Week 148: “Peace Piece” by Bill Evans


Looking at the cover of this album, you get the feeling that the record label was a bit worried that the album wouldn’t sell because nobody would know who Bill Evans was.

The title, “Everybody Digs Bill Evans,” sounds more like an advertising jingle than a title. And then there’s the cover design; not a photo of the artist himself, but a list of celebrity endorsements (Miles Davis! George Shearing! Ahmad Jamal! Cannonball Adderley!) kind of like what you’d expect to read on the back cover of a novel, as if to convince you that yes, Bill Evans is more than just a boring name, he’s also a brilliant composer! Trust us on this one!

If the record label was worried about sales, they shouldn’t have been. While it wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, it was acclaimed as one of the better albums of 1958, and stands up as one of Evans’ best works more than half a century later. And this song in particular remains as beautiful as anything recorded by any of the jazz greats quoted on the album cover.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The repeated chords in the left hand. Sounds less like jazz and more like Erik Satie.

2. While the right hand gets more and more discordant, the left hand stays grounded and peaceful.

3. It was improvised. Evans refused to play the song live, stating that it was the product of a specific moment in the studio, and that moment couldn’t be recreated. He ended up performing it just once, to accompany a group of contemporary dancers, two years before he died.

Recommended listening activity:

Watching an incredible sunset without taking any pictures.

Buy it here.