Bill Evans Trio “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” (1961)

billevansvanguard-frontcover-1920-LJC-1

Track Selection: “Solar”

Artists

Bill Evans (p) Scott LaFaro (b), Paul Motian (d) recorded live at the Village Vanguard on June 25, 1961,

Music

Tune in to the communication between piano and bass and drums.Simultaneous improvisation within a melodic structure, the ultimate Unfree Jazz.

The Amazon Official Review describes it thus: “This live recording by the Bill Evans Trio marked the end of one of the most sublime instrumental combinations in jazz history. The interchange between Evans on piano, LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums is balletic in its balance of emotional beauty and technical precision”

I can say this record is worshipped like few others, and for only very good musical reasons. And good as Evans future bass players were – Chuck Israels, Eddie Gomez, Marc Johnson, no-one stood up there with Scott LaFaro.

Amazingly it was recorded live, which may account for the quality of the performance, and the Sunday night dinner guests are quietly appreciative, discrete ripples of applause, no attention seeking yelps and whistles, the Trio remains unquestionably the focus of attention. The record invites you to a front table.

Vinyl

Look at those spindle marks!! Look no further than a sample of reviews from Amazon:

“This is an album that continues to amaze and please even after repeated hearings”…  It sounds simple enough on the surface, but holds scores of wonders upon careful listening”….” Please, buy this album! And listen to it over and over. It will change your life. It did mine.”.   So it goes on and on. You get the picture, if you like your records pristine ” only played a few times” this is never going to be one. A few clicks, a few pops, a little groove wear, and some scuffing surface noise because it never returned to its jacket. A beautiful laminated jacket it is too. Another time vinyl artwork scores over CD.

As far as I can tell it’s a 1st UK Riverside release, and Riverside sound sublime. Though there are CDs remastered by Orin Keepnews available, which claim to capture the original sound quality, I respectfully have to disagree. I have one Keepnews CD and side by side with the vinyl it is weak and wooden by comparison (which of course you would never know unless you were able to play them side by side) . If you can find decent vinyl this is one to grab.

billevansvanguard-labels-1920-LJC1

 

Matrix indicates a Philips pressing, manufactured in Holland (670). These are a little more quiet than the British press (420) and benefit from pushing the volume up a couple of notches.

 

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Collectors Corner

I felt fortunate enough to pick this up in a local record store at a very fair price, even if not in as excellent a condition one would like, and the cover has a tear on the back.. The last time I chased Evans on eBay  the 1961 records (this one, Waltz for Debby, and Portraits in Jazz) all went stratospheric even long before auction close. One to keep on your watch list. And yes, may be an Orin Keepnews CD to attune your ear in the meantime.

In spite of Evans long-term addiction to heroin, LaFaro’s motor accident, and Paul Motian’s death just a few weeks back, a unique superlative group we will not see the like of again, whose recorded musical legacy remains with us, forever. And enough people that appreciate it.

Pictures updated June 8, 2016

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19 thoughts on “Bill Evans Trio “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” (1961)

  1. Hi I just joined your site.. it’s wonderful thanks.
    Just bought one of these 1st UK pressings on
    eBay…hope it sounds as good as yours.
    Mark

  2. Thank you for your fast reply my dilemma is I can get hold of a original US a mono ex/ex condition for $200 USD
    RLP 376 US 1961
    Blue label

    I have an acoustic sounds stereo re-issue
    “I notice all the high into your stereo versions”
    Stereo I would be my preference as it does appear that how it was recorded & nicely done.
    I know the mono is quite collectable but I’m more concerned about the sound quality in the experience !
    do I take a punt on this ?
    Do the monos sound okay as I’ve only had experience with fake stereos,
    Your thoughts on the price to please ? As it is still a sizeable chunk of change
    Really appreciate your thoughts and I love your website keep up the good work
    Cheers Evan

    • It’s a lot of money to lay out for an original and I can quite understand anxiety about making the “right” decision.

