1001 Albums: Sunday at the Village Vanguard



Artist: Bill Evans Trio

Album: Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Year: 1961

Length: 68:16 (???)

Genre: Jazz



“Slapping upward Bass”

I had one hell of a day at work today. Usually my days go by pretty smoothly and for the most part I don’t exert that much energy. But today they had me running around almost non-stop. it’s actually rare that I do that many runs in one single day.

For those wondering, I currently work as a runner at a film studio that specialises in post-production. The job itself isn’t anything crazy (doing dishes and running for lunch orders isn’t the most exciting) but it does expose me to the business and is giving me some valuable experience. So today, from the start of my shift at 1, I was on lunch runs, which usually calms down by 2. Not today, went on until 2:30. That’s not all. The runs usually are minimized to one location, going back and forth purchasing sandwiches. Today, I had to run to a restaurant five blocks away, pick up some sandwiches and a coffee at the regular place on the way back and then buy two soups in the building. Imagine me carrying all this stuff at once and trying to open doors. It was exactly as much fun as it was.

Did I get a break? for five minutes until at 3 I had to go pick up vases at the Dollar Store. No, not the one nearby. the one that required me to walk ten minutes to the metro, hop on, change metro lines and go a few stations. This culminated in me carrying ten glass vases all the way back, fear of them shattering on me lasting the entire way.

Get back and almost immediately they tell me I have another run to pick up breakfast items at The Metro nearby. After my scheduled one hour break of course. Metro run was uneventful except for a fun pee break where I had to use their bathroom, but it was one of those where you needed a key, but someone was already in there and then came back and when I grabbed the keys they were all wet. yeah…

The rest of the night would follow as thus:

-Huge confusion with one of the supper orders

-Special task of cleaning swiffer pads

-Special task of cleaning all the chairs in the kitchens

-ended that quickly to instead go dust the tops of every frame in the studio

Needless to say, I ended the night feeling physically exhausted for once instead of mentally exhausted. Believe it or not, it actually felt good and I found that really refreshing. Also, a plus side to the day was that it passed by super quickly and I never had a moment of long boredom, walking aimlessly around looking for something to do.

I think Bill Evans had perfect timing, appearing on the list at the exact right moment for me. There’s absolutely no better way to end the night, your entire body tired and mind calm, than listening to some good fucking Jazz. Everyone knows my story with Jazz already (and if you don’t, read my other posts), so I won’t go on again about the effect Jazz can have on me, but you can probably already imagine how rewarding it was to sit back in the metro on the way home and just get lost in the music.

Did you know this album is widely considered to be the greatest Jazz recording ever? I didn’t. I guess I can see why. Did you know this was a live album? Yup, I got to listen to two live albums in a row. However, I won’t delve into the idea of the live album like I usually do because this album is a live album in the same way Frank Zappa’s albums were live albums. Sure a lot of it was recorded as a “Live” performance but the goal wasn’t to make a live album but to make a coherent album. The only time you’re ever given the vibe that it’s a live album is the awkward clapping sounds (that honestly sound like bad foley work than actual clapping) that appear between songs. Also, it’s interesting to note how some of the song names actually include notes like Take 2 or Take 3 on them, implying they did more than one take of it at a live venue to make sure they got they were able to choose the one they wanted for the album. It’s as if they used the live venue as a studio rather than an actual live performance.

The music itself is pretty damn wonderful. Bill Evans just swims his fingers over that piano, giving us some beautiful melodies from classic jazz and sometimes smashes his hands against it reminiscent of some hard bop we’ve heard before (looking at you Brilliant Corners). He gives a little slice of every jazz styling while still being accessible to the average listener, which is nice of him.

For me, though, the real hero of the music was the bass. This is probably one of the best bassist’s I have ever heard. It’s rare that you get to put the bassist in high regard, who is often drowned out by the rest of the music or just there to play a simple melody throughout. But this bassist slaps away at his standing Bass with so much glee and energy that he brings the bass right there at the front and makes you notice him. The bass doesn’t just play simple melodies here, it goes complex, almost as if the bassist is shredding on the bass in the way Eddie Van Halen does with his guitar. If finger-picking was a technique for bassists, this guy would be the guy to invent it (even though he didn’t, but that’s definitely how it sounds). There’s nothing more awesome than the sound of the upright Bass. The noise of the strings still vibrating after being picked, the sound of them slapping against the backboard, the sound of the finger (sometimes asgressively in the most beautiful way possible)picking the string, it really gives for a whole different vibe. Honestly, if it weren’t for the bass in this album, I don’t think it would have stood out as much as it did.

What makes it more fascinating is that this group was just a trio. Just three dudes playing a piano, drum and bass together. For only three instruments they succeeded in feeling like a whole orchestra, the music feeling just as layered as the bigger ensembles feel. It’s more impressive hearing how tight they are together, blending their instruments together to form each song in a seamless way. I can see why critics have considered this a top-notch jazz album.

But cut out that damn clapping, honestly, it sounds awful.

Song of Choice: Solar


Photoshop Credit: Julian Branco


2 thoughts on “1001 Albums: Sunday at the Village Vanguard”

  1. Yes an awesome album, Solar is possibly the highlight. You rave about the bass, but don’t mention the name Scott LaFaro and that he died in a car accident ten days after this recording. If you weren’t aware, now you are. Otherwise, love your work.


    1. Thanks man! I’m glad people are stumbling on my blog and liking it! I actually had no idea about that but it’s definitely an interesting little tidbit. I’ve mostly been going into this as a music lover whose trying to expand and expose himself to more music. I am no expert on music and music history haha, more just chronicling my journey listening to all these albums on the list. But I always love hearing new things like that!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s