Bill Evans – Sunday at the Village Vanguard

billevansYou’ve lost your job. The dog is sick. Your piece of shit car coughed its last breath. Your one sock is, somehow, damp. A hand-written letter from your SO is taped to your front door and reads, “I’m currently having cosmic-tantric-ultra-naked sex with your best friend!” The pile of dishes in the sink resembles a forgotten architectural wonder. The leftover yogurt in the fridge seems to have developed consciousness. You poke it with a fork, something pops, and a miasma of lactic-based gas streams out with a whistle. You’re too tired to sleep and, even if you could, your SO took the bed along with your best friend. You’ve got $3.27 in your savings. The checking account is overdrawn. And there are bills to be paid. The week-old piece of pizza you’re gnawing on has half-fused with the box. You scroll through your tunes for something to play and nothing seems to fit. You sigh. The world is shit. People are shit. You’re shit. Was I always this fat? How am I sore? So this just clicks all the fucking time now? You call someone to cheer yourself up. They let you know the world’s going to hell, everyone’s going to die, and there’s fuck all you can do about it. After hanging up, you find this Bill Evans album. You put it on and, instantly, everything seems okay.

This album should be classified as a drug, because everything’s better after listening to this motherfucker.

When Bill and Miles played together on Kind of Blue, they were of one mind. Without Evans, that album wouldn’t be. After Evans left Miles in late ’59, he joined up with Paul Motian and Scott LaFaro. The music these three created is, arguably, the greatest jazz ever made. Scott LaFaro was one of the greatest bassists to ever live. Ya, I fucking said it. I know it’s unpopular to speak in absolutes. But fuck it. The dude wrote the tracks “Gloria’s Step” and “Jade Visions”. Go ahead, think of better bassists. I’ll wait. (Ya, I just checked all the facts and figures, LaFaro was waaaay better than that asshole.)

Alas, on July 6, 1961, at the tender age of 25, LaFaro died in an automobile accident. After this, the trio broke apart. In their two years together, they created sonic gold. I’ve heard it said, more than once, that the first thing someone would do if they had a time machine is go back to October of ’61, grab a seat at the Village Vanguard, and watch this show. Of course they’d also go kill Hitler, but after. Why? I thought this would be obvious by now. First, because history would change so dramatically after killing that cunt and this show might not exist. And, secondly, because everything is better after listening to this album, even murdering fascist dictators.

When people talk about the power of music, I think of this album. Wars could be avoided if everyone just took a nap, whacked off, and threw on this motherfucker. When this album plays tensions ease, people relax, and life just feels better. You don’t need to know a fucking thing about jazz in order to appreciate this album. Sure, being all theoried up gives you a new perspective on how this shit works, but all you need to do to appreciate this album is sit back, relax, and enjoy. It might seem kinda lame and cheesy at first. But just leave it on for a bit. It’s not like you’re going anywhere with that busted ass car. So just let the album sweep over you. As the last track, “Jade Visions” hums out its mellow groove, you’ll find your breathing has softened, a sigh of relief will come out your chest, and though all your worries will still be there as it comes to close, you’ll know everything will be okay. It’s listenable Valium. It’s audible heroin. It’s Bill Evans, Paul Motian, and motherfucking Scott LaFaro, the holy trinity of cool.

2 thoughts

  1. I haven’t heard this one – one of my bigger lapses in getting to grips with the jazz cannon, although I’ve given up any idea of cannon as of late in favour of striking out on my own through the jungles of music. That said, I maintain that as much as I love Coltrane*, it was Evans, not Coltrane, that made Kind of Blue a classic (is it a favourite of mine? Nah. But its deservingness of being a classic, in quality and reputation, I can’t deny). Maybe this is a more popular opinion in ‘real’ jazz circles, but certainly I see Coltrane name checked more often by popular music sites. But to my ears, Coltrane is one of the astonishing soloists on the record – but Evans, he’s the swaying, nimble, bamboo-pole foundation for it, second only to Miles himself.
    *and believe me, I love Coltrane – his late stuff more intense than any rock band, ever? Certainly in such volumes – bits of Hüsker Dü might qualify, some Boris, maybe some other metal if I’m feeling generous, but Coltrane had *lots* of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think I can trust someone that doesn’t see the beauty in shit like Evan’s “Peace Piece”. It’s fucking beyond. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv2GgV34qIg This comes from “Everybody Digs Bill Evans” from ’58. I was so fucking close to making this “the” album. I’m probably go back and forth on that choice for a while. Both albums are wonderful. But, “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” is just so chill. I find myself often comparing Bill Evan to water. Most of the time he’s so easy to ignore until it gets really fucking hot, then there’s nothing better on earth.

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