Conventional wisdom, which in this case may be right, holds that Bill Evans' storied career peaked on June 25, 1961, a date that yielded two live records, Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby, the final two documents of Evans' first, and best, trio, with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. In the two years he'd been playing with Evans, LaFaro had opened up new possibilities for the jazz bass, playing with a harmonically oblique, melodically flexible style that was, at the time, unprecedented. Ten days after this record was made he died, just 25 years old.
Sunday at the Village Vanguard may be the ultimate monument to LaFaro's talent; it features two of his compositions, "Gloria's Step" and "Jade Visions," and he plays lengthy and dazzling solos on nearly every track. It's not just LaFaro who was playing well, though - the whole trio was in top form for this date, a delicately balanced unit anchored weightlessly by Motian's ever-shifting, reactive timekeeping, with Evans' limpid, impressionistic harmonies floating above like clouds. There are no missteps in this set, but a highlight is the dark, mournful reading of Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now."