Sunday Morning Album: Bill Evans – Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Good morning and a happy Sunday to you.

This morning the weekly album choice is Bill Evans’ aptly named 1961 album Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Anyone in anyway familiar with the wonderful world of Jazz will know the name Bill Evans. He played through a great career, trragically cut short as a result of demons that plagued him throughout his life. This album was recorded with his jazz trio, with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. Regarded as one the finest trios ever to play and record together, but unfortunately no longer still with us. 

The album itself is generally considered one of the finest live jazz recordings ever to have been cut. Within even the first few minutes of listening Evans’ tasteful piano voicings and Bud Powell-esque flourishes combine with the fine rhythm work of LaFaro and Motian to create that quintessential trio soundworld. As with all great trios they work as single unit, keeping a tight groove and playing off each other with almost intuitive precision. The ambience of the room with the sounds of the club flowing over some of the quieter sections generates a window into a lost time. Close your eyes and be transported to that room with the smoke curling, glasses clinking and Evans sat at his piano with the music just flowing out of him. This sets a precedent against which live recordings should be compared. Very few recordings actually exude atmosphere quite like this, but this does and in spades. 

Both LaFaro and Evans present wonderful improvisations with tasteful slower sections and more fiery faster runs that carry the motion of the tracks forward and present a sense of virtuosity without once stepping over the line into overindulgence or creating an intensity that overshadows the chilled vibe of the room. Motian follows the pair with unbreaking support and is understated and tasteful in his grooves. Together they present a great recording, one that deserves a place in everyone’s collections, even those who are not die-hard jazz aficionados, alongside ubiquitous albums such as Kind of Blue. It is an hour and 20 minutes of chilled grooves that functions as both full-concentration listening as well as background ambience. It can provide the soundtrack to your morning coffee, brunch, dinner party or evening drinks. 

Give it a listen. 

Happy Sunday 🙂 

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