View Full Version : Paul Warburton on Working with Bill Evans

Bob Branstetter
06-05-2007, 11:34 PM
I received a phone call today from my old friend Paul Warburton. He said that several people had asked him to write about his experiece in working with the late Bill Evans and his trio. He asked me to post a series of email messages that he sent to me starting in late 2001 after I had asked him to tell me about his experience with Bill Evans. The posts are unedited except for the removal of some personal stuff. I think you will all find it of interest.


Sept 27, 2001

Yea, I thought you knew--I worked with Bill & Philly Joe for about a month in 1964. Didn't record. Your friend probably read an article in Bass Player magazine-October '96.
It was the best thing I ever did--I was 23--I'll tell you about it some time

Sept 28, 2001

I'll give you the details in chapters-I don't talk about this much-it's kind of sacred to me, but you guys have always shown such an interest in my work, I guess you deserve to be bored to death.
I got the call from Bill on a gig I was doing down in Colorado Springs with Don Grusin. My wife at the time called me on a break to tell me Bill had called from San Francisco to hire me on Pat Morans recommendation. Pat was a great lady pianist who I played with alot, including some dates with Buddy Defranco. Scott LaFaro made his first record with Pat when he was living in LA--Anyway, I thought the call was a put-on. To get a call in those days from Bill Evans was like winning the Power-Ball Lottery--------To be continued

Oct 14, 2001
I lost the first installment of this, so i'm not sure where I left off. Anyway, my wife caught me on a break on the gig I was on in Colorado Springs and told me to expect a call from Bill Evans on my next break. I told her it was probably Pat Moran and some friends of mine on the west coast just putting me on.
Sure enough, an hour later i get the call-"This is Bill Evans" I say " Bull **** and I'm Jesus Christ" " No really it's Bill Evans the piano player. Can you come out to San Francisco and play with me and Philly Joe Jones at The Jazz Workshop for a month?
I still don't believe him so he puts his wife Elaine on the phone.(the one who later committed suicide in NY by throwing herself under a subway train.) I say"You send me a plane ticket for me & the bass and you're on. I didn't even get nervous or excited because I was so sure it was a joke.
The next day I get a call from United Airlines.......

Bob Branstetter
06-05-2007, 11:36 PM
Aug 18, 2003

So...The tickets show up and I become a nervous wreck! I even considered
calling and saying I just wasn't ready for something like that. He must have
respected Pat Moran so much to hire someone on her word alone. He didn't
even ask for a tape. This was the period when he had just released
Moonbeams, Trio 64, etc. I got the records and sheded as much as I could. It
would be a lot easier nowadays with CDs being in tune. I just had to tune my
bass to the records. I was playing my Hornsteiner (Jacobus) It was a great
sounding bass, so I wasn't worried about that. I had just had it repaired
after it was in a fire at a club in Minneapolis where I had been working
with Pat and Buddy DeFranco. I had left it in the club that night and some
guys broke in and tried to open the safe with some kind of welders torch and
the whole place went up! I really went through alot of changes over that. I
had an English guy, Chris Mayne, do the work. He had to put a different top
on, and new treble side ribs. It sounded BETTER after that! It later was
destroyed in a club when some drunk fell on it and put the bridge foot
through the top and including the bass bar. It was at this time that Barb
and I found the Bohmann in Chicago (1978?)
I think I had about a week to get my **** together. Somebody called the
Denver Post and told them I was going, so now everybody in town knows, so I
can't back out now.
What had made this all possible, is that the trio with Chuck and Larry
Bunker were working at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco. Bill and his wife
Elaine had over-dosed on sleeping pills and ended up in the hospital. Bill
told me this in a matter of factly kind of way, with no attempt to cover
anything up or soften it. He always talked about his drug use that way..One
night I was standing out in front of the club and he comes up and says " We
just did a big load of LSD so try to help me through the sets! Right! Me
helping Bill Evans through the Night!!! His drug use never affected his
But the bottom line is that Chuck and Larry are apparently pretty fed up and
split. I'm assuming this is what happened to leave the bass chair open for
me. I never really knew. I've always wanted to ask Chuck about it, maybe
someday. It all happened at a strange time, because I've never gotten much
credit for it. That Biography by the English guy goes right through that
period. Remember that tune Bill Wrote Comrade Conrad? Conrad was a pro
photographer and did two nights of filming the trio with sound. I spent some
time trying to track him down...no luck.

