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Sunday At the Village Vanguard (Remastered)

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Album Review

Sunday at the Village Vanguard is the initial volume of a mammoth recording session by the Bill Evans Trio, from June 25, 1961 at New York's Village Vanguard documenting Evans' first trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. Its companion volume is Waltz for Debby. This trio is still widely regarded as his finest, largely because of the symbiotic interplay between its members. Tragically, LaFaro was killed in an automobile accident ten days after this session was recorded, and Evans assembled the two packages a few months afterward. While "Waltz for Debby" — in retrospect — is seemingly a showcase for Evans' brilliant, subtle, and wide-ranging pianism, this volume becomes an homage, largely, to the genius and contribution of LaFaro. That said, however, this were never the point. According to Motian, when Evans built this trio based on live gigs at the Basin Street East, the intention was always to develop a complete interactive trio experience. At the time, this was an unheard of notion, since piano trios were largely designed to showcase the prowess of the front line soloist with rhythmic accompaniment. Here, one need listen no further than the elegant and haunting, graceful modal reading of "My Man's Gone Now" from Porgy & Bess to know that there is something completely balanced and indescribably beautiful in their approach. Motian's brushes whisper along the ride cymbals and both Evans and LaFaro enter into a dialogue that emerges from a darkly hued minor mode, into the melody and somehow beyond it, into a form of seamless dialogic improvisation to know that in the act of one musician slipping over and under another — as happens with all three in an aural basket weave — is something utterly new and different, often imitated but never replicated. But in a sense it happens before this, on LaFaro's "Gloria's Step," which opens the recording. His thematic statement includes the briefest intro, hesitant and spacious before he and pianist enter into a harmonic and contrapuntal conversation underscored by the hushed dynamics of Motian's snare, and the lightning-fast interlocutions of single string and chorded playing of LaFaro. The shapshifting reading of Miles Davis' "Solar," is a place where angularity, counterpoint, and early modalism all come together in a knotty and insistent, yet utterly seamless blend of post-bop aesthetics and expanded harmonic intercourse with Motian, whose work, while indispensable in the balance of the trio, comes more into play here, and is more assertive with his half-time accents to frame the counterpoint playing of Evans and LaFaro. This is a great place to begin with Evans.

Customer Reviews

Of Course, a Master

I'm relatively new to jazz, favoring the piano and the sax as instruments. I come at the music from a Delta blues background, oddly enough, and when I first heard Bill Evans, I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore. To me, Evans strikes an unparalleled balance between a sheer sense of melody (his classical training) and his deep talent for improvisation (his genius). This CD showcases both of these talents in fruitful conversation with the other instruments, which he never dominates or allows to dominate his own playing. Buy this CD.

Unique and Wonder-Filled Musical Experience

One of the all-time great live trio albums ever recorded. The synergy of these three musicians and their combined innovative approach to jazz ensemble playing was truly innovative when it came out. Bill Evans was a master who is often overlooked when talking about the important figures in jazz. I believe he is as important as Ellington or Coltrane. He friggin' taught Miles about harmony!

A tragically unique gem

My favorite piano trio album--and that's saying a lot, given the beauty of Keith Jarrett's trios from the '70s (with Paul Motian--as on this Evans album--and Charlie Haden), and more recently (with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock). The freshness of the sound and seamless balance between players is sublime. You can listen to this over and over, and it is always surprising, invigorating, and relaxing. The live setting only adds to the immediacy of this striking recording, made all the more poignant by Scott LaFaro sudden passing.

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Sunday At the Village Vanguard (Remastered), Bill Evans Trio
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  • $7.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Rock
  • Released: 1961

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