One of the most important qualities you seek in a Jazz record is the interplay between the musicians, a kind if musical intimacy that survived the transition from the live visual experience to the audio-only format. With that in mind, many Jazz enthusiasts will recommend Bill Evans Trio’s Live At the Village Vanguard, with Scott Lafaro on Bass and Paul Motian on Drums. It is not only considered one of the best jazz piano trios ever recorded, but the recordings that were made during the trio’s last day of their engagement at the prestigious club on June 25th 1961 capture that interplay like no other record I know. It is one of the saddest tragedies in the history of Jazz that Scott Lafaro died in an automobile accident 10 days after that recording was made, marking it the last time that trio played together.
Interestingly enough, Bill Evans did not think that the trio gelled so well when they recorded their last studio album only a few months earlier. In 1966 in an interview by George Clabin he said: “The Explorations album I wasn’t gonna release. We had a very bad feeling within the group that night for reasons that I would not bother to explain. We were very independent of each other. Yet – the music itself was in sympathy. And you can hear all this and I’ve learned to love that album even though I felt at the time that I made it that I would not release it because I felt that it just wasn’t happening”.
Evans had a unique bond with Scott Lafaro. They were soulmates when it came to their approach to music and what it meant to them. More of that interview: “We roomed together many times when we were traveling, and I would say that we have a similar approach in that I never sit at the piano unless I just walk to it and sit down and play, and Scott never picked up the bass unless he just walked over and picked it up. It wasn’t one of those things like it’s three o’ clock and now I’m going to play for an hour. He would just pick it up and get involved, with maybe one particular figure or one particular type of cross fingering or cross string fingering or double stop or quadruple stop or whatever, and he would just work it and work it and work it, and he would develop an insight and would force himself farther into his intuitive insight into the hidden mechanics, the secret mechanics of stringed instruments.”
Gloria’s Step was written by Scott LaFaro and along with Jade Visions, his other composition on this recording, are two of my favorite jazz compositions. Pianist Don Friedman who worked with Scott Lafaro in 1961 revealed that the song’s name is after Lafaro’s girlfriend Gloria: “The song name originated because LaFaro knew the sound of Gloria’s footsteps when she came up the stairs to their apartment, not because she was a dancer.”
The band performed five sets that Sunday, in which Gloria’s Step was recorded three times. This recording is from the first evening set.