Bill Evans – The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 [TrackList follows] – Riverside (4 LP set)

Bill Evans – The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 [TrackList follows] – Riverside RIV-36005-01 Collectors Edition 4-LP stereo vinyl set [6/25/61 & 11/10/14] (Distr. by Concord Jazz) ****:

(Bill Evans – piano; Scott LaFaro – bass; Paul Motian – drums)

Nearly all Bill Evans’ fans have at least one of the recordings made by Evans’ most potent trio at the Village Vanguard in June 1961. If you are at all a follower of Evans, it is a de rigueur purchase. Over ten years ago, the entire five sets recorded both in the afternoon and evening of June 25, 1961 were released as a 3-CD box set, digitally remastered in analog utilizing the 20-bit K2 Super Coding System.

Going back to one more time for vinyl-loving audiophiles, Riverside has now re-released on 180 gram vinyl these entire recordings again. To sweeten the pot, new more comprehensive liner notes, a limited-edition poster, and reproduced recording sheets with original producer’s notes are part of the LP box set package.

There is a bit of controversy with this LP set as the vinyl was cut from 44.1K-24 bit digital files rather than transferred from the original analog tapes. On the plus side there has been no editing of the acoustics of the famed small club, nor audience interaction. [And perhaps the wow, flutter and pacing is therefore improved over the original analog tapes…Ed.] Whether the vinyl set sounds better than the previous CD set will depend on your source equipment, and the possible aging ears of Evans’ fans. I’d like to concentrate on the brilliant unsurpassed music which is contained in these sets.

There has been a lively debate regarding which of Evans’ trios – there were several – captured his brilliance best. Many prefer the trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. It was among the most short-lived of any of Evans’ trios due to the fact that bassist LaFaro died in a car crash within two weeks after the Vanguard recordings, and the trio had been working together less than two years prior to the Vanguard June 25, 1961 recording.

What is not in dispute is the level of interaction between the trio members. The contrapuntal communication that Evans and LaFaro had was uncanny. Scott and Paul were integral members of the trio and not there simply to “comp” behind Evans’ brilliance. Scott’s abilities were well beyond his 25 years of age when he passed away. His loss for the jazz community was profound, not quite the level of Clifford Brown’s passing, due to the fact that as a bassist he was not a front line leader, but still there will always be wonderment regarding how far Scott would have gone, and if he would have become a band leader such as Charles Mingus. Sadly, we’ll never know.

Listening to the Vanguard recordings it is interesting to note that when Evans felt satisfied with a performance of a composition during the five sets represented here (afternoon and evening) he did not play the song again later the same day. Tracks that passed the “one and done” test included “My Foolish Heart,” “Some Other Time,” “Milestones,” and “Solar.”

“Gloria’s Step” had three takes including an interrupted take, and “All of You” also was performed three times. No other composition here had more than two takes. (I’m not complaining to be able to experience “Waltz for Debby” a second time.)

What was clearly on display that day at the Village Vanguard (I wonder how many jazz fans claim that they were there at the club for the recording session…?) was the ballad brilliance of Evans. His interpretations were so moving that they can bring tears to the eye. We are privileged that June 25, 1961 has been memorialized. Whether it be CD or LP format, make sure that you experience the magic on display that day. It’s a “must have” purchase for any jazz piano connoisseur.


Disc One: Afternoon Set 1
Side A: Introduction, Gloria’s Step (interrupted), Alice in Wonderland (take 1)
Side B: My Foolish Heart, All of You (take 1)
Disc Two: Afternoon Set 2
Side A: My Romance (take 1), Some Other Time, Solar 
Side B: (Evening set 1)
Gloria’s Step (take 2), My Man’s Gone Now, All of You (take 2)
Disc 3: Evening set 1 cont’d, & set 2
Side A: Detour Ahead, Waltz for Debby(take 1), Alice in Wonderland (take 2)
Side B: Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy), My Romance (take 2), Milestones
Disc 4: Evening set 3
Side A: Detour Ahead (take 2), Gloria’s Step (take 3), Waltz for Debby (take 2)
Side B: All of You (take 3), Jade Visions (take 1), Jade Visions (take 2), final bars

—Jeff Krow







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