Friday, August 8, 2008

Two of the Greatest Jazz Albums of All Time (And Possibly My Two Personal Favorites) Have Recently Been Reissued on Concord. Buy Them.

No stupid wordplay or gimmickry in that title; I don't believe in being a tease when it comes to the really serious stuff. "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" and "Waltz For Debbie," the last two albums, both recorded at the Village Vanguard on the same weekend, by the greatest, most influential, most important piano trio of all time- The Bill Evans Trio featuring Paul Motian on drums and Scott LaFaro on bass- are being reissued on Concord with newly crisp sound. So if you don't own these two records already- and believe me, if you're serious about jazz, or play bass, drums or piano, and you do not you do deserve a serious scolding- now is the time to buy them.

I should be incredibly happy; this set of reissues gives me an excuse to write at length about these two albums. In all honesty, though, I barely have the motivation. What is there to say about "Waltz for Debbie" or "Sunday at the Village Vanguard?" I can't do them justice. I tried to describe "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" for my first column at the Scarsdale Inquirer; while I did manage to bang out a few words about how it manages to be accessible and avant-garde at the same time, and about the telepathy of the three musicians, I concluded at the end that the album was indescribable. That holds true here, so before my next paragraph I should add a disclaimer: everything I say from here on is bullshit. Just go out and listen to the music. You'll thank me.

Most of the people who read this will know the tragic story, but it's worth reprinting: shortly after this performance, bassist Scott LaFaro, arguably the most important bassist of his era, died in a car accident. Because of this fact, people have a tendency to add some sort of value to this album; after all, it is LaFaro's last performance. In all honesty though, it doesn't matter. LaFaro could have lived until now and he would never have played again like he does on these two albums. Unlike most other bass players, who anchor the controlled chaos going on around them, LaFaro floats above the fray, playing off of Evans' piano and Motian's haze-like cymbals, and often simply ignores the roots that any sane band-leader would expect him to play. In that sense, yes, this trio's work is "avant-garde." But that word has a certain gravity to it; "Sunday" and "Waltz" are not made up of abrasive or inaccessible music.

I understand that I often use hyperbole in this forum as a way of getting my point across. But there is no hyperbole in the statement I'm about to make: take 2 of "Alice in Wonderland," off of "Sunday at the Village Vanguard," is the single most beautiful recording I've ever heard. Evans' block chords, LaFaro's floating bass, and Motian's cymbal mist work together to create a waltz of such ethereal, aching beauty that it has to be heard to be believed. There's nothing else like it in jazz, at all, aside from perhaps its counterpart, the title track of "Waltz For Debbie," which is almost as good.

Highly highly highly highly recommended. Do yourself a favor, and listen to these albums. Even if you don't buy them, just find them somewhere and listen to them. Trick your friend into buying them and then listen to them. Do whatever you have to do, but these two are the ones to hear.


Pablo Antunes said...

You're right. Both albums are great and must be heard a lot of times.

I always read your blog, one of my favorites on the internet. In fact, in my blog I already put a link to yours.

Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Just received Sunday at the Village Vanguard in the mail, but I can't find the Waltz For Debbie re-isse anywhere ... not on the Concord site and not on Amazon. Are you sure it's being reissued? Where it be?

Anonymous said...

Heard back from Concord: looks like the re-issue didn't happen.


Mr. O’Malley,

Please find below the response from our A&R department. Let me know if any of the titles interest you and I’ll gladly be of assistance in obtaining them.


CMG Customer Service


He may be referring to the Bill Evans The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings box, which contains remastered versions of all of the material (plus some extras) that was originally release separately as Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard.

Otherwise, there isn’t a recent reissue of Waltz for Debby. However, Sunday at the Village Vanguard has been recently remastered and reissued as part of our Keepnews Collection series.


From: Colin
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2008 8:33 PM
To: Brandi Jones
Subject: Re: Your Concord Music Group Order: 16590

Brandi --

I'm looking for the re-issue of Waltz for Debbie described here:

Do you know anything about it?

All the best,