This collection combines the albums Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby with some alternate material, all of which transpired at the historic club on exactly one night: June 25, 1961. Along with the trio’s preceding studio dates Portrait in Jazz and Explorations, it is the clearest, most compelling manifestation of Evans’ historic lineup with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, both forward-thinking players who could respond to Evans’ flowing phrasing and astute harmonic invention as it unfurled. When the trio turned its collective gifts toward lyrical standards such as “My Foolish Heart,” “My Romance,” and “Detour Ahead,” among other signature numbers, it birthed an interactive approach that became a next step in the piano trio’s post-Bud Powell evolution.
Evans’ composerly output is represented only by “Waltz for Debby.” What’s more notable is the implied influence of Miles Davis, with whom Evans had worked in 1959 on the epochal Kind of Blue. We hear Davis’ “Solar” and “Milestones,” as well as Cole Porter’s “All of You” (a Davis workhorse in this period), plus two songs from the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which Davis and Gil Evans had recently explored (also 1959). Evans’ feel for this varied material is deep and impeccable.
It is agonizing to consider that LaFaro, who composed the unusual and alluring “Jade Visions” and “Gloria’s Step” here, died in a car crash just over a week after this engagement, at age 25.