50th anniversary of Bill Evan’s Live at Village Vanguard

A friend of mine sent out this marvelous e-mail. I have to share it.

Fifty years ago today a miracle occurred.  One of the best jazz albums of all times was recorded, Sunday at The Village Vanguard, featuring Bill Evans on piano, Paul Motian on drums (still playing the NY scene), and Scotty LaFaro on bass (killed in a car crash less than two weeks after this recording).  This is a desert-island disc and features some of the most telepathic communication between players ever heard in any form of music.

Even people who know nothing about jazz are familiar with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which I think of as a Friday night album – the day’s work is done, the room is dark, you’ve got a glass of your favorite wine or scotch, you are quietly sitting with someone you love, and the music communicates for you.  Go back and look – you’ll find that Bill Evans wrote the liner notes for that masterpiece, played piano on all except “Freddie Freeloader,” and co-wrote “Blue in Green” and “Flamenco Sketches.”

Sunday at the Village Vanguard is different – it should be subtitled Sunday Morning on Your Front Porch Reading the Paper and Drinking Coffee, or maybe Sunday Morning in Front of a Fireplace Watching the Snow Fall Outside.  If anything, it is even more contemplative than the Miles’.  It is so still that it demands you stop everything and listen.

Orrin Keepnews recorded and produced the album.  Born in 1923, he is still alive and talks about some of his classic recordings on various YouTube sessions, including this one (see video above) on the Vanguard recording, tempting fate by waiting until the last day of a multi-week gig to set up his recording equipment.  He was blessed with a miracle.  Years later, he was rewarded with a Bill Evans composition, “Re: Person I Knew,” an anagram of his name. (more…)