Anyway, A bass player friend of mine takes me to the airport.
I need a break...Next chapter tomorrow.

Aug 20, 2003

Anyway, the flight was unremarkable except for my shaking body, making the
flight uncomfortable for everyone else.
Bill had bought a ticket for the bass so I didn't have to wait around for a
trunk. And there he was in all his splendor. Hair all slicked back just like
his pictures. Big spaces between his yellowed teeth. This was before that
dentist in London fixed all his teeth. We shook hands, and I'll be damned,
his skin felt just like a normal person. My shaking leveled out and just
about stopped...he was so nice. He said "I'm really looking forward to
playing with you" He said " Would you like to play with Philly Joe Jones?
The drummer that was supposed to make the gig got hung up but Joe was able
to get free" I said " I dunno, couldn't you get someone a little stronger?"
Back came the shaking.

Aug 28, 2003

Anyway, we headed out to our ride, Conrad Mendenhall, ie. "Comrade Conrad"
This was the photographer friend of Bills who Bill wrote that tune for. I
didn't know that at the time. Conrad, later on during this period, did a
movie of the trio at the Jazz Workshop. I've heard that this movie is out
there, but I don't know where or how to find it. Bills wife Elaine was also
waiting in the car and off we went over the Bay Bridge into the city.
We stopped and had a cappucino (my first). Next, they dropped me off across
the street of my hotel. I stood there with my bass & waited for a break in
the traffic to cross. All my new friends were yelling at me to "GO"....my
first experience with California traffic laws giving the pedestrian the
right away crossing streets. I felt like a fool. The room that Bill rented
for me was the room that Lennie Bruce fell out of a few weeks earlier. After
checking in and getting my stuff in the room, Bill called to tell me he and
I would get together the next day to "play a little"
The hotel was right across from the club, so that being a Monday night, I
walked around North Beach checking out the Monday night bands. I heard Cal
Tjader at the El Matador, not knowing that a few years later I would be
working and recording with him ...Latin + Jazz = Cal Tjader. I introduced
myself to all the musicians I met. As you can imagine, it was pretty
thrilling to introduce myself as Bills bass player...WOW!
The next day they picked me up to go play. We sat down and played one tune
and Bill said "Perfect. I just wanted to make sure we had the right feel".
That was the rehearsal!
To be continued....I gonna quit dragging this out so much. I'll hurry
through the next parts a little faster.

Sept 6, 2003

Anyway, opening night...To start things off with a bang, Don Thompson and
Terry Clarke are in the audience! They were just closing their dates across
the street with that famous John Handy band. Don told me many years later
that my playing had a big influence on him!!! Anyway, Bill introduces me to
Joe and off we go..I was very nervous, but it felt so GOD DAMN good, I
immediately relaxed. You know how Bill use to sit with his face practically
on the keyboard and that BIG left ear in my bass' right F hole!!! The first
thing that got me was his sound...I always thought of that sound as being a
bit on the soft, introverted side...It was very, very powerful! Between he
and Joe, I almost **** my pants. Sorry about the colorful language, but even
those don't do it justice. Of course the ghosts of Scotty and in this case
with Joe on board, Paul Chambers were dancing in my head.
I'll finish this up on the next outing...Hang in. Hi to Marsha!

Sept 8, 2003

Anyway...This was the period when the recorded stuff of Bills were the three records Trios 64 & 65 and Moonbeams...so a lot of what we were playing was material from those records....Elsa, How My Heart sings, Come Rain or Shine,
If You Could See Me Now, Who Can I Turn To?, You probably know that period. There were many highlights throughout these nights...Of course my highlights were the times that I'd play something decent and Bill would say "Yeah, Paul"! The first time I heard it, I thought he wasn't really saying it...you
know, I thought he was saying something else. Joe would not always show up because he would only work gigs with the
understanding that if he found some good **** he would just go do that....so Bill had hired a local drummer named Tom Reynolds to be Joe's "Under-study" We would only know at gig time who would be playing.
One night I heard a woman yell " That's my bass player, that's my bass player " It was Anita O'day. I had just finished working with her at the Band Box in Denver.
We played the Work Shop for about three weeks took off a week and did a week at a club in Sausalito.... the Trident, where Denny Zeitlin..remember him?
He was a Shrink. Charlie Haden and this drummer from Boulder whose name I can't remember worked there a lot.

