At the Village Vanguard features the innovative Bill Evans Trio in peak form during a 1961 engagement at New York's Village Vanguard, just days before bassist Scott LaFaro's tragic death in a car accident. At the time, the Vanguard date yielded two separate live albums, Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby. This LP is a selection from the two previous releases which are also available as individual discs.
The Trio had recorded only twice before: the studio sessions Portrait in Jazz in late December 1959, followed by Explorations more than a year after in February 1961. Six months later, these live recordings vividly captured a seminal moment in jazz only hinted at on their previous efforts. While Evans' extended solos on long tracks like "Solar" and "All of You" are lean and rhythmically incisive, the brilliant LaFaro is the real star here. His relentlessly upfront, guitar-like basslines and solos repeatedly challenge Evans and drummer Paul Motian to accompany him on a previously uncharted journey in pure improvisation. LaFaro's lyrical originals "Gloria's Step" and "Jade Visions" also revealed a fine jazz composer in the making.