Book Review: “The Big Love”
by Laurie Verchomin


 

A REVIEW BY WIN HINKLE

"The Big Love: Life and Death with Bill Evans" is available from www.laurieverchomin.com, 144 pages. (Available from the author’s web site, also at amazon.com)

Contact laurie@laurieverchomin.com to purchase.

Preface: Before I actually read this book, I had heard various comments about it, some flattering, some not. As there seemed to be no one stepping up to the plate to do a review, I purchased the book from Laurie and volunteered to review it for Jan Stevens’s web site, “The Bill Evans Web Pages.”

It was a complex challenge, increasing my understanding of Bill and Laurie’s relationship as well as revealing deeper visions of Bill’s everyday living, loving and creating. Reading and re-reading this book, like listening to Bill’s music, has been a life-changing experience for me as I expect it will be for you.

“The Big Love,” is a love story, but unlike most. The stark realities
of Laurie’s coming-of-age before meeting Bill, and later, the dried up
riverbeds of Bill’s addiction are detailed in a narrative that might
be shocking to some readers. Laurie writes in a sort of prose that is
still liquid and finding its form as the book progresses. You might
consider some of it explicit, maybe PG-13, even though quite
appropriate to the situation.

In addition to her relationship with Bill, Laurie goes into great
detail about the ups and downs of her personal life. We experience
vivid details of her transformation from a young girl growing up in
Canada in a semi-dysfunctional family. She experiences some difficult
situations and sexual encounters through a fast-paced transition to
adulthood. Her relationship with Bill figures prominently.

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

After an education that included music theory and a growing
understanding of jazz, Laurie has her first encounter with Bill Evans
while she is waitressing at a place called the Mayflower Restaurant on
97th Street in Edmonton. The Railtown Jazz Society had booked the trio
to perform in this “church/disco/Chinese restaurant.” It proves to be
a trial by fire for her as she has not seen an audience so entranced
by the music that they ignore the waitress trying to serve them
drinks. None are big spenders as most are students and professors from
Grant McKuen Community College where she was once enrolled.

Either due to the fact that she is inexperienced as a waitress, or the
cheapness of the audience, or a combination of both, she is $50 short
at the end on the night and has to borrow from a friend to tally-up
with the bartender.

After the concert the she and Bill get together. Laurie communicates
her experience with the bartender to Bill while they spend the evening
together at her apartment. In the morning Bill gives her a short note
with his phone number written down on the back of one of his manager’s
business cards asking her to call him. Several days later she gets her
first letter from him with $50 enclosed to repay the debt to the
friend.

Bill seems to be immediately convinced that he wants to have a long
term relationship with the twenty-two year old and invitations and
travel arrangements are made for Laurie to join Bill on his tours and
performances. This culminates in Laurie eventually joining Bill, not
just in hotel rooms while on tour, but as a resident of his apartment
in New Jersey for his gigs in the New York City Area and the down-time
between performances. After a meeting with Bill’s manager Helen Keane,
Laurie is given the title of road manager.

The saddest part of “The Big Love” is an event that I thought somehow
escaped Bill and his addiction - paranoia. I know that paranoia can be
a normal part of an addict’s thinking, but somehow I thought Bill
Evans was immune, since he seemed to continually compose and perform
on a level that transcended those medical symptoms. Alas, that was not
the case and when you read this section, it smacks you in the face. Be
prepared for it dear reader.

Laurie delivers much to the reader - vivid descriptions of their love
and growing bonds to each other as well as the sinister ogre of Bill’s
addiction and its consequences. Along the way, we are permitted a
close-up look at Bill’s crafting of the song “Laurie,” from a basic
sketch, through various permutations, blossoming to the final version.
Simultaneously, we watch his illness progress to the missed nights at
the trio’s last engagement at Fat Tuesday's in New York, and, ultimately, to his
death.

The book is fascinating and hard to put down partially due to Laurie’s
prose. Here is an excerpt from Laurie’s description of Bill Evans
holding court at the Village Vanguard.

“He assumes his position, face draped gently over his hands on the
keys. He tilts his head to one side - listening - and I see his face,
the sallow skin stretched over the broad forehead, eyebrows raised in
astonished agony or ecstasy, his eyes closed behind dark glasses,
mouth and jaw open.

This is the expression he has at home composing at the piano. This is
the expression he shares with me when we make love. This is his most
intimate expression - egoless, vulnerable - full of truth and beauty.

Smoke curls up from ashtrays, filling the darkened red and black room
with an eerie blue haze. No one speaks, everyone is in accord. We are
all in accord with the intangible feeling of inner beauty
decompressing from the depths of our neglected souls - surfacing.

We are remembering who we really are. Remembering our place in the
perfection of everything. The place beyond words and feelings.”


All in all, this a great addition to the small library of written
words about Bill. I would place it second only to Peter Pettinger’s
great work, “Turn Out The Stars.” You'll also learn the name of
Bill's main drug dealer in the last chapter of his life, an anagram of
the tune, “Yet Ne'er. Broken,” a name that I've been trying to figure
out for years.

_________________________________________________________

Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
Win Hinkle is a professional bassist, a noted Bill Evans scholar, (see Pettinhger's book) and was the editor of the now defucnt hard-copy LETTER FROM EVANS subscription newsletter. You can visit his blog at www.bewinblog.blogspot.com

All statements and opinions in any articles on this website are strictly those of their respective authors, and not neccesarily those of The Bill Evans webpages.



BACK TO HOMEPAGE