Anyone with an interest in researching Bill Evans had better not be in a hurry. The best way to approach his story would be to pour a cup of coffee, settle back in a favorite recliner, and slide your reading glasses into place, because when people start talking about the bluegrass banjo player, they talk effusively, affectionately, and with pride as they point to a talent that spans more than a quarter of a century. Evans, who hails from Virginia but now lives in California, is more than simply a musician, although if playing the instrument were all he had done for 25 years, that would be plenty. In addition to recording and performing, he teaches musicians of all skill levels to play the banjo via workshops held throughout the U.S., and his skill as an instructor has been termed "outstanding." Evans is also a writer and a columnist for the magazine Banjo Newsletter, as well as a music historian. He composes original tunes, and is expert in the styles of both progressive bluegrass and traditional bluegrass. In 1997, the Kentucky Arts Council awarded him a musical composition fellowship. During the 1980s, Evans led Cloud Valley, a progressive bluegrass outfit in Charlottesville, VA. For a period of about four years beginning in 1993, the banjoist performed with Dry Branch Fire Squad. He also contributed to the band's Live! At Last album, issued by Rounder Records in 1996. In 1995, Rounder put out Evans' Native & Fine. The NAIRD (National Association of Independent Record Retailers and Distributors) bestowed an honorable mention on the album in 1996 in the category of Acoustic Instrumental Recording of the Year. Native and Fine Records put out his next solo album, Bill Evans Plays Banjo. Several critics placed the album on their lists of the best bluegrass releases of 2001. Evans also has a hand in producing. He acted as co-producer and played on Suzanne Thomas' Dear Friends & Gentle Hearts, an album issued by Rounder in 1998. He and Thomas, who also was part of Dry Branch Fire Squad, perform and record together in the traditional bluegrass band Bluegrass Intentions, along with Alan Senauke. Evans also performs frequently with Peter Rowan, as well as with Tony Trischka as a duo, and in the band Due West. The banjoist also has performed with such artists as Jim Hurst & Missy Raines, the Kathy Kallick Band, Don Rigsby & Friends, Robin & Linda Williams & Their Fine Group, Charlie Moore & the Falls City Ramblers, the Gary Ferguson Band, and the Lynn Morris Band. His activities have included co-hosting The Banjo of Sonny Osborne, a video from Homespun Tapes, and authoring a book on the same artist, Sonny Osborne: the Bluegrass Collection, which was published by AcuTab Publications in 2001. AcuTab also published The Banjo of J.D. Crowe, which Evans co-edited. He has taught music history at several universities, including the University of Virginia and the University of San Francisco. Evans is working on his PhD in the field of ethnomusicology at the University of California at Berkeley. ~ Linda Seida
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