Live at the Village Vanguard


For forty years now, ever since

the recordings were released, I have wanted

to track down the people who attended

the afternoon and evening performances

of the Bill Evans Trio at the Village Vanguard

in New York City on Sunday, June 25, 1961.

Sometimes I’ve thought that instead of

the extraordinary music of pianist Bill Evans,

bassist Scott LaFaro, and drummer Paul Motian,

these live recordings featured the audience

that talked, laughed, jabbered, and clinked

their silverware and glasses throughout.


Maybe some of them know that LaFaro

was killed not long afterwards

in a car accident, leaving behind

on those tracks improvised solos

of staggering beauty on the bass violin.

But then everybody knows that these

were “classic” sessions—Evans at one

of his peaks, a trio still unmatched.

[new stanza]


Maybe today some of those who were there

put on the CDs (or their scratchy old LPs)

and listen to what they didn’t listen to then.

Or maybe they point to their voices

chattering under and around the music,

exclaiming, “Hey, honey—that’s me!”


One writer claims that he can decipher

some of the dialogue as Evans works his way

through the melody of “Alice in Wonderland”:

“I got a new TV—color!” “That brunette

over by the cigarette machine, I think

she has something to say to you. . . .”

“Maris will never top Ruth, but Mantle might.”

“The colored bartender waters down the Scotch.”

In the introduction to “I Loves You Porgy”

I can hear a guy saying, “Uh, it’s something

by Gershwin . . . Porgy and Bess.

Hey, at least they’re listening. . . .


What if I could find some of those people

[no new stanza]


and interview them—What were you doing

then? Who were you with that night? Why

had you gone to the Village Vanguard? What

did the music of Bill Evans mean to you? And

there must be some brilliant sound technician

who could “erase” the playing of the musicians

and pull up the table noise and conversation

of the audience. What an interesting recording

that would make!—Live at the Village Vanguard:

The Audience, Accompanied by the Bill Evans Trio.


They who yelled for waiters, scraped chairs,

one whose cackle ripped across the music

like a dragged phonograph needle, oh,

I’ve wanted to find those people and, no,

not murder them; no, not smack their

faces. I’ve wanted to be the one

to sit them down in my living room

and play for them these recordings

made a few feet from where they sat.

[no new stanza]


I’ve wanted them to really hear

what they coughed through, for which

they offered smatterings of applause.

I’ve wanted to see them stiffen and cry out,

“Oh, my God! You mean that, that was going on

across the room from my martini?”

“I missed the whole damn thing

for that worthless man I spent twenty

of the worst years of my life with!”


Too late. Too late for apologies.

Listen. I’m putting on the first track

now. Hear it if you couldn’t hear it then,

wherever you are, whoever you were that day.

-- [Bill Zavatsky, New York City]

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