The Bill Evans Jazz Festival was initiated in the spring of 2002 through coordination
of a $10,000 visual arts grant to the Louisiana Division of the Arts for the commissioned
Bill Evans painting that hangs in the Recital Hall lobby of Southeastern Louisiana
University’s Department of Music and Performing Arts. The Bill Evans triptych, together
with paintings of eight other Louisiana jazz notables (Louis Armstrong, Alvin Batiste,
“Jelly Roll” Morton, “Professor” Longhair, Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet, Lillian Hardin
Armstrong and Bunk Johnson) was created by Louisiana artist Edward Pramuk of the faculty
of Louisiana State University.

The LDA grant was conceived and written by Don Marshall of Southeastern’s Department
of Visual Arts. The first BEJF headliner concert was performed by pianist Willis Delony,
a Southeastern music professor for fourteen years who had recently joined the faculty
of LSU, along with Dr. Delony’s LSU colleague bassist William Grimes.

The creation of the festival was the fulfillment of a longstanding objective of then
department head Dr. David Evenson to honor Southeastern’s most prestigious alumnus,
Bill Evans.

From the first year, the festival’s format has typically included the performance
of a headlining concert by a well known jazz artist as the centerpiece of a three-day
series involving lectures, panel discussions, student performances, and masterclasses.
The second Bill Evans Jazz Festival, for example, featured Evans’ celebrated bassit
Eddie Gomez, and the fourth festival included Evans’ drummer Eliot Zigmund with pianist
Ted Rosenthal.


Past Bill Evans Jazz Festivals have featured the following illustrious artists:

2002: Willis Delony, piano

2003: Eddie Gomez, bass

2004: Kenny Werner, piano

2005: Ted Rosenthal, piano (with Eliot Zigmund, drums)

2006: Andy LaVerne, piano (with John Ambercrombie, guitar)

2007: Bill Dobbins, piano

2008: Ellen Rowe, piano

2009: Chuck Israels, bass (with Ellis Marsalis, piano)

2010: Bill Carrothers, piano

2011: Bill Cunliffe, piano

2012: Delfeayo Marsalis, trombone

2013: James Carter, saxophone

2014: Marcus Printup, trumpet

2015: Charles Pillow, saxophone

2016: John Fedchock, trombone

2017: Mike Esneault, piano

2018: Mary Fettig, saxophone and flute

2019: Pete Rodriguez, trumpet

2020: Lisanne Lyons, vocals – CANCELLED

2021: Frank Martin, piano

2022: Lisanne Lyons, vocals

2023: Ed Neumeister, trombone

2024: Laura Dreyer, saxophone and flute