Bill Evans Trio: Live At Birdland, New York City


These recordings, taken from radio broadcasts, have been available before and were evidence of the trio’s progress a year prior to the legendary Village Vanguard sides. The sound quality is acceptable but the incessant background chatter from the Friday night into Saturday audience is somewhat annoying, particularly during the ill-fated LaFaro’s solos. Coughing, laughing and glass clinking are not generally regarded as an important part of the improvising process.

Nonetheless there are some stimulating moments to be had from the four-night March to May spread, not least the inspired and harmonic contribution from the bass player. He genuinely presented a fresh role for exponents on the upright and in the process unveiled an expansive, more lateral thought process for the middle-ground rhythm player.

Of course, it is always a pleasure to return to early Evans, long before his playing descended into painful introspection. The three versions of Autumn Leaves and Come Rain Or Come Shine display his ability to generate impetus in slightly different treatments. The April offering of the former really does find the leader and LaFaro challenging each other in a very sparky manner. Added to this we have the thinking-man’s drummer Paul Motian, who contributed to the almost telepathic understanding the threesome enjoyed and which would be matched by that of Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio some years later.

Despite the comments regarding audience participation these performances remain a valuable contribution to the large Evans discography.

Autumn Leaves; Our Delight; Beautiful Love/Five (Theme); (2) Autumn Leaves; Come Rain Or Come Shine/Five (Theme); (3) Come Rain Or Come Shine; Nardis; Blue In Green; Autumn Leaves; (4) All Of You; Come Rain Or Come Shine; Speak Low (72.03)
(1) Evans (p); Scott LaFaro (b); Paul Motian (d). Birdland, NY, 11 March 1960. (2) as (1) but 18 March. (3) as (1) but 29 January. (4) as (1) but 6 May.
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