Bill Evans: Waltz For Debby (1961) Riverside

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Track Selection: Waltz for Debby

Artists

Bill Evans (p) Scott LaFaro (b) Paul Motian (d) Live recording at the “Village Vanguard”, NYC, matinee and soiree, June 25, 1961. (Like the French? Enchanté It’s so charming)

Music

It is a live performance. You can faintly hear the chink of cutlery, the distant babble of conversations. It is not too intrusive, though had I been there I would probably have asked the chef if I could borrow his meat cleaver. Table Three, Gentlemen, are you aware you are in the presence of genius? And that you are talking over it? How do I say this politely (Brings cleaver down in one blow, where it embeds quivering in the table top). Capisce?

The benefit of live performance of course is the nervous energy that flows between the players and the audience, igniting play in a way a recording studio setting rarely does. Scott Lafaro is staggering, a virtual bass-piano fusion of minds and sounds.

Two separate  albums were created from the matinee and soiree sessions at the Village Vanguard –  RLP 399 Waltz for Debby and  RLP 376 Sunday at the Village Vanguard. A remarkable moment in the history of jazz was created that day. And shortly after, Scot Lafaro was no more.

Vinyl: RLP 399  Riverside, 1961 first pressing UK

Nice, and mono so there is none of the hi-fi showroom demonstration of extreme positioning. Sounds just right. For a live recording, very acceptable.

The cover is a deep glossy laminate, slight dimples, like all the best finishes from the Fifties and early Sixties, the like of which they no longer seem able to make.

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Collectors Corner

Yes!! There is a God! Four times I have chased this record and lost to a high roller. Fair realistic bids by my estimate, but always someone else threw money at it and won. You may have seen my eBay Lowlights section on this record.   https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/ebay-lowlights/   Except this time…

Three weeks after losing the bid on this British pressing in “Excellent” condition – what should turn up in my email but my first “Second Chance Offer” from eBay. Seems the winning bidder failed to complete, so the seller opened it up to the second place bid – me.

My initial reaction was suspicion. Something must be wrong with it  – the first buyer must have sent it back. I checked – no negative feedback.  The price was right at my personal maximum. Cold light of day, should I go for it?  After sleeping on it I decided to take up the 2nd Chance – which comes to you as a “Buy it Now” screen.. At the end of the day I figured it was no different from having won it first time around. Paypal, job done, sit and wait.

Next morning the doorbell awoke me from my sleep, quarter to eight. I had to open the door in my dressing gown. It was like an angel in a hi-visibility jacket from The Lord’s Parcel Force, sent down to Earth to deliver my reward. A deep voice boomed:“You have won a reprieve, Andrew, you get a Second Chance, use it wisely”  Jimmy Stewart I think it was, or may be Carry Grant. I am convinced the post man had a beatific smile. “Sign Here..” my soul signed for, recorded Delivery.

Unpacking the parcel was nerve-racking.  And then suddenly  there it was. Perfect, beautiful condition, mint,, gorgeous glossy laminate, holding it in your hands, enough to bring you to tears. Just about the most beautiful cover in my whole collection.

And what of the record? Gingerly, I tilted it to the light. Flawless. Hardly played. Clean almost unblemished spindle holes, not a scuff or scratch in sight. The last copy I saw at a store would  describe as “surface noise, with a touch of piano, though mostly the noise plays through.” This is a lovely copy, just the very occasional natural vinyl odd sound – only the Japanese do completely silent vinyl.

Across the pond this record fetches three to four times what I paid, in this condition. And its all mine. For once, the good guys get to  win, if I include myself in that company.

Postscript: August 4, 2016

You wait years for a decent copy of a record, then two come along at once. But better, this one is the stereo! (I will get around to adding a stereo rip for comparison, but that is not for today)

Dutch Stereo pressing.

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Dutch stereo pressing, and what a pressing – dim the lights, front row seat Village Vanguard, Bill Evans Trio at arms length in your living room, Bill’s piano in front of the fireplace, Scott to one side by the indoor palm, Paul Motian squeezed in the corner next to your hi-fi. Tinkling glasses,the  low hub-bub of conversation, you are there, sublime. Hey sweetie, you signal the cocktail waitress at the bar, fix me a drink will ya? Dry Martini. Your wife appears with beehive hairdo and shift dress, chewing gum. Fetch your own drinks, she tells you. It’s the servants day off.

Vinyl: RLP 8399

Considering it is exactly the same music, note the enormous difference in the size of the runout compared with the UK mono, indicating a much more densely packed grooved area, and therefore different mastering lathe settings.

