William John Evans was an American jazz pianist and composer whose use of impressionist harmony, inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, block chords, and trademark rhythmically independent, “singing” melodic lines continues to influence jazz pianists today.
In 1958, Evans joined Miles Davis’s sextet, where he was to have a profound influence. In 1959, the band, then immersed in modal jazz, recorded Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time.
In late 1959, Evans left the Miles Davis band and began his career as a leader, with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, a group now regarded as one of the seminal modern jazz trios. In 1961, ten days after finishing an engagement at the New York Village Vanguard jazz club, where the highly acclaimed Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby albums were recorded, LaFaro died in a car accident.
Many of Evans’s compositions, such as “Waltz for Debby”, have become standards, played and recorded by many artists. Evans was honored with 31 Grammy nominations and seven awards, and was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.