Well of course, "whatever works". One of my favorite things about jazz is that while we are all dealing with music, we will all experience different things with jazz. But, Bill Evans was referring to more than just performance, he was refering to playing jazz.
Don't get me wrong, I'm as big a theory nerd as the next guy and I didn't mean to say that anyone was wrong, or that time shouldn't be spent studying music separate from playing it.
Why do I say people are overthinking? Like I said, I am as into music theory as anyone else, but this was a complicated read (someone pointed out the heavy stuff). While it was insightful (nardis is a tune I knew already), and there were some references to the tune lending itself to a more simple modal approach that i must have skipped over the first time, this thread makes nardis come off like giant steps, when really it reduces in a beautiful way and is very approachable.
I think Kizzle was making this point, but he had a number of points in there. When improvising, there really are only three chords to this tune. Consider that Em7 & Cmaj7 are the same, Am7 & Fmaj7 are the same and that you would opt for B7 instead of Emaj7 for the most part while soloing. Now, this is coming from a pianist sure, and I would probably play each chord several different ways throughout the whole piece so okay there are more than three chords, but there are three chords driving the harmonies throughout the whole piece. This piece comes off like a vamp! Ok, I left out the ii-V-I in C major, but it is sooo similar still and is pretty straightforward.
Ok, this is a liberal way to think of chords sure but this sort of harmonic freedom really is an essential part of this piece and jazz in general (and might I add was very prevelant in the bill evans transcription provided, which was very cool, and his solo was nearly entirely in e minor except when he had chromatic embellishments and used the dim7 chord over the V).
Now that is an analysis that I have made separately from playing, but while still considering playing (that's why Am7 & Fmaj7 are the same, because while improvising I can play them interchangably). While studying music I never let playing get far from the mind because what is music without playing?
When you don't consider playing, you are liable start labling chords as neapolitan chords. Ok, Fmaj7 is on the bII, and ok it goes to the V so its predominant. But calling it neapolitan, while a perfectly defensible & logical lable in the world of music without playing, seems a little forced. I have a different view. From the first time I heard this song I heard it as a reference to flamenco music, which is of course typified by chord progressions along the phrygian scale.
One more point I'll make about the tune before I wrap it up. I went back and jammed this tune out a little bit, and when soloing I did like the F#m7b5 over the B7, but on the theme, I felt like it was appropriate two beats earlier over the Emaj7 thats always suspisciously in parenthesis. I decided i liked F#m7b5 there a while ago, because it works better with the theme and I think its closer to how Bill plays it. I kinda feel like that Emaj7 is a misprint or something (some transcriber who doesn't really know the tune saw D# in the meldoy and thought, Emaj7!). The only person I've ever talked to about it though was a bass player who wouldn't know a half-diminished chord from a fully diminished 7th, and he didn't have much to say. So any thoughts on that?
So to wrap it up, don't believe all the chords you read on a lead sheet. When improvising always start, or at least consider playing, without the fancy voicings, so for this piece choose B7 over Emaj7 (both work on the theme too!). If it says B7#5, improvise with B7. For melodic solos E minor will take you through this piece, and it should begin to come off like a vamp. Thx a lot if you read this!