Customer Review

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why not have it all?, 15 Feb. 2004
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This review is from: At The Village Vanguard (Audio CD)
It would be crazy to withhold a 5-star rating from this music, but I don't really recommend the CD. The music is wonderful - ten tracks from a famous live date by one of the best-ever small groups in jazz, the Bill Evans 'first trio' at the Village Vanguard in 1961. But who would want a selection which omits three excellent tracks: the ballads "Detour Ahead" and "Some Other Time" and the gently swinging waltz, "Alice in Wonderland"?

Probably the best alternative is to buy the two separate Village Vanguard albums: 'Waltz for Debby' and 'Sunday at the Village Vanguard'. Opinions may differ about which is the best of the two; but I think that 'Waltz for Debby' is the one to go for first if you aren't ready to buy both. That entirely subjective recommendation is because I think that Evans was playing particularly well at slow and slowish tempos on this occasion and there are more examples of this on 'Waltz for Debby' than on 'Sunday at the Village Vanguard', notably the sublimely lyrical "My Foolish Heart" and the moving "I Loves You Porgy" (but you also need to hear "My Man's Gone Now", the one piece at slow ballad tempo on 'Sunday at the Village Vanguard'). To save later regrets, buy the versions that contain alternate takes of some of the tracks, unless, as some listeners do, you think an original album is spoilt by the inclusion of material which the artist 'rejected'. Even if these takes are not essential they at least make the CDs better value.

Another alternative, for 'completists'who don't mind the expense, is to buy the 3-CD 'Complete Village Vanguard' set on the Japanese label, JVC Victor (VICJ-60951), which has all the available tracks from the sessions including alternate takes. I think it is only available as a pricey import. An even pricier alternative is to buy the complete Riverside recordings box set which includes this 'complete Village Vanguard' material. Isn't it amazing that more than 40 years after the event there is still not an official, well remastered, sensibly-priced 'Complete Village Vanguard' set which doesn't need to be expensively imported, and which would surely fit on two CDs?

However, if a one-disc selection is what you want, you could consider another alternative, which is to track down, if you can, the selection available on the Italian 'Giants of Jazz' label in its 'Immortal Concerts' series, under the title 'Waltz for Debby/Village Vanguard' (53207). It includes "Detour Ahead", "Some Other Time" and "Alice in Wonderland" which this Fantasy version omits, and it omits "Solar" and "Jade Visions"which the Fantasy includes. It is better value, with 11 tracks in good (if not the best possible) sound on a label which usually retails at budget price. However, at the moment it is difficult to get hold of.

But my recommendation is to avoid selections. This is music to live with and to come back to again and again, so you might as well go all the way and buy either the 'Complete Village Vanguard' edition or the two separate constituent albums.

I also recommend that anyone interested in this music should look up Adam Gopnik's New Yorker article, "That Sunday", which marked the 40th anniversary of the Village Vanguard date in 2001. It can be found on the Bill Evans Web Pages site.
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