Danny Boy — Bill Evans

March 17, 2019
Posted by Jay Livingston

For a long time, I dismissed “Danny Boy” as a treacly song that was usually crushed under the weight of too much sentiment, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, especially by tenors. Yet never did I breathe its pure serene till I heard Bill Evans’s eleven-minute exploration of it.

The story I’ve heard (but haven’t fact-checked) is that after his bassist, the incredibly talented Scott LeFaro, died in an automobile accident in July 1961, Evans went into mourning, or at least stayed out of the studio. In April, 1962, Evans went into the studio alone, sat down at the piano, recorded four tunes, and walked out.

For the first few choruses, he stays very close to the melody, first in B-flat, then B-natural (!), then F. Only in the fifth chorus, back in B-flat, does he improvise single-note lines.

For more on Evans, see the documentary “Time Remembered” (available at Amazon Prime), which is also the title of the album on which this take was eventually released. If you watch it, or maybe if you just listen to this track, you will understand why I keep a picture of him on my piano.

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