ music has become ingrained in Beijersbergen’s psyche – not only does he understand it, he feels it and empathises with it, so the problems of transposition were merely technical and therefore overcomable.
How well the transition from ivory keys to wire strings has been accomplished can be witnessed in the Erwin Beijersbergen Trio’s album A Touch of Bill Evans. Although the streaming version has been available for some time, last night saw the formal launch of the vinyl edition to coincide with the forty-third anniversary of the pianist’s death. For Beijersbergen this album has been many years in the making and its release constitutes a dream come true.
Now, I have to confess to not being an aficionado when it comes to Bill Evans but I can’t imagine the original being significantly better than Mr Beijersbergen’s rendition. His guitar playing is sublime, not only technically flawless but emotionally stimulating and satisfying as well. He took us through the album track by track playing some of Evans’ best known tunes, Time Remembered being one of the highlights..
One of the things that attracted Beijersbergen to the original trio was the fact that the bass and drums were not just there for the backing, but were giving free reign to improvise alongside, and with, Evans. Last night the other musicians demonstrated the value of being able to contribute more than just a rhythm section. Harry Emmery on bass played some incredible music, demonstrating that in the right hands, the double bass can be as energetic and flexible as any instrument you care to mention. René Winter managed to be laid back and robust at the same time. His playing was clean and unfussy, keeping everyone on the right track but his couple of solos demonstrated that drumming need not be loud and pushy to be effective.
For a couple of numbers the Trio was augmented by Pieter van Santen on piano which added a great deal to the proceedings. And, if a trio plus one was not enough, we were also treated to two songs from Sarah Luïz, a vocalist whose dark seductive voice conjured up images of a smoky Paris jazz cellar in the 1950s.
After the last tune the large, knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience at the old Sigarenfabriek down a dark back alley in Delft’s Brabantse Turfmarkt were on their feet demanding more and when the music finally stopped Erwin Beijersbergen was kept busy signing sleeves of the excellent A Touch of Bill Evans. Michael Hasted 16th September 2023
Photo by and © Michael Hasted 2023