Bill Evans Trio: Live at Birdland review – Essential tracks from an epochal group

Thu, Aug 22, 2019, 06:00


Live at Birdland, New York City

Bill Evans Trio



Bill Evans favoured the piano-bass-drums format above all others, and while there were a number of fine iterations of the great pianist’s trio over the 25 years of his playing life, certainly the most celebrated was the first, with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. However, the official output of that great trio amounts to just four albums of music, including the epochal live recordings made at the Village Vanguard just days before LaFaro’s untimely death in July 1961. Those beginning their discovery of Evans should start there.

The 12 tracks collected here, culled from “radio shots” broadcast from the famous Birdland club in the spring of 1960, offer a fascinating insight into the development of the trio’s sound, and though they have been released before in various guises, they should be part of any Evans fan’s collection.

The collection loses one star here only in deference to Evans himself, who is known to have been angered when he came across a bootleg vinyl of these performances in a record shop. But the famously self-critical pianist wasn’t to know that, 50 years later, we would still be hanging on every note.