Bill Evans Trio
Craft Recordings CR00609
By Dennis Davis
One of the most fabled live recordings in the history of jazz was captured on June 25, 1961, at the Village Vanguard (the “Vanguard”) in New York City. A regular source of live recordings, many storied sessions were recorded at the Vanguard, one of New York’s great jazz venues, opened in 1934 and still going strong today. Yet Sunday at the Village Vanguard (SAVV) remains among a small handful of the greatest live jazz recordings ever made. If one had to condense the “golden years” of jazz history, it would be no exaggeration to identify 1959 to 1961, the three years from Kind Of Blue until SAAV, as the crème de la crème of what was a stellar period for jazz performance and recordings. The Bill Evans trio included bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian and the group’s Vanguard recordings reflect a level of synergy between the three that has rarely if ever been equaled.
As a collectable, SAVV stands almost alone at the top of the heap. Released as Riverside 376 (mono) and 9376 (stereo) SAAV was so well received that a second album of music from the same session was released in 1962 as Waltz For Debby (Riverside 399/9399), and it is as good as the first LP and neck and neck as a high-priced collectable. Both albums present such a convincing soundstage that, contrary to the usual pattern, stereo copies have always been just as highly regarded and in equal demand as the mono pressings. In 1984, a third LP of alternate takes was released as More From The Vanguard on the Milestone label, part of the Fantasy Records family that had acquired the Riverside catalog (Milestones M-9125).
This latest reissue is part of Craft Recordings’ new Original Jazz Classics (“OJC”) series. As discussed in my earlier piece (https://gy8.eu/review/craft-recordings-reissues/) the Craft releases are the upscale imprint from Concord Music, which acquired the Fantasy catalog. This ‘new OJC series’ is itself a resuscitation of – and not to be confused with – the original OJC label used by Concord Records, starting in 1982 or 1983, to reissue titles from Riverside, Prestige and Contemporary. Back then, OJC stood for bargain reissues, and were priced accordingly. These days, the records are pressed at RTI and mastered by Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio (very much the A-team when it comes to reissuing records) and packaged in deluxe tip-on jackets.
SAVV has been issued and reissued countless times. Riverside (and the parade of companies that have owned the rights to the label since that time) have kept it in constant circulation, including the original OJC release in 1984. It first got the audiophile label treatment in 2002 when Analogue Productions released a two-disc 45-RPM set, limited to 1,000 copies. Mobile Fidelity released a two-disc 45-RPM set in 2017 as part of its UltraDisc One Step series, this time limited to 3,000 copies. As widely reported, Mobile Fidelity included a DSD stage in their mastering chain on almost all its releases beginning in 2011. The SAVV release, however, is an exception to that rule, and the only item in the Mobile Fidelity UltraDisc catalog that does not include a DSD stage. Both the Analogue Production and Mobile Fidelity pressings were released in stereo and sold out at the pre-order stage. In 2018 The Electric Recording Company (“ERC”) released a mono version, limited to 150 copies. I have never listened to it, as the other ERC titles that I have spent some time with have been so disappointing that I refrained from parting with ERC’s exorbitant price.