All Is Not Lost: Jazz, Depression and Bill Evans’ 'Some Other Time' Recordings

Released April 2016

Released April 2016

I came to jazz by way of coffee shops and depression. Coffee shops because jazz was often playing in the haunts where I learned to love a good iced latte. Depression because I was thirsty for music that would lift my spirits, and jazz fit the bill.

To be sure, one could probably find a more soothing genre of music to decompress to. But in the chaos of jazz there is a frivolity, a joy that reflects more than a hint of Christ’s advice to observe the birds and the flowers and not “worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

For me, at least, the fog of depression rarely, if ever, goes away completely, even after listening to the best that jazz has to offer. But the music of Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and a handful of others casts a beam of light powerful enough to help me see through the gloom.

I came to Bill Evans in particular thanks to an editor friend of mine in Beijing. His favorite pastime was drinking wine after work and falling asleep to classical music on his old CD Walkman, which he would sometimes take with him to his desk while rewriting articles by Chinese reporters.

Or at least I thought he was listening to classical.

When an article about a Chinese pop star turned up in his editing queue, he’d find a way to work into his comments, written or otherwise, a reference to “real music” – always Bach, Mozart, Chopin.

In the Chaos of Jazz

One day, having just begun dipping my toe into jazz, I asked him if he liked the genre. His eyes grew wide, which I took to mean “yes,” and I proceeded to tell him that I loved the piano and was hoping to find some good – he cut me off before I could finish.

“You need to listen to Bill Evans,” he said.

And the next week he brought me a CD compilation of the man’s music, purchased (I think) from a dusty shelf in the Foreign Language Bookstore on Wangfujing Street in Beijing.

Which brings me to here and now.

I am listening to Bill Evans’ just-released long-lost recordings titled Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest.

The tracks were recorded in Germany, in June 1968, with producers Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer and Joachim-Ernst Berendt, bassist Eddie Gomez, and drummer Jack DeJohnette.

The collection is magnificent.

I can't speak to the technical prowess of the players. I will let Pitchfork do that.

But I can speak to the beam of light the music is shining into my life this very moment. Evans' fingers break-dancing on the piano, Gomez losing himself in a bass riff, and DeJohnette charting a course with his drumsticks, in rhythm with the words of Christ.

"Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself."