At that meeting, Evans brought a bag full of her husband's music and said, "Here's your project." "Everything I needed was in that bag," Gallinger recalls. "It was if the universe had brought us together." (Portions of Nenette Evans' memoirs on her life with the pianist can be read at www.billevans.org.)
Besides "Catch the Wind," the new disc contains other Evans tunes for which Gallinger has penned lyrics, including "We Will Meet Again," "Time Remembered (Dawn Prelude)" and "Funkallero." Nenette made the lyric-writing less difficult by supplying the story behind each song.
"Most of the lyrics came surprisingly easy to me," Gallinger says. "'Funkallero' popped into my head almost fully formed while I was out for a walk. And with 'Dawn Prelude,' I went camping for three days, and the whole time, the song ran through my head like a movie. I just wrote the story for that movie, then condensed it into a lyric."
While new lyrics set to Evans' songs and a previously unrecorded Evans composition are selling points, it's Gallinger's treatment of the material that makes the project a success. While she has been stereotyped as a vivacious performer of good-time material, Gallinger has a subtle, almost understated way with a ballad (check out the title tune of My Foolish Heartfor proof).
And while some reviewers have compared Gallinger's tone with the late Sarah Vaughan's, the singer cites Carmen McRae as her principle influence. "I've listened to everybody, but I'm strongly aware of Carmen," she says. "Her phrasing moved me. There's an emotional charge that happens when I hear her sing. I've never consciously emulated anyone, but her influence, her impeccable taste in material, her no-nonsense delivery, her honesty—all of it spoke to me."
Gallinger has just returned from appearances at the Kansas City Jazz & Blues Festival and hopes to expand her Bill Evans project into a complete performance based on Evans' life, one she can take to schools and concert halls around the country. She dreams of "a large show using multimedia and music to tell the story of his life. My next show [Sunday at downtown Santa Ana's DePietro Performance Center] will be a scaled-down version of what it will become. I see this becoming a lifetime project."
KAREN GALLINGER PERFORMS REMEMBERING BILL EVANS: A VOCAL TRIBUTE AT THE CRIBB THEATRE AT THE DePIETRO PERFORMANCE CENTER, 809 N. MAIN ST., SANTA ANA, (714) 550-9890. SUN., 4 P.M. $15.