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Bill Evans: The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961

Michael McCaw By

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Certain recordings have a sense of wonder, an overwhelming feeling that permeates everything going on and controls the listener's situation. Such is the case with Waltz for Debby and Sunday at The Village Vanguard, which have long been held in high regard as seminal recordings that nearly define the sound of the piano trio even today.

These seminal recordings of Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro, and Paul Motian, the last by this trio (culled from June 25, 1961 performances) have been reissued in various forms over the years, but never in such a complete light with stunning sound. Presented as performed, The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 is a three-disc masterpiece that bridges all available recordings of the five afternoon and evening sets from the Village Vanguard, sequenced in the original order with restored applause and incidental conversation to complete the experience.

All of these are reasons for the uninitiated to discover this sublime music. As for veterans, there are other sources of motivation. The packaging touts the first domestically issued inclusion of an interrupted take (due to power outage) of "Gloria's Step ; and the sound, which has been remastered in analog from the original tapes using the 20-bit K2 Super Coding System, now allows listeners to hear every depressed key with clarity.

The music is, of course, what takes precedence over everything else. And through any fidelity, Evans' lyrically sublime touch is worth more than any inconsistencies in presentation might suggest. But hearing Evans so clearly is a marvel. No matter the tempo, his laconic inventions are rapturous.

One of the most pleasurable aspects of The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, though, is LaFaro's robust and up-front sound. His command of the bass, as well as the supple interplay between him, Evans, and Motian is really something to behold; it has rarely been matched. The way LaFaro takes the fore on tracks like "Solar will alleviate the worries of anyone who dreads bass solos. Indelibly swinging, his bass has never carried so much resonating sound or ringing articulated runs as it does here.

Highlights are the common thread throughout. Whether the first, second, or third take of "All of You, the improvisational process is fresh and complete—sounding unlike alternate takes of the same idea, instead wholly different thoughts and explorations. Motian's brushes set the pace as Evans and LaFaro complement each other beautifully. This empathetic interplay between all three musicians is one of the defining characteristics that has elevated this trio to the iconic status it holds for fans.

Without question, the music contained here is brilliant and without peer.

Track Listing: CD1: Spoken Introduction; Gloria's Step (Take 1, interupted); Alice In Wonderland; My Foolish Heart; All Of You (Take 1); Announcement And Intermission; My Romance (Take 1); Some Other Time; Solar. CD2: Gloria's Step (Take 2); My Man's Gone Now; All Of You (Take 2); Detour Ahead (Take 1); Discussing Repertoire; Waltz For Debby (Take 1); Alice In Wonderland (Take 2); Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy); My Romance (Take 2); Milestones. CD3: Detour Ahead (Take 2); Gloria's Step (Take 3); Waltz For Debby (Take 2); All Of You (Take 3); Jade Visions (Take 1); Jade Visions (Take 2); ...A Few Final Bars.

Personnel: Bill Evans: piano; Scott LaFaro: bass; Paul Motian: drums.

Title: The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Riverside

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