Sunday At The Village Vanguard – Bill Evans (1961)

Album no. 30/1001

Look at that – we managed to get through 1960 without a jazz album. But now, it’s 1961 and we’re back to jazz. Great.

Bill Evans is a pretty kick-ass jazz pianist. He is to piano what Miles Davis is to trumpet. And speaking of Miles Davis, Bill contributed pretty heavily to Kind of Blue – so they’re both of the same jazz calibre. 

Have you listened to this album before?

CL: No. I thought we were done with jazz. Help.

NK: I sure haven’t.

Standout track

CL: Well hot diggity-darn. This is A LOT better than I was expecting. The bass on this album is pretty nuts. I know it’s all meant to be about the piano, but wow. Also, sad fact: the bass player Scott LaFaro died 10 days after this was recorded in a car accident. He was only 25! Supposedly when choosing the list of songs to be included on the album they chose the ones where his bass playing was the best. The tracks like ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ and ‘Gloria’s Step’ certainly showcase that. But far and away the best track is ‘Jade Visions’.

NK: I can’t believe you liked this. Maybe we have opposite tastes in jazz. I didn’t like it, and I think it’s because the rhythm section are doing whatever the hell they feel like. Scott LaFaro is jazzing out all over the shop, but they never all seem to be playing the same thing. My pick is ‘Gloria’s Step’, because it is a bit more upbeat. I really struggled with this. There are no riffs or melodies that run through any of the songs, there is no underlying structure I could fall back on, it’s just three dudes soloing over the top of one another.

CL: Maybe that’s why I liked it? It could just sort of, noodle away, and worm its way into my head.

When would be the best time to listen to this?

CL: When you can’t really be bothered going to a jazz club but you’ve just set one up in your own house. This was recorded live at the Village Vanguard – a jazz club in New York that’s still open today!

NK: I honestly don’t know. I didn’t enjoy listening to this. Maybe put it on when you want to annoy somebody?

Why has this album been included on the list?

CL: This album consistently appears on lists for best live jazz recordings and it makes sense. The trio work wonderfully together. It’s only a piano, a bass and drums but I think it’s miles ahead of anything else jazzy I’ve heard on this list.

NK: You are insane. I don’t think I know enough about jazz to know what’s good about this. It seems so aimless, just wandering all over the shop without any hint of a song. That’s the point I guess, the lack of structure. This was absolutely not for me.

Will you be listening again?  

CL: This is really weird but… I think I actually liked this. Maybe it’s because I read about this album before listening to it? Maybe I just prefer piano to trumpet? Maybe I’ve just heard so much jazz over the course of the last few weeks my brain has shut down? I don’t know. What I do know is that I enjoyed it.

NK: What?! This is up there with my least favourite jazz albums so far. After Kind of Blue and Time Out, I really thought things were looking up, but this killed the jazz dream. No, I will not be listening again.

Rating

CL: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums. It’s pretty close to a four.

NK: This is possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. I’m removing it from my iTunes without delay. It was offensive to my eardrums.

Listen to Sunday At The Village Vanguard on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.

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