Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2012: Ramsey Lewis (Festival Edition)

Bill Evans — Bill Evans Trio: Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Written by:

Bill Evans is the most significant jazz pianist of the last forty years. He influenced a wide range of players, including Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and Herbie Hancock. Evans was a brilliant player who created some of the most complex, calming music in jazz, but offstage, he was an enormously troubled individual. An introvert, he seemed unready for the spotlight and spent most of his adult life addicted to drugs. In the fall of 1979, I visited him in his New Jersey apartment and was struck by the condition of his hands. The tools he used to deliver his craft were swollen and scarred from injecting drugs. It was the ultimate act of self-destruction for a pianist. He died the following year.

Evans’s musical brilliance came largely from two areas, pop and classical music. For him, melody was paramount. He relied heavily on America popular song for a portion of his repertoire, and his selections were flawless. The introspective nature of his playing was very appealing and owed a large debt to the French classical composers Debussy and Ravel.

Bill Evans Trio: Sunday at the Village Vanguard [Riverside #RCD 9376] started as just another gig in a jazz club in New York City, but the subsequent recording by one of the greatest trios in jazz—Evans on piano, Scott LaFaro on bass, and Paul Motian on drums—is a masterpiece.

The Village Vanguard, a basement jazz club on 7th Avenue in New York’s Greenwich Village, still exists. On a summer Sunday afternoon on June 25, 1961, the trio descended a long flight of stairs into the damp, dimly lit club. Their matinee performance consisted of five sets spread over two-and-a-half hours. Live recordings were still relatively new to the world of jazz, and the portable recording gear was visible to everyone who used the washroom that afternoon.

Thirteen songs were performed, several more than once. They were intimate interpretations of standards including “My Man’s Gone Now” and “All of You,” and compositions by bassist LaFaro, including “Jade Visions” and ”Gloria’s Step.” Six songs made it to the original edition of this album, but the CD version includes five bonus tracks that are repeats.

Bill Evans Trio: Sunday at the Village Vanguard is a recording that changed how trios were perceived in jazz. Before it, the trio was often just a vehicle for the pianist to solo, with the other musicians relegated to the role of accompanists. In the hands of Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro, and Paul Motian, the trio became a whole, with each instrument playing a prominent role. The interplay and connectedness between the three was astonishing. It is worth noting that just days after this recording took place, LaFaro was killed in a car accident. It took Evans some time to recover from his loss.

Copyright! © 2023 dig! magazine.