WordPress 4.8 Named for Piano Genius Bill Evans

WordPress 4.8 has been released and was named for jazz pianist Bill Evans. Great homage, Matt. Evans is a terrific choice.

Fewer jazz artists have been more influential than Bill Evans, having inspired greats like Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau. Allmusic.com describes his style as “introverted, relaxed, lyrical and European.” He was the kind of geeky artist closely followed by conservatory-trained pianists.

William John Evans was born in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1929 into a family led by a hard-drinking and gambling father, whose abuse may have contributed to Evans sensitive and vulnerable adult personality. By the age of seven he’d begun music lessons along with his brother, Harry, playing piano, flute, piccolo. He became an excellent sight reader.

Evans studied music at Southeastern Louisiana University on a flute scholarship where he composed his first song, “Very Early.” At that time his harmonic style was influenced by impressionist composers such as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. After graduation, he formed a trio with bassist Red Mitchell and moved first to New York City and then to Illinois. In Chicago, he joined the Herbie Fields band and toured with Billie Holiday. In 1950, the Army drafted him.

He performed in the Fifth U.S. Army Band at Fort Sheridan and spun jazz discs on the camp’s radio station. Sounds cushy, sure, but something happened during Evan’s Army stint that he described as traumatic, and it gave him nightmares for years. Even though he’d composed his most famous song, Waltz for Debby, at that time, he was soon driven to drugs – starting with cannabis before moving on to heroin and later cocaine – to chase away his demons. When he was discharged from the Army, he withdrew from the music scene for a year to refine his technique.

Back in New York, he played clubs and recorded his debut album New Jazz Conceptions, which included Waltz for Debby. In 1958, he started working with the Miles Davis Sextet along with John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. With his lyrical style, Evans exerted powerful influence upon the seminal 1959 album, Kind of Blue, one of the biggest-selling jazz albums in history.

He then formed a trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, which ended tragically when LaFaro was killed in a car accident in 1961 (pre-mandatory seat belts). That crisis drove Evans into seclusion for a year.

In spite of his drug addictions, Evans performed and recorded with some of the greatest jazz musicians throughout the 1960 and 70s. But the shock of his brother Harry’s suicide in 1979 may have contributed his his own death in 1980 of a combination of peptic ulcer, cirrhosis, bronchial pneumonia, and untreated hepatitis.

A brilliant jazz composer and pianist, but an emotional and physical mess, Bill Evans accomplished a lot during his short 51 years. It make you wonder how far he would have gone if he’d lived longer. I wonder what he would have thought of recording on digital technology.

Read More: Dig the Jazz Roots of WordPress Versions

WordPress 4.8 “Evans”

Bill Evans would have been very happy to know there’s a WordPress version named for him, if he had any conception of WordPress, or for that matter, what the Internet is.

image audio video widgets

Widget Image Selection

My favorite feature added to WordPress 4.8 is the Image Widget image selector. Image Widget is a freemium app by Modern Tribe offered free to WordPress users.

It used to be that to get a picture to appear there you’d need to go to Media Library to find your image, copy its URL, and then paste the URL into the widget. 

Not anymore! Now you can place a picture in Image Widget as you would on a page, by navigating to the Media Library, selection and image, and hitting the Insert button.

Boom! Image placed.

The downside is that this little convenience only works in the Image Widget, the free version of which only offers a simple Title. It does not work in the (ok, outdated) Call To Action or Woo Adspace widgets I have loaded on this site. It’s too bad I don’t use the Image Widget more, sigh.

Audio and Video Widget Selection

The same disappointment applies to audio and video. You can definitely select your files from within the specific Audio Widget and Video Widget, but not necessarily through other, more sophisticated audio and video widgets.

Still, it’s a start.

Text Widget Formatting

At long last, you can format the ubiquitously useful Text Widget without adding HTML code. Bold, Italic, bullet and numbered lists and links are now available in Visual and Text as if you were working on a regular page.

I use Text Widget a lot, so this improvement makes me very happy.

Link Boundaries

If you’ve ever been frustrated by the inability to change the text at the end of a linked word or sentence without losing the link, you’ll be happy now. Link Boundaries allows you to continue typing and keep the link you were editing.

Developer Changes

If you are a WordPress developer, there are more changes under the hood for you, including: More Accessible Admin Panel Headings, Removal of Core Support for WMV and WMA Files, Multisite Updates, Text-Editor JavaScript API, Media Widgets API, and Customizer Width Variable.

Read more about WordPress 4.8 at the WordPress site. 

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