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Danny Boy: Bill Evans

I once had a piano teacher who told me Bill Evans “brought the inner voice back into jazz.” Whether or not this is true, I can’t really say, but the inner voice is definitely a distinct part of his style. Bill also has a soft touch of the keyboard. Beautiful playing always!

Jazz music, declared an American treasure by Congress in 1987, usually uses a type of theme and variations to create its story. The musicians start with a song and then elaborate on it with improvisations. They usually change the song's harmonies, as well. A lot of jazz musicians also play their own original compositions. Here, Bill plays "Danny Boy," a folk favorite.

Questions to answer in your response:

1. The inner voices are lines in Bill's playing that are not in the soprano or bass (the top voice and the bottom voice). Listen closely to the inner voices, what is happening there? Why would someone say that Bill Evans brought the inner voice back into jazz?

2. Inner voice may easily be confused with the concept of personal voice. Personal voice is a musician's unique sound, their soul expressing its individuality. I’m sure you’ve experienced this: hearing a singer or an instrumentalist and instantly recognizing them, even if you've never heard that song. Does Bill Evans have a personal voice? If so, describe it.

3. Listen to some other versions of Danny Boy on YouTube. Listen to the chords. Are the harmonies more simple or more complex than Bill’s version? What does it mean to say that Bill re-harmonized this song? Discuss.

4. How old is the song Danny Boy?

Disclaimer: Students, Bill lived at a time when smoking was commonplace. Society didn't widely know or accept it to cause very serious health problems. When you're an adult, you're free to choose to smoke, but be aware of the risks and be ready to accept the outcome.

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