Evans was born in Plainfield, N.J., on Aug. 16, 1929. His early training was in the classics, and he played in a number of Dixieland bands while he studied at Southeastern Louisiana Univeristy. His early gigs were with Mundell Lowe, Red Mitchell, George Russell and Charles Mingus. In 1956 he signed with Riverside, which featured his revolutionary trio with drummer Motian and Scott La Faro, whose virtuoso cello-like improvisations highlighted the trio's unique harmonic and melodic interactions. Two years later, he worked with Davis, who shared Evan's love of the French Impressionists Ravel and Debussy, which found their fullest expression on the 1959 modal masterpiece, Kind Of Blue, which also featured the Evans-Davis evocative ballad, "Blue In Green."
After his stint with Davis, Evans worked with his trio, until 1961 when LaFaro was tragically killed in a car crash. Throughout the '60s and '70s, Evans would lead some exceptional combos with Jack DeJohnette, Eddie Gomez and Marc Johnson. Before his death on Sept. 15, 1980, from a perforated ulcer, Evans recorded with Philly Joe Jones, Jim Hall, Cannonball Adderley and Tony Bennett; and his meticulous harmonic conceptions and pastel pianisms inspired legions of pianists, including Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett.
In 1981, Evans was elected by the Critics into the Down Beat Hall of Fame.