Sunday Indifference at the Village Vanguard

It has always amazed me that despite knowing they were being recorded, and that three geniuses — pianist Bill Evans, bassist Scott Lefaro (who died in a car accident two weeks after these sessions at the terribly tender age of 28) and drummer Paul Motian –were playing for them, a good portion of the audience in the Village Vanguard in New York on this Sunday afternoon in 1961 continued to talk over the performance and provided rather perfunctory applause.  pianoI think this says less about that particular audience than it does about jazz–its subtlety and quiet, near undetectable genius. Did anyone in the room that day even know these would become standard jazz recordings, and the names of the men in front of them legendary? I bet a lot of them said, years afterward, “I was there!” Question is, did you listen, or did you talk? Anyway, the recordings are classics now, and the soft babble of voices and the constant clink of glass provides dimension to the moody, smoke-filled, whiskey-and-jazz atmosphere of the two albums cut from these sessions (Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard).

Here is a song (“I loves you, Porgy”) from those recordings, where the background chatter is hugely audible but quite complementary, even if it wasn’t meant to be. I guess even if you’re a genius like Bill Evans that’s what you get for playing in a bar. I once saw Howard Jones play in a bar, and he complained about the noise while he performed (he called it “pissing all over my gig.”) Should have referred him to Bill.

Bill Evans

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