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Review Bill Evans' 'Sunday at the Village Vanguard'

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Review Bill Evans' 'Sunday at the Village Vanguard'
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The Bottom Line

A must-own, this album is one of the best live jazz recordings of all time.
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  • Considered one of the best live jazz albums of all time
  • Features great playing of Bassist Scott LaFaro, who died ten days after the recording
  • Paved the way for the modern approach to improvisation


  • None. Regardless of its appeal, the album is an important historical recording.


  • Bill Evans and producer Orrin Keepnews reportedly chose tracks that best showcase one of Scott LaFaro's last performances.
  • Evans' and LaFaro's improvising on this recording have had an influence that is still heard to this day.
  • The group plays with a freedom that opened up the possibilities for piano trio performance.

Guide Review - Review Bill Evans' 'Sunday at the Village Vanguard'

Recorded on June 25, 1961, Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard set new limits for the piano trio. Drummer Paul Motian and bassist Scott LaFaro accompany the masterful and introspective Bill Evans, and this album marks the last performance of this particular ensemble. LaFaro was killed in a car accident ten days after the recording. Each member of the group plays with such freedom that each stands out while simultaneously communicating with and supporting each other.

Moving away from the bebop approach to improvisation, Evans deals as much with harmonic colors and classical-influenced textures as he does with weaving linear melodies. Rhythmically he takes risks as well. Particularly on Miles Davis’ tune "Solar," his phrases stretch over the bar lines. He holds on to motives, allowing them to develop, and draping his ideas loosely over the short twelve-measure form, giving it an expansive feel.

LaFaro’s improvisations are virtuosic and light, and they dart in and out of Motian’s pulse. When he is not soloing, his bass lines are restless and imaginative, filled with a youthful energy that seem constantly verging on discovery. He rarely “walks” a consistent pulse, as bass players traditionally would have.

Motian provides the center around which Evans and LaFaro orbit. While they test how far outside of the groove they can stray, he pulls them back with a subtle yet steady pulse. His simple approach provides a degree of levity and joy, especially on the blissful “Alice in Wonderland.”

More Bill Evans Albums

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