Well that's about it....This to me was one chance in a million. Another highlight of my bass playing life was when I was working in Aspen and Stuart Sankey, who use to come and hear me play, offered me free lessons with the warning that it might slow me down....What a compliment coming from arguably
the greatest bass teacher who ever lived! Gary Karr, Edgar Myer, John Deak, etc. By slow me down, he meant instead of being natural, I might stop and think too much about what I was doing.. so I passed.
If I had moved to New York, things might have been different, but I have no regrets.


Bob Branstetter
06-05-2007, 11:41 PM
Paul Warburton playing with the Bill Evans Trio

Paul Warburton
06-06-2007, 09:18 AM
Alot of you wanted this, but I had misgivings about doing it because I didn't want it to be an ego trip. It certainly isn't.....
Thanks BB.

Ken Smith
06-06-2007, 09:45 AM
Great story and recap. Thx Paul and Bob for sharing this with us.

I once got to sit in with Bill Evans at the Blue Note in NY around 1975 or so. I was friends with Marty Morell (http://martymorell.com/index.htm), Bill's drummer back then. I did some gigs with Marty back them when he was off the road and shot some pool on occasion and even had some dinners with him and his wife. Marty introduced me to Eddie and one time I went to Eddie's house and we played some Zimmerman Bass duets. That was a blast. One night while watching them play Eddie comes up to me and asks me, "hey Kenny (they called me Kenny then), wanna sit in on the last set (3am-4am)?" Of course I accepted..!

Playing opposite was Al Cohn with Ross Tompkins-Piano, maybe Shaugnessy on Drums but can't remember now and Chuck Israels-Bass. Chuck comes up to me at 2am as the Evans trio was getting on stage and says, "Kenny, I'm not feeling to well, would you mind playing the last set for me? You can just put my Bass (Alvisio Piattellini, c.1790) upstairs in the office after the set. I need to go home and get some rest".

Well, I accepted, played the set and put the Bass away fast because I was to play in the next set with Bill. Eddie started out and played a bit and then waived me up. I sat down on the stool with his Bass in hand smiled at Marty and then looked at Bill. Bill asks, "what would you like to play?".. Nervously I said "Green Dolphin Street". Bill starts playing, I gear up and then oh xxxx.. He's doing it in Eb! EVERYONE in NY plays it in C that I had worked with and NEVER played it in Eb in my life that I remembered unless I was playing along with some record. Well, I just listened, threw away any position type licks I had in my bag of tricks and played what I heard. It came off ok with maybe a chorus or two solo and then he took out the tune. Then Bill looks up at me and says softly "felt nice". I gave the Bass back to Eddie and walked off stage, 'tail between my legs' like a shamed dog and sat down. Afterwards I asked Marty in my own paranoid way if Bill liked my playing and Marty told me Bill says what he thinks or says nothing at all!

So, that's my Bill Evans story knowing maybe all the Bass players that have played with him but never know about PW until meeting him over on TB.

Paul, I bet your shoes felt a few sizes bigger after having worked with Bill. Just one tune with him has left me a life long memory.

Ron Lacey
06-06-2007, 10:16 AM
Great story, thanks for sharing Paul and thanks for posting it Bob! Well worth the wait :).

Greg Clinkingbeard
06-06-2007, 10:20 AM
Speechless. Simply speechless other than to say, "Thank You".

stan haskins
06-06-2007, 11:46 AM
Yeah, thanks for letting us read that, Paul and Bob. Great stuff.

Bob Branstetter
06-06-2007, 11:57 AM
I feel very fortunate to be one of Paul's many friends. I first remember hearing about him while I was touring with singer Marilyn Maye in 1964. We were working at a supper club in Denver when the great singer Johnny Desmond came into the club to see Marilyn and sat in for a set. While talking with Johnny after the set, he mentioned that he had heard about a Sunday afternoon jam session at a club called the Robin's Nest on top of Lookout Mountain where a lot of the best Denver jazz players would hang out. I went up to the club the following Sunday and the first thing I noticed was a bass hanging on a rope from the ceiling in the center of the room. When I asked about the bass, I was told that it was there mainly for the use of a young phenom bassist who was a friend of the (baritone sax player) owner of the club. Every one there kept raving about how great this phenom played. Someone told me that this young bass player was out on the road, but that Ray Brown had heard him play recently and was very impressed.

I didn't actually meet Paul until several years later when my wife Marcia and I were vacationing in Colorado. Paul was working a duo in a club with guitarist Dale Brunning. That was the first time in my life that I heard a bassist who was clearly the dominant player in a very good group. I remember well how melodic and flowing his solos were. (I can only dream of playing like Paul does - seemingly without effort.) After that, it became almost an annual event for us to go to Denver just to hear Paul play. Paul and I have been good friends for many years now, but he remains one of my all time favorite bassists and I'm looking forward to hearing him play again in the future. I think that it is truly unfortunate that he has not received more of the recognition he deserves by the public and the jazz community.

Phil Maneri
06-06-2007, 02:32 PM
I think that it is truly unfortunate that he has not received more of the recognition he deserves by the public and the jazz community.+1 For sure.

Paul Warburton
06-06-2007, 04:20 PM
That drummer with Denny Zeitlin was Jerry Granelli by the way.

Paul Warburton
06-06-2007, 04:28 PM
, "hey Kenny (they called me Kenny then), -.

Hell, I call you " Kenny Boy " now.......

Paul Warburton
06-09-2007, 10:23 AM
Paul, I bet your shoes felt a few sizes bigger after having worked with Bill. Just one tune with him has left me a life long memory.

I did feel that ego punch when someone introduced me as 'Bill Evans' bass player........

Bob Branstetter
06-09-2007, 11:15 AM
Paul, did you ever talk with Bill after playing with him in '64?

Paul Warburton
06-09-2007, 11:53 AM
Paul, did you ever talk with Bill after playing with him in '64?
Yeah, I saw him serveral times, including 2 unforgettable times. First time when Ray Iverson brought Bill, Eddie, and Marty into the Senate Lounge here in Denver. The guys asked me to play. I did, but wished I hadn't......Eddie at this time had that nice Morelli, but strung with nylon wrapped strings....ouch!
The second time was when I was playing a commercial gig, subbing for another bass player. The bass player who took me to the airport for my gig with Bill was a Bill Evans groupy, so I knew Bill was in town.....sure enough this guy shows up with Bill.
The piano player was hell-bent on making sure I played a STRICKLY TWO BEAT bass kinda thing.....he lectures me with " yeah, we all know you're a hot shot jazz bassist " Goes to great lengths to assure himself of a jazz free gig!!! All before the gig.
You can see it coming can't You!!!!!!!!!
So Bill and Jerry walk in along with about 10 of Denver's hippest jazz musicians.
I say to this piano player while i'm coaxing out of my bass the most obvious 2 beat imagiinable: " LOOK, it's Bill Evans!"
" NO! " he says " Yes " I say.....now this ******* wants to start playing hip, playing his finest Bill voicings and looking at me like...." Come on, let's go...... " NO WAY MF " I'm playin' 2 beat. One of my proudest moments!
Bill's hip to what's going on on the bandstand, as well as about 10 of this guys peers!
To make matters worse for this guy, I introduce him to Bill. He says" Oh Bill, i'm sorry you had to hear me under these conditions!" Bill says "No problem, we all have had to do this. I noticed Paul was just playing 2 BEAT"
I really come out of this unscathed by anyone because when I play two-beat, I try to sound like Percy Heath!
:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) One of the last times I saw him, it was some jazz fest. in L.A. He told me I would be perfect for Stan Getz. Funny, I ended up with Stan later on.
Then he called me too late when he had Mike Moore. He wanted to get together to " See how it felt " This never happened.
Unfortunately I went to hear him in SF right before he died. He was playing brilliantly, but he was on his way out...he gave me a last hug. It was like hugging a skeleton.......This, clearly, was Bills darker side...too bad for us..

Matt Fong
08-15-2008, 03:22 AM
What a story!

Side note:
"To start things off with a bang, Don Thompson and
Terry Clarke are in the audience!"

O, Canada!...

That's really cool to hear about some of Canada's jazz greats and that Don was influenced by your playing, Paul.