This is it. The breakthrough. The pinnacle of spontaneous musical communication. Three men breathing as one on a tiny bandstand. Everything Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro, and Paul Motian had been working on for the previous 18 months led to this moment. The intimate, contrapuntal dialogues between Evans's poetic piano and LaFaro's bass, as swift as the wind. There is a fresh discovery here: take one of LaFaro's "Gloria's Step," an ever-so-slightly flawed beauty. There's the clear-eyed annotation of Orrin Keepnews, producer of all of Evans's Riverside albums. And finally, there is the crowning glory of these performances, the last ever by this singular trio.
Bill Evans (Piano): Bill Evans ; Scott LaFaro (double bass); Paul Motian.
Personnel: Bill Evans (piano); Paul Motian (drums).
Liner Note Author: Orrin Keepnews.
Recording information: Village Vanguard, New York, NY (06/25/1961).
Photographer: Steve Schapiro.
On June 25th, 1961, Bill Evans and his trio made jazz history over the course of five sets at the Village Vanguard. Selections from those performances were released on two full-length LPs, WALTZ FOR DEBBY and Sunday AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD, both of which went on to become landmark jazz albums from the era. The three-disc COMPLETE VILLAGE VANGUARD RECORDINGS provides a valuable service by presenting all five sets in their complete and original sequence, with crisp remastered sound, a previously unissued take (Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step"), and snippets of on-stage patter.
Much has been made of the chemistry between Evans, bassist LaFaro, and drummer Paul Motian, and little of it has been overblown. The three make intuitive, shape-shifting music that breaks new ground with its subtle, sophisticated rhythmic interplay and achingly lyrical beauty. Evans's playing, informed by a Chopin-esque delicacy as much as by post-bop dynamism, is a case study of the jazz ideal achieved. The music, the improved sound, and the chance to have the complete date under one cover make this set a must.