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The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 [3 CD] Box set, Live, Original recording remastered

4.9 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The 1961 engagement of Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian at the Village Vanguard is widely considered to be one of the most historic in jazz. This 3-CD set presents all five sets the trio performed in their original order. First time available in the U.S.!

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Bill Evans, with virtuoso bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, reinvented the jazz piano trio, creating stunning contrapuntal dialogues that merged luminous lyricism with layers of complex, elusive harmonies, its moments of limpid beauty suddenly giving way to surging rhythms. The trio's finest recorded moments, these performances were captured just 10 days before LaFaro's death in a car accident. The original releases--Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby--are celebrated masterpieces. This three-CD set is a brilliant reissue--almost a revision--of that material, with superb sound from the newly remastered original tapes and all of the music presented in the sequence of the original five sets, adding a previously unissued take of "Gloria's Step," spoken introductions, and the band's incidental conversation. For those who know this music, it's a chance to hear it in a fresh way; for new listeners, it will come as a revelation at a bargain price. --Stuart Broomer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 13, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set, Live, Original recording remastered
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Riverside
  • ASIN: B000AMJEKA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,706 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gregory Massey on February 15, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Chuck Ralston has already provided an extensive and very helpful review of this release. His website dedicated to Scott LaFaro is worth the attention of all jazz fans.

This day of recordings at the Village Vanguard produced two magical albums, _Sunday at the Village Vanguard_ and _Waltz for Debby_. Later reissues on compact disc included alternative takes. This release, previously only available overseas, supersedes all the others. As Ralston notes, it is the first to include the opening number of the day, LaFaro's composition "Gloria's Step," which was briefly interrupted by a power failure. It also contains the first take of "All of You," previously available on Bill Evans' _Complete Riverside Recordings_, a compilation that's probably beyond most fans' budgets. As an example of the trio's high level of performance that day, it's hard to pick from the three takes of "All of You." This first take, for example, contains drummer Paul Motian's best solo spotlight of the day.

The _Complete Village Vanguard_ allows the listener to follow this great trio over the course of the entire day. It's a priceless experience. One of the sublime moments is the performance of "Porgy," a perfect example of musicians really listening to each other. Once that performance, infamously interrupted by audience chatter and laughter, concludes, LaFaro asks Evans, "What's up?" Evans answers, "My Romance," and then they proceed to discuss how the number will be played. Today listeners hear a performance like "Porgy" and are filled with amazement. On that day the musicians simply moved on to play the next piece.

A final example of why this recording is the one to buy is the trio's final performance of the day, LaFaro's forward-looking composition, "Jade Visions.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The following is my May 2004 review of the 2002 Japanese IMPORT edition of this seminal recording, and my views (and review) of it remain.

"Jazz's Perfect Afternoon" a review of _Bill Evans: The Complete Live at the Village Vanguard 1961_ ([Tokyo] Japan: Victor Entertainment, 2002), recorded in performance at the Village Vanguard, New York, NY, 25 June 1961, with Bill Evans, piano; Scott LaFaro, bass, and Paul Motian, drums. (VICJ-60951-3) boxed set of 3 compact discs in separate jewel-box cases and a 13 pp. program booklet in English and Japanese. Running times: CD 1 (60951) -- afternoon sets 1 and 2 -- 49:29 with nine tracks; CD 2 (60952) --evening sets 1 and 2 -- 64:21 with ten tracks; CD 3 (60953) -- evening set 3 -- 39:31 with seven tracks.

The original 1961 recording was produced by Orrin Keepnews and engineered by David Jones of Riverside Records. This 2002 analog-to-digital re-mastering, utilizing the 20-bit K2 Super Coding System, was accomplished by Tamaki Beck of FLAIR (JVC Aoyama Studios, Tokyo) with tape research by Stuart Kremsky, CD assembly by Joe Tarantino, production coordination by Bill Belmont, and design by Yoko Nakamura (program booklet, verso title page). Musical selections are arranged in chronological order of their performance.

Listeners familiar with every audible nook and cranny of the original Bill Evans Riverside LPs Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz For Debby, which recordings comprised most of the music made that magical Sunday in New York in early summer 1961, were amazed later in the 1970s with the re-issue of these recordings along with previously un-released takes. In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, with the advent of the CD, increased sonority and clarity were noticeable.
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I came at this album kind of backwards - I first listened to CDs of Evans playing with Tony Bennett, then solo, then live at Montreux with Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette (trying to hear him at his most upbeat). I knew that this was one of the most revered albums in jazz, but I couldn't help but wonder what the fuss was all about. How much better could it be?

Much better. First, the recording quality on this album blows away the Montreux album. Yes, there's glasses clinking and occasional chit-chat, but it tells part of the story, as does the enemic applause. The bass tone is clear and full. The cymbals are not oppressive. It is amazing what such a meager recording setup can achieve in the right hands. If you have fear based on other bad jazz recordings, have no fear here.

Then there's the players. Bill Evans is Bill Evans - he has his good days and bad days, and most players people long in vain to live up to his bad days. And this was a good day, indeed. Then there's Scott LaFaro on bass. You really have to hear him play to appreciate just how much better than just about everyone else he was. He is busy yet tasteful, innovative and compelling to listen to. It would be a rare player indeed to come even close. Then there's Motian on drums. Based on other things I heard, I expected him to sit back, keep the beat and stay out of the way. He keeps the lid on the volume, but he plays with a control and intensity that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Unlike Jack DeJohnette, his timing syncs up precisely with Evans. His contribution to this trio should not be underestimated.

Then there are the songs. Each song is like an artichoke - dig a little deeper and you get a brand new flower.
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