1961 it must have been common to record to twin-track, hence the UK mono must be a fold down, and the Dutch stereo more authentically what was recorded. Perhaps.

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Back cover includes a picture of Bill omitted from the UK mono press.

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Collector’s Corner

The stereo copy was a complete fluke. I walked into a West London store I visit occasionaly, and filed away in the “piano” section was sitting this beauty, whispering “take me, take me now

So I took it.

 

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12 thoughts on “Bill Evans: Waltz For Debby (1961) Riverside

  1. I picked up a Dutch stereo pressing of this in VG++, maybe NM- condition at a very fair price yesterday. Some hairlines (probably from sleeve removal) that do sound here and there, mostly due to the pressing being fairly quiet. The title track is my favorite cut, full of little off the cuff riffs and phrases that any lesser artist would’ve based an entire composition on. And LaFaro’s bass playing is outstanding. He’s got such a singular tone and style, and that on an instrument that tends to sound a bit anonymous even in the hands of the greats (to my ears, please don’t judge!). The liner note describe him as sounding like he’s playing a big guitar. I think there’s something in that.

    Interestingly, while the sleeve is American style heavy laminated car,d the lamination is a bit different from American covers and your UK copy. It’s smoother, less dimply, and consequently a bit less pretty. I’m very happy with it but might keep a lookout for a good UK copy all the same … (A US press is way out of my league, and, without the laminated cover, a bit less diserable to me as well, so that actually works out quite well!)

    • Incidentally I was just looking at your post on Evans’ Portrait in Jazz and noticed that the photo of Bill on its back cover also appears on the back cover of my copy of Waltz, albeit in cropped form (see http://tinyurl.com/zrqj92e). That’s neither here nor there I suppose but it is a fun bit of trivia.

      • Not trivia, not at all! I overlooked posting my more recent Dutch Stereo edition, the label and cover photos were very old and didn’t do justice to this wonderful Evans album, so I have updated all the previous pictures, and supplemented the previous post with my take on the stereo edition. What surprised me looking closer is the difference between British and Dutch pressing of the “same recording” , an eye-opener.

        https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/bill-evans-waltz-for-debby-1961/

        Scroll down to the postscript, for a “night-in” with the Bill Evans Trio in stereo, chez LJC.

        Worth revisiting.

  2. LJC, I have just been revisiting this post while musing on why I haven’t got better pressings of some of my favourite Bill Evans records and was surprised to find you saying that Portrait in Jazz comes from the VV sessions. Surely it doesn’t — does it? I have always thought it to be a studio session recorded in December 1959 (at Reeves Studio NYC?).

    Yes, of course, it is the VV line-up — and all the more precious for that — but not from the VV sessions. I stand to be corrected, of course…. What am I missing?

    • The fact-checker was on holiday, the dog ate my homework. Everyone knows Portrait was recorded 28th December ’59 while the VV session was 25th June ’61, which is very very close, when viewed from a great distance.

      You are quite correct, just RLP 376 Sunday Night and RLP 399 Waltz for Debby.

      • Ah — that bloody dog! It has in its time eaten such a prodigious quantity of homework, and has now progressed to digital consumption too, I see. Sorry — it must be annoying to have people nit-picking about four-year old posts 🙂

        I hope you’re well.

  3. Another superb addition to your Bill Evans collection. And what a score it is… Stories like this about such monumental recordings lead to only one thought: where’s my time machine? -But then again, that would be “highly illogical, now wouldn’t it, Captain?” Still you got yourself a fab time capsule, looking as if it just materialized before your own eyes like a cup of tea; Earl Grey, hot 😉

    • Know what you mean, that shadow, what’s her name again – Debby? Most of Bill’s covers are just Bill – looking sensitive and preppy. I quite like this one. It looks a whole lot better in the flesh.

  4. Haha, I laughed out loud at your little Corleone vengeance moment there. Although, I must say, I thoroughly enjoy the fact that genius was in the house and nobody gave a s**t. I’ve never been to New York, but I hear the Village Vanguard nowadays is one of the yawniest places ever, with people attending jazz concerts like attending Sunday mass. 1961, on the other hand, everything was business as usual, just another night in the city. If you ever come accross the 3-CD complete version of this set, do me a favor and listen to the last track (in you haven’t already). The place is almost empty, only a few customers left, the producer and a few girls. You can hear Bill Evans joking around with Keepnews and it gives you an idea of how wonderfully relaxed the whole affair was. They didn’t know they just finished playing some legendary music. For them too, it was just another night in the city.

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