      With Riverside there is little chance of stereo trickery. I’ve not encountered any fake stereo, they obviously recorded two-track and could generate both mono and stereo from that single source tape. Stereo can be shonky but it is not “fake”

      The real choice is not between mono and stereo, it’s between one or other, and nothing. Sometimes it is about what is available, not what is best. I think you would be very happy with either the mono or the stereo, they both serve up the magic of this recording session.

      The big big issue is vinyl grade. Surface noise and wear can be really intrusive in such a spare acoustic environment. A lot of owners in the ’60s and ’70s played these albums to death, didn’t take care. I would be weighing the cost against the condition rather than the audio-format.

      Hopefully that is helpful.

  3. Is it best to get the mono or the studio version of this Lp ? from my research I understand the mono is a fold down’
    So I am thinking stereo is the way to go but I have the opportunity of getting my hands on a mint original US mono so it is tempting
    Any feedback is appreciated

    • Though I have only the mono on this title, I have Waltz for Debbie, a closely related session, in both mono and stereo. Irrespective of any theoretical principles, fold-down or whatever, I lean towards the stereo. With quartets and quintets at this time the engineers made some pretty unappealing panning decisions, but with a trio, it is hard to put a foot wrong, the musical conversation works well as three discrete instruments.

  4. I have the stereo OJC reissue of this from 1984. I know the OJC series doesn’t usually get high marks for sound quality, but this is an exception rather than the rule. Dead quiet vinyl, great clarity and open soundstage. Fairly inexpensive as well.

    • Though I have had fairly poor experiences with OJC I did take a tip from a reader about the pre-barcode OJC issues. I picked one up recently and was pleasantly surprised. Barcodes were introduced in 1983 so I guess there are a fair number of pre-barcode titles around. A sample of one doesn’t allow much scope for generalisation, I’d be interested if anyone else has a view.

      Vinyl weight was 120 – heavier than I expected, a good fairly punchy mono. I wouldn’t put them in the same league as most originals, but an acceptable listen, and on kit with fair investment in the vinyl playback side, a superior experience to TESD.

      In case of rare or expensive originals, they are cheap enough to offer an affordable point of entry, until something better turns up.

  5. hi there, got myself a beautiful “french” blue riverside mono copy 😉
    matrix numbers are RLP 376 1L 1 670 11 3C then a strange series of signs like dots…
    670 stamp – dutch philips, right? label copyright is in english, D.R/CHAPPELL, made in france
    the wax is so spotless and glossy it shines! sound is gorgeous and very “near”, no need to push the volume more than usual… next, debby…

    • Seems he has a different gidea of grading:
      Vinyl: ex-
      (some marks+fine scratches give ticks,
      mark S.1 at 10:30 gives about 15 clicks)
      I wouldn’t call that “EX-” I’d say more like VG

      Trouble with Bill Evans is often the record has been played to death, for obvious reasons. Its quite hard to find them in really EX condition, and Bill Evans Trio is something you really don’t want scratches – they are very obtrusive with beautiful acoustic sounds.

      • I might not attach enough importance to flaws in records – and you are definitely right that it is absolutely necessary to have a record in fine condition to enjoy this album… let’s see what the auction ends at.

  6. Absolutely Stunning sessions. I play this often at dinner with the family and my boys really appreciate it. I have a Limited editon # 909 alto analogue pressing mastered by Nick Webb. Knowing that when Jade Visions comes on, its Lafaro’s last tune is beautiful and errie at the same time.

  7. Hmmm… After reading how your copy sounds I feel compelled to obtain one myself! Until that time I have to make do with my copy on CD… 😉

  8. One of my absolute favorites. I have a stereo 1st press VG- vinyl copy. Still sounds reasonably good considering the surface noise and how quiet the music is. Glad to have it as it’s quite expensive and tough to find, but I’d love to upgrade it one day.

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