Peace Piece/Bill Evans

John Fraim

(Press the Play button above before reading below. The music of Bill Evans’ “Peace Piece” is intended to serve as part of the media of the below story.)

January 13, 2021.

Almost a year into the pandemic and lockdown and a week before the inaugeration. The nation seems about to explode. On a cold, grey morning in Columbus, Ohio I walk my greyhound Genna up to our daily trip to the park for her to accomplish her morning duties. As I walk to the park, I ponder what is ahead for our country. Thousands of national guard troops have moved into Washington DC in anticipation of rioting and Congress is going through the second impeachment of the president.

Back at home, I give her a cookie for being “a good girl” this morning in the park. Then I feed her. When she finished the morning meal she goes to her “place” on “her” sofa in the living room. This is her operational headquarters each day. Most of the time she sleeps upside down with her legs in the air in the typical greyhound “roach” position. (I haven’t checked the origin of the word but assume it relates to that disgusting insect that invades homes). She raises her head for certain people who come to our front door each day to deliver things in our era of the grand lockdown. Her favorite visitor is Mike the UPS man who comes in his brown truck. Genna recognizes Mike’s truck half a block away and is always at the door with her long black tail (tipped with a piece of white at the end of it) wagging, knocking into the wall by the front door so hard I worry about it making indentations in the wall. Mike always brings her three cookies when he brings packages. I say hello to Mike and talk about the craziness of our world for a few seconds. He certainly sees the world from a different perspective from most of us today. He handles the UPS duties for our entire town and everyone always sees him anywhere in our town during the day. And sometimes late into the nights.

Today, the temperature is around 20 and it seems cold enough to push the button starting the gas fireplace. So different from all the hassle I went though to start fires in my first homes. Getting real wood. Rolling up newspaper and stuffing it under the wood logs. But now, the fire is behind a glass panel and pops alive at the push of a button. But the movement from wood fireplaces to gas ones is some outward manifestation of that great march of life in the images of memory in life.

* * *

I go into my office when Genna is on “her” coach and sleeping in her roach position. The gas fire is blazing through the artificial logs. On the Spectrum App of my iPhone I watch the floor of Congress in real time. It seems to be one angry person after another. Voices are shrill. To me, there is the air of a Baptist revivalist ceremony in the proceedings.

I decide to leave the world of Congress in DC and relocate to my old home in the Bay Area via my app for KCSM, the Bay Area jazz station. It is the Morning Show with Alicia Clancy and there is a commercial for the peace provided by music in this period of stress. Bill Evens plays his composition “Peace Piece” in the background of the commercial. I have heard the gorgeous music before but not for a long time. Its soft, quietness and reflection offers such a contrast for our harsh, mean world today.

The composition was recorded by Evans in December 1958 for his album Everybody Digs Bill Evans. It is a pastoral improvisation recorded by Evans at the end of the recording session built on a gentle Cmaj7 to G9sus4 two chord progression.  The same progression featured in the opening to “Flamenco Sketches” which he recorded with Miles Davis a year later on the legendary Kind of Blue album.

Although a peaceful piece, it features a lot of discordant notes in the latter half. The composition has a free form melody and timeless, meditational quality. Evans evokes the feeling of being alone. Evans had many requests to play the piece live in his last years but he refused because he believed that the composition would lose its value and meaning as it had been an inspiration at the moment only. He only ever played it once live with the Bill Evans Dance Company in Seattle in 1978 to accompany an abstract and lyrical modern dance put on by the dancers.

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