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 thes
were "classic" sessions–Evans at one
of his peaks, a trio still unmatched.
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
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.
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, Where X Mark the Spot, Hanging Loose Press, 2006.