Bill Evans Trio, recorded in New York, June 25, 1961
3, 5, 7 and 10: Additional track(s) not on original LP release.
Recorded at the Village Vanguard in 1961, shortly before Scott LaFaro's death, Waltz for Debby is the second album issued from that historic session, and the final one from that legendary trio that also contained drummer Paul Motian. While the Sunday at the Village Vanguard album focused on material where LaFaro soloed prominently, this is far more a portrait of the trio on those dates. Evans chose the material here, and, possibly, in some unconscious way, revealed on these sessions - and the two following LaFaro's death (Moonbeams and How My Heart Sings) - a different side of his musical personality that had never been displayed on his earlier solo recordings or during his tenures with Miles Davis and George Russell: Evans was an intensely romantic player, flagrantly emotional, and that is revealed here in spades on tunes such as "My Foolish Heart" and "Detour Ahead." There is a kind of impressionistic construction to his harmonic architecture that plays off the middle registers and goes deeper into its sonances in order to set into motion numerous melodic fragments simultaneously. The rhythmic intensity that he displayed as a sideman is evident here in "Milestones," with its muscular shifting time signature and those large, flatted ninths with the right hand. The trio's most impressive interplay is in "My Romance," after Evans' opening moments introducing the changes. Here Motian's brushwork is delicate, flighty and elegant, and LaFaro controls the dynamic of the tune with his light as a feather pizzicato work and makes Evans' deeply emotional statements swing effortlessly. Of the many recordings Evans issued, the two Vanguard dates and Explorations are the ultimate expressions of his legendary trio.
-Thom Jurek (All Music Guide)
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This is the fourth album to be released by the Bill Evans Trio composed of Evans, bassist Scott La Faro, and drummer Paul Motian. The unit was one of the most inventive and consistently satisfying of the last few years, and it is a great loss that with La Faro'a death (in the early summer of 1961) there can be no more from this specific group. But this is a peculiarly fitting set with which to conclude the series. It is the equal of any of their other albums, and has moments which are, I feel, superior to any of them. It is a performance before a live audience, which is a more accurate picture of any group's work than a studio recording. And, finally, it contains selections that Evans had played and recorded before La Faro joined him, so that it can serve as the most accurate index of the bassist's great contribution to the trio.
This is a further collection of material recorded at the same in-person session that resulted in the trio's previously-issued LP, "Sunday at the Village Vanguard". But it is in no sense a gathering of scraps from the cutting-room floor. For the earlier compilation, assembled shortly after La Faro's death, was not designed as a selection of the day's "best" work, but instead tended-through Evans' choice-to feature LaFaro's solo and compositions. Nor does that mean that there is not some brilliant work by the bassist on the present record. All it means, if anything, is that this album is perhaps more representative of the overall repertoire of the group than was the preceding one, assembled with a special purpose in mind.
I find this a fascinating album in several respects. One of the most intriguing certainly is the way in which it demonstrates how Evans, who came to prominence largely through solos played or recorded with such men as Miles Davis and George Russell, abandons, to a great extent, the muscular rhythmic excellence of such performances when he is leading his own trio, and gives expression to the more, romantic side of his nature. He reveals himself as an Impressionist; and the man who wrote the brief and lovely Epilogue (included in the album "Everybody Digs Bill Evans") must have been influenced by the English pastoral composers. In some respects, Evans shares identity with the Modern Jazz Quartet: both groups could probably play all night long, and a drunken listener would never know that he had heard anything more than quiet, pleasant cocktail music.
A word about La Faro: at his death, he was one of the supreme jazz bassists. Those very few men who have done anything to change the conception of the bass have seemed to consider it as some other instrument The Blanton-Ellington duets (which are in some ways-the spiritual progenitors of these recordings) achieved much of their effect through Blanton's bowed passages, which sounded like violin or cello work. The work of La Faro (which at one time stemmed quite directly from Charles Mingus) often sounds as though he were playing a large guitar; one solo he has recorded is astonishingly like Django Reinhardt. Like Mingus, LaFaro's ideas could only be played by a virtuoso; also like Mingus, the virtuosity is never more than a tool to convey the idea. But they are exclusively virtuoso lines, requiring complete technical mastery to execute. Aside from the guitar conception, there is a much more basic advance which La Faro (and other bassists such as Wilbur Ware and Charlie Haden) are helping to initiate: prior to them, most bassists were so steeped in their roles as timekeepers that, during their solos, they would simply continue to keep time, only with a more interesting choice of notes. LaFaro had completely freed himself from that constriction, and it undoubtedly took a sensitive, unobtrusive drummer like Paul Motian to help him do it.
About the material: two of these pieces, Waltz for Debby and My Romance, were recorded in 1966, on Evans first LP, "New Jazz Conceptions". In that incarnation, though, they were short unaccompanied piano sketches, lasting only a little more than a minute each. It is interesting indeed that both have remained in Bill's personal orepertoire all this time, developing into these full-bodied versions.
My Foolish Heart is another of those neglected ballads which Evans revives from time to time. I must take exception to those who say that in doing so he is reworking "trivia and banality", for I find that the tunes he chooses to play often have lovely, if sentimental, melodic lines. Detour Ahead was written by musicians Lou Carter, Herb Ellis, and John Frigo, who called themselves the Soft Winds, and was first and most poignantly sung by Billie Holiday.
The altered harmonic pattern with which Bill and Scott begin Leonard Bernstein's Som Other Time will be instantly familiar to many Evans followers. He first planned to record this tune in 1958, for the "Everybody Digs..." album, which contains another Bernstein song from "On The Town", Lucky To Be Me. But at that time he became so involved with one figure he created for it that he expanded that into a free improvisation-Peace Piece-which has become perhaps his best known work. Here, three years later, is the germ of that idea, and there is, I think, a genera1 similarity in improvisational approach, although it should be noted that Peace Piece was not an "original" based on the Bernstein chords. The final track is Miles Davis' Milestones. Those who recall the original recording by the composer, with its use of scales, its crisp, staccato attack, and the sharp, accenting Philly Joe Jones rim shots, will know that it is one of the most influential recordings of the last few years. That record was made before Evans had ever played with Miles, and the way Bill plays the tune here- legato, and with a different sense of time-can to a degree be considered a capsule definition of the differences in approach between the two men. But it also points up the fact that theirs are by no means opposed approaches. Bill unquestionably gained much from his period with Davis. And those elements that stand as uniquely Evans' in this version of Milestones might well be the sort of things Miles referred to when he once said: "I sure learned a lot from Bill Evans."
- Joe Goldberg
These liner notes and credits are reproduced directly from the original album. For the full contents and sequence of this Compact Disc, refer to the tray card or label.
For this Compact Disc release, alternate versions of three of the six selections have been inserted just after the ones originally chosen for issuance -demonstrating how uniformly high the overall creative level was on this legendary final day of the trio. [The three not duplicated here-"Some Other Time," "Milestones," and "Foolish Heart"-were played only once that day.] Also included is "Porgy," originally omitted for lack of space, but added to the Milestone reissue 'twofer' The Village Vanguard Sessions (M-47002). The three alternates have appeared on More From the Vanguard (M-9126) and all are on the boxed set, Bill Evans: The Complete Riverside Recordings (R-018), but this is the first time this additional material has been Issued as part of the original album.
(The remaining material from this day is on OJCCD-140-2: Sunday at the Village Vanguard.)