Bill Evans Trio (for Mojo)


Occasional Writings

“Most Influential Album of all time”

I can cite four artistic encounters that changed my life and the way I think about making music and at least one of these has had huge significance for countless other musicians… I was a young jazz bass player in the early 1960’s when I heard for the first time recordings of the Bill Evans Trio, the trio that comprised Evans on piano, Scott LaFaro on bass, and Paul Motian, drums. The live recording of them playing at the Village Vanguard, New York, at the end of June 1961, not only represents the pinnacle of the group’s work, but also the last time they played together as LaFaro was killed in a car crash 10 days later. The recording was originally issued as two separate LPs: Waltz for Debby and Sunday Afternoon at the Village Vanguard but since became available as a double CD, and much later as a part of a substantial compilation containing all the music that they played that day.

LaFaro changed the conception of the double bass in jazz, giving it licence to move outside its previous role as anchor in the rhythm section. The interplay between him and Evans is astonishing and a whole new approach to the bass began from that moment. Evans exerted a powerful influence on almost every subsequent keyboard player (Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and countless others) through his exquisite harmonic sense and rhythmic subtlety. For me, though, the highest point of these sessions is the very slow ballad My Foolish Heart, with the richness of LaFaro’s low notes, the fullness of Evans’ voicings, and Motian’s sizzle cymbal, with the longest sustain of any I have ever heard.

It is also touching to follow LaFaro’s choice of notes and even, at one point, to hear him hesitate slightly on one note that is less than perfect. It’s like that small piece of grit that produces a pearl from an otherwise neutral oyster.

This piece was not only one that I chose when I was on Desert Island Discs in 1998, but was also the one which I selected when asked to keep just one from all eight…

Gavin Bryars.

Gavin Bryars