The Bill Evans Omnibook for Piano Review

Today, I am reviewing the Bill Evans Omnibook for piano that is published by Hal Leonard.  Hal Leonard has already released many other great Omnibooks that I have already reviewed here including the Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker Volume 2, Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane Omnibooks.  These are all saxophone players of course,  so in the interest of being more “well rounded”, I thought it would be a good idea to check out a non-saxophone Omnibook. I can think of no better non-saxophone playing musician to check out than the incomparable Bill Evans on piano.

Bill Evans

Here is a short bio of Bill Evans from Wikipedia:

“William John Evans (August 16, 1929 – September 15, 1980) was an American jazz pianist and composer who mostly played in trios. His use of impressionist harmony, inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, block chords, and trademark rhythmically independent, “singing” melodic lines continue to influence jazz pianists today.”

I have many piano recordings of Bill Evans in my CD library. I love listening to his beautiful piano playing when I want to relax and just chill out. I also like playing his music when I have company over to the house as it just sets up the perfect ambiance and class to a dinner or social event.  The colors of his chord voicings, the melodic and lyrical performance, the rhythmic variances in his playing and the interplay and communication between the piano, bass and drums is exciting and rewarding to listen to.

Bill Evans Omnibook for Piano

The person who transcribed all of these great Bill Evans’ solos does not seem to be mentioned in this Omnibook.  Maybe he wants to remain anonymous?  Regardless of that, I just have to comment on how amazing this person’s ears must be to hear all these chords, voicings, inversions and rhythms.  Whoever this person is, they must be a dedicated fan of Mr. Evans’ playing to spend the countless hours it must have took to transcribe all of these solos.

The Bill Evans Omnibook is created with the same standard of excellence as the other Hal Leonard Omnibooks.  It is coil bound so it is easy to open on a music stand and it stays open and flat when you are reading from it.  The coils are big enough that it is easy to change the pages quickly on the fly.  The book is 356 pages long and has 40 solos in it.  Here is the complete list of the solos:

The Bill Evans Omnibook Song List

Alice in Wonderland, Autumn Leaves, Bill’s Hit Tune, Blue in Green, Days of Wine and Roses, Emily, Everything Happens to Me, Five, For Nenette, How About You?, How My Heart Sings, I Loves You Porgy, It Could Happen To You, Just You Just Me, Letter To Evan, My Foolish Heart, My Funny Valentine, My Romance, Nardis, Night and Day, One for Helen, Peace Piece, Peri’s Scope, Quiet Now, Re:Person I Knew, Skating in Central Park, A Sleepin’ Bee, Some Other Time, Stella By Starlight, Song from MASH, 34 Skidoo, Time Remembered, The Touch of Your Lips, Turn Out the Stars, Very Early, Waltz for Debbie, What Kind of Fool Am I?, Who Can I Turn To, You Go To My Head, You Must Believe in Spring

*I have posted all the recordings of these solos I could find on Youtube at the bottom of this page (I found all of them).  This is as much a resource for myself as it is for all of you.  As I work through the book, I can always come back here to this page to easily find the recordings to listen to as I look at the transcriptions.


Bill Evans Omnibook for Piano

The  Bill Evans Omnibook for Piano is very easy to read considering that many of the piano transcription are so complicated.  Each solo has the chord symbols written above each measure.  There are rehearsal letters and the transcriptions are spaced out evenly and cleanly making them easier to read.

Another great feature of the Bill Evans Omnibook is that the melodies are included on every transcription.  Many transcriptions these days only include the solos because of copyright limitations but Hal Leonard has included these great melodies and written them out in detail.

There is so much more I could write about,  I truly love Bill Evans’ playing and what is captured on these pages in this book!  It is just a plethora of incredible flowing lines, phrasings, chord voicings and melodic ideas that can be worked on for a lifetime.  What I love the most about Bill Evans’ piano playing is his deliberate use of space.  So often, I listen to sax players who seem intent with filling up every ounce of space available in their solos.  Bill Evans takes his time and leaves space at moments where you are left wondering what will happen next.  We don’t need to fill every space. Space is good!

One thing to think about as a sax player reading this review, is the impact of studying a jazz player’s solos who is not a saxophone player.  Within minutes of following along with Bill Evans on these solos, I noticed so many musical differences between what he was playing and what sax players usually play.  Many elements are connected to the piano but others are connected to Bill Evans the musician. The length of the lines, the lack of the common “saxophone” licks every sax player memorizes, the differences in the range of the lines, the feeling of freedom in the lines when you think about the whole keyboard laid out before Bill Evans.

Lastly, as I mentioned above, the space.  Most of these recordings are in the trio setting which gives the piano player the responsibility of not only soloing but also comping behind himself while he solos.  We sax players probably don’t grasp the difficulty of this but we probably also don’t grasp the freedom involved with having creative control of not only the solo but the comping as well.  I would venture to say that as I read through a few of Bill Evans’ solos today that there seemed to be more creative license involved.  More creative surprises to the listener if you will.  We, sax players, can learn a lot from that side of the pond I think……..

Even though I am a hack of a piano player, I have already spent a few hours playing some of these solos and chord voicings out on my piano (really slowly!).  It is great to be able to hear the piano chords played by Bill Evans and then be able to look at the page to see all the notes he chose for that chord.  It is very enlightening and educational.  I look forward to spending many more hours with this great book and Bill Evans’ recordings.

Great job by Hal Leonard in creating another great Omnibook in their collection that includes John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Pass, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and now Cannonball Adderley.  You can get the book from Amazon through the link below.  Right now it is 33% off!

If you end up getting the Bill Evans Omnibook please feel free to come back and share your thoughts and comments with all of us below.  If you have other thoughts about Bill Evans, I would love to hear them also.  Thank you to Bill Evans for your amazing and beautiful contribution to this music and thank you for the anonymous transcriber that put all the work into transcribing these great solos!

Disclosure: I received the books mentioned above for free from Hal Leonard in the hope that I would perhaps review them here on my blog. If you purchase the book from any of the Amazon links above I will make a small commission that I will use to support this site.  Regardless, I only review saxophone related products that I enjoy and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.  Steve

Links to all tunes I could find on Youtube:

Alice in Wonderland

Autumn Leaves

Bill’s Hit Tune

Blue in Green

Days of Wine and Roses

Emily

Everything Happens to Me

Five

For Nenette

How About You?

How My Heart Sings

I Loves You, Porgy

It Could Happen To You

Just You, Just Me

Letter To Evan

My Foolish Heart

My Funny Valentine

My Romance

Nardis

Night and Day

One for Helen

Peace Piece

Peri’s Scope

Quiet Now

Re:Person I Knew

Skating in Central Park

A Sleepin’ Bee

Some Other Time

Stella By Starlight

Song From MASH (Suicide is Painless)

34 Skidoo

Time Remembered

The Touch of Your Lips

Turn Out the Stars-this song is somewhere in the middle of this video

Very Early

Waltz for Debbie

What Kind of Fool Am I?

Who Can I Turn To

You Go To My Head

You Must Believe in Spring

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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. My favorite jazz pianist of all time. I don’t know how many times I’ve played Alice in Wonderland.

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