Bill Evans Trio - Sunday At The Village Vanguard

Bill Evans Trio - Sunday At The Village Vanguard

For this Sunday’s classic we travel back to Greenwich Village in the summer of 1961 for what is widely regarded as the finest live jazz record of all time.

The late fifties and early sixties were a purple patch for acclaimed jazz pianist Bill Evans. He was famously part of Miles Davis’ ensemble and Evans was recognised as an important part of the increased experimentation in the recording of 1959’s Kind Of Blue, an album still regarded as Jazz’s highest water mark. He had also formed the trio with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, releasing two very well received records with Portrait in Jazz (1960) and Explorations (1961). On 25th June 1961, the trio performed five sets across the evening and afternoon at the famed Village Vanguard club in Manhattan. The sets were recorded and released as two separate records with Waltz for Debby and perhaps the most influential live Jazz album of all time in Sunday at the Village Vanguard.

Bill Evans Trio - Sunday At The Village Vanguard

The six tracks that comprise Sunday At The Village Vanguard are so graceful, full of dexterous musicianship (some of the solo runs are nothing short of mesmerising) but above all else pay lasting tribute to the unique interaction and interconnection between the three musicians. They take compositions by Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Sammy Fain - also a beautiful interpretation of Miles Davis’ Solar - and create new spaces as the pace and intensity ebbs and flows. The set is also bookended by two pieces written by Scott LaFaro who tragically appeared here for the last time, dying in a car accident just weeks after those remarkable sets.

The impact on Evans was immense, with the pianist paralyzed with grief and apparently unable to play for months.

“I am thankful that we recorded that day, because it was the last time I saw Scott and the last time we would play together. When you have evolved a concept of playing which depends on the specific personalities of outstanding players, how do you start again when they are gone?” - Bill Evans.

Bill Evans Trio - Sunday At The Village Vanguard

There are sections of furious pace - especially from LaFaro - wry playfulness and mystery too. Paul Motian’s drums have the most indelible brush curls and the way all three players come in and out of focus is awe inspiring. The sets were beautifully recorded and the production on this new pressing really does travel the listener back in time and place you in the room, it is as transportive as it gets. One quite incredible day of live music in a hot and full nightclub.

Drift Sunday Classic

This new edition of Sunday At The Village Vanguard is released as part of the Original Jazz Classics Series and is pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI with all-analogue mastering from the original tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio.


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