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Bill Evans Trio: The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961

Jim Santella By

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With one and a half hours of material, this three-disc box set proves invaluable. It brings the classic Bill Evans Trio into focus for an evening of modern jazz that's played the way it's supposed to be played. You can relish every nuance of this session because it's not loud, forceful, flashy, or intense. No, Bill Evans didn't design his creations so that you would have your socks knocked off by dramatic intensity. He gave us something to enjoy night after night after night.

"My Foolish Heart," for example, begins with a simple piano melody that comes surrounded by swirling brushes and a somber bass walk. Evans explores the melody from the inside. He lets it simmer gently and wash over the audience gracefully. Everywhere you look, the pianist and his musical partners have sprinkled delicious gestures around the room with a natural aura.

Bassist Scott LaFaro improvises on each familiar melody with a melodic rapport. He contributed several of these memorable compositions, which have become standards. The trio's synergy comes from all of them, and LaFaro ensures that the trio's balance remains level. His solo on "My Romance," take 1, from Waltz for Debby, comes complete with a healthy respect for the composer's original theme. His lyrical manner reappears on "My Romance," take 2, which finds the bassist exploring in like manner, but finding new ways to express his ideas.

Paul Motian gives the session variety through the textures that he selects to help depict each mood. Swirling for one mood and striking crisply for another, he embraces each song with a hug. "Waltz for Debby," take 2, which originally appeared on Waltz for Debby, finds the drummer flapping his wire brushes lightly to create a casual mood, while "Jade Visions," take 2, from Sunday at the Village Vanguard, finds Motian swirling with a dreamy texture. His crisp stick work on "Milestones" helps to create a mood of driving with spirit.

Evans treats each piece with kid gloves. His creations are intended for the listener who wants to appreciate art from the inside. The box set comes with an informative booklet featuring black and white photos and pertinent liner notes by Orrin Keepnews.

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