93/100 — Bill Evans Trio — Sunday at the Village Vanguard (1961)/Waltz for Debby (1961)
I love the way a piano, upright bass, and drum kit can sound and interact (spoilers, an album in my Top 10 is piano/bass/drums jazz trio.) The layers are perfect, the bass and kick drum holding it down, the piano filling the middle or creating beautiful space depending on it’s desire, and the cymbals shimmering on top. It’s so versatile and you can hear every note, every beat, that every person plays. And jazz is all about listening, and hearing the interactions between the players.
Bill Evans Trio with Scott La Faro on bass and Paul Motian on drums, exemplifies the trio format. Evans, who left Miles Davis’ band (after recording Kind of Blue — !!!) to start his trio is a meditative player who loves to create space between the notes (as on “Gloria’s Step (Take 2)”), but not one who is afraid to let his fingers fly (see “Alice in Wonderland (Take 2)”) and that gives space for La Faro’s masterful bass playing — “All of You (Take 2)” for example. In fact, in a lot of ways La Faro is the star of Sunday at the Village Vanguard. That’s not by accident. Despite being the third album recorded by the trio it’s the first to have La Faro’s name featured on the cover. It also opens and closes with songs written by the bassist and every track features a significant solo by the master player. Why? Ten days after this was recorded, Scott La Faro was killed in a car accident which completely devastated Evans.
Waltz for Debby is included here at number 93 because it is taken from the same recording sessions as Sunday and it’s just as brilliant if not quite as evocative. It shows off more of the trio as a singular unit as well as the compositional brilliance of Evans, and the title track is my favourite Evans song ever. “Waltz for Debby (Take 2)” is a gorgeous piece with it’s cadence shifts, perfect counterpoint bass, and oh man, the way the drums come in, so good. It’s on my bucket list to learn on piano.
I know jazz isn’t for everyone; to some it can be intimidating, or snobbish, or boring. But I challenge anyone to put either of these wonderful albums on and listen to them — preferably while lying on the floor in a dark room. I bet you will not be able to be at least a little amazed at the beauty and brilliance of these last recordings the Bill Evans Trio ever made.
Favourite Tracks: “Waltz for Debby (Take 2)” “Gloria’s Step (Take 2)”
Least Favourite Track: “Milestones”
PS. Both of these albums as well as all the other tracks recorded during the same recording sessions are gathered in the album The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961, but I really enjoy how the tracks have been selected and arranged in these two original releases.