062207 Bill Evans, Ottawa, ON

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On June 22nd, 2007 I sauntered down to the Ottawa jazz festival main stage in lovely Confederation Park to watch a headlining set by the well-known jazzer Bill Evans.  You know, the guy who played with Miles Davis and so many others, and who went on to forge a unique career of his own?  Monster player, great sound.  You know the guy…

Well no…not that Bill Evans!  Sheesh!  Of course the legendary jazz piano monster died way back in 1980.  This Bill Evans is a sax player, and he played with Miles in the ’80’s whereas the other Bill Evans played with Miles back in the ’50’s.  Both Bills played with tons of other folks too, though I think Bill Evans the sax player was the only one of them to play with The Allman Brothers.  

To be fair, Bill Evans the piano player is the one who inadvertently offered the world a completely new way of working classically-influenced Impressionistic harmonic structures into the world of jazz and who remains heralded as the most influential and revered ivory-tickler in the history of the business, so there’s that.

It must be somewhat weird to spend your life as “the other Bill Evans”; not only in the same line of work but even working for the same dude (Miles).  I can relate on a minor level: when I was sixteen I discovered that there was another Todd Snelgrove out there who not only shared my birthday (same year and everything) but who also mimicked my physical description (height, eye and hair colour).  Crazy huh?  And you know who told me this?  A police officer.  And you know what else he told me?  He told me that young Todd was – get this – wanted for auto theft*.  Oh, the time I had trying to convince that officer that I (or he) was “the other” Todd Snelgrove!  It took hours.  Through bars.

And then about twenty years later a border official informed me that I was listed as a missing person.  Again, it took some time to convince Captain Smiley of the US Border Patrol that I was not the Todd Snelgrove that was missing.  Dismayed at the proof that stood in front of him, the border cop was clearly hoping he had found me, and licking his chops that congratulations and possible citations were surely in order.  I finally got my Todd Snelgrove butt out of there and have not heard a peep about my doppel-scalliwag since.  I guess he’s still missing.

And while to my knowledge neither of us has played with Miles Davis (or The Allman Brothers for that matter) I still think of him as the “other” Todd Snelgrove and me as the “real” Todd Snelgrove – on most days anyway – which probably has more to do with me being born at 12:02am and likely coming into the world first and less to do with me working classically-influenced Impressionistic harmonic structures into the world of jazz (which I haven’t, yet).  Which is all to say: In a way I can relate to Bill Evans.  The real one I mean.

Anyway, while there is still time I should tell you that the show was bluegrass of all things, jazz-influenced bluegrass.  And man, Evans had a smoking banjo player up there on stage with him (the rhythm section and the fiddle player weren’t too shabby either).  Now you’re probably thinking, “Oh, I guess it sounded like Bela Fleck then,” to which I would say, “No, no it didn’t, really,” though I’d concur with the basic premise of your surmisation.

Once again I neglected to go to the post-show jam at the Holiday Inn and once again most of the band showed up to sit in with our local jazz hotshots, so once again I totally missed out.  No word on whether or not the other Todd Snelgrove** was there.

(By the way, word is that Bill Evans is in no way related to Bill Evans.  My dad was adopted, so it would be a pretty wild coincidence if Todd Snelgrove and I were physically related, but I’m not ruling it out.  He seems to be a pretty wild guy.)

*Shouldn’t all acts of kleptomania (ie: irresistible urges to steal) be classified as “auto” theft?

**On paper we had two main differences: he has a middle name (of course he does!  Who doesn’t have a middle name?  Oh right…me) and he lived in Newfoundland.  Now that I’ve relocated to The Rock there remains only one difference.  Well, I suppose if he’s still missing and I’m still not then we’re back up to two differences.

I wonder if he knows about me?  If so I’m sure he hasn’t heard good things.

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