Give Now

Night Lights Classic Jazz

After The Vanguard: The Return Of Bill Evans

In the summer of 1961 Bill Evans hit a new creative peak with his trio. Then the trio's gifted bassist, Scott LaFaro, died in a car wreck. What happened next?

Life after LaFaro: Bill Evans.

After jazz journalist Gene Lees heard Bill Evans for the first time, he told the pianist that his recordings “sounded like love letters written to the world from some prison of the heart.” Lees was just one of many to feel such an emotional connection with Evans’ playing, which inspired a cult-like following that continues to this day. The group that he formed in 1959 with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian helped set the template for the modern jazz trio, and the albums they made–particularly the live Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard–have become jazz classics.

But this group came to an abrupt end shortly after those albums were recorded, when LaFaro died at the age of 25 in an automobile accident. LaFaro’s passing was personally and professionally devastating for Evans. “After LaFaro’s death, Bill was like a man with a lost love, always looking to find its replacement,” Gene Lees