Sunday at the Village Vanguard/Waltz for Debby

Evans, Bill Trio

album cover

One Magic Sunday

Time moves differently on Sundays. The pressure to "do" slacks off, and it's possible to let your mind wander, at least a little. This gravitational shift is so strong it even affects musicians, known to be impervious to the rhythms of the working week. For proof see Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby, two contemplative discs recorded by the Bill Evans Trio on a single day of alleged rest (and reissued in 2005 as The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961).

Here is the most harmonically astute pianist in jazz, Bill Evans, working for the last time with his most attentive accomplices—the drummer Paul Motian, and the bassist Scott LaFaro, who would die in a highway accident ten days later. The material is standard Evans Trio fare—Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now," Miles Davis's "Solar"—and as always Evans seems eager for an adventure. But the feeling he cultivates is one of naptime serenity, an idle daydream at the piano. His cohorts pick that up right away; sometimes the trio swings together, and sometimes they circle around three tempos at once, committing to nothing. Though Evans was by this time associated with the impressionistic colors he brought to Davis's 1959 landmark Kind of Blue (see p. 208), his less-appreciated but perhaps more important weapon—an assured, endlessly subtle sense of swing—is in full effect here.

Part of the low-keyness could be attributed to simple fatigue: The trio had played a full evening (including the Vanguard's customary late show) on Saturday, and began the first of five (!) sets at 4:30 the following afternoon. Riverside recorded nearly every set on that Sunday, splitting the highlights into two albums equally groaning with greatness. (There's now a three-disc "complete" box that offers all the sets in their entirety.) Even Evans's pet phrases—the hairpin turns and the glib dancing triplets he slipped into countless studio sessions and late-night jams—resonate differently in this context, radiating a pensive, reflective mood that you don't encounter in jazz clubs every day.

Genre: Jazz
Released: 1961, Riverside (Both albums reissued together in 2005)
Key Tracks: "My Man's Gone Now," "Waltz for Debby," "My Foolish Heart."
Catalog Choice: Conversations with Myself.
Next Stop: Miles Davis Quintet: In Person Friday and Saturday at the Blackhawk
After That: Ahmad Jamal: Cross-Country Tour.
Book Pages: 263–264

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