Bill Evans: Gloria's Step (take 2)


Gloria's Step (take 2)


Bill Evans (piano)


Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside RCD-9376-2)

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Bill Evans (piano), Scott LaFaro (bass), Paul Motian (drums).

Composed by Scott LaFaro


Recorded: Village Vanguard, New York City, June 25, 1961


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Fans who want to appreciate the artistry of Bill Evans must start with the great live Village Vanguard session from June 25, 1961. Evans never led a better band, and this ensemble never performed at a higher level than on this date. It is no exaggeration to claim that the essence of the piano trio in jazz was permanently altered by this seminal event. The idea that bass and drums should support the piano is replaced here by a different conception—one in which each instrument enters into a musical conversation with the others. The trio also adopts what Evans called the "internalized beat" in which each musician feels the rhythm, but doesn't always emphasize it in his playing. As a result the music floats over the bar lines in a way that no previous jazz ensemble had attempted.

But these are more than conceptual breakthroughs. What sets this music apart is how brilliantly these concepts are realized in practice. This music doesn't sound like anyone is out to prove anything. Its innovations are subservient to the intense emotional experience of the music itself.

One can only wonder what this trio might have accomplished had it stayed intact for several more years. But a senseless tragedy intervened. LaFaro died in a car accident on July 6—less than two weeks after these recordings were made. A great career was cut short—no bassist since Jimmy Blanton had done more to expand the expressive range of the instrument. Evans, for his part, would never completely recover from this loss, although his later ensembles always attempted to emulate (with varying degrees of success) the musical E.S.P. and interactivity of this path-breaking trio.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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