Peace Piece is a jazz piece recorded by Bill 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 and is one of his simplest, built on a gentle Cmaj7 to G9sus4 two chord progression, the same first chords of "Some Other Time" from the musical On the Town by Leonard Bernstein which Evans also recorded. The same progression featured in the opening to "Flamenco Sketches" which he recorded with Miles Davis the following year; Davis took a liking to the piece and wanted to reuse it.
Although a peaceful piece, it features a lot of discordant notes in the latter half. The composition, with its free form peaceful melody and timeless, meditational quality, has featured in numerous soundtracks of films and music in ballet choreography and has been recorded by fellow jazz musicians. It featured in Bo Widerberg's Love 65 (1965), Gaurav Seth's A Passage to Ottawa, Philip Seymour Hoffman's Jack Goes Boating (2010), and Dan Gilroy's Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017). Pianists Richie Beirach, Ricardo Fioravanti, Liz Story and Stefano Battaglia, the guitarists Stephen D. Anderson and Nino Josele, flautist Herbie Mann, and classical pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet have all recorded Peace Piece. The Kronos Quartet also recorded Peace Piece as a string quartet on the album Music of Bill Evans with Eddie Gómez on bass and Jim Hall accompanying on guitar.
Evans evokes the feeling of being alone in the piece and recalled that a teenage fan said that when he first heard it he "felt like he was standing all alone in New York". 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.
Peace Piece is an example of the depth of Evans' compositional technique. It is an ostinato piece, composed and recorded long before the more recent superficial synthesis of Indian and American music; in fact, it owes more to Satie and Debussy than to Ravi Shankar. The improvisation starts simply over a gentle ostinato, which quickly fades into the background. Evans allows the fantasy that evolves from the opening motive (an inversion of the descending fifth in the ostinato) more freedom than he would in an improvisation tied to a changing accompaniment. He takes advantage of the ostinato as a unifying element against which ideas flower, growing more lush and colorful as the piece unfolds. Polytonalities and cross rhythms increase in density as the ostinato undulates gently, providing a central rhythmic and tonal reference. The improvisation becomes increasingly complex against the unrelenting simplicity of the accompaniment, until, near the end, Evans gradually reconciles the two elements."
Jacques Réda, a poet and jazz critic, has written a poem in French about Peace Piece.
The piece has been used in several films, including Corrina, Corrina in 1994 (performed by John Beasley), Peace Is Every Step in 1997 (Bill Evans version), Jack Goes Boating in 2010 (Bill Evans version), and Roman J. Israel, Esq. in 2017. Niemand in de stad (film) in 2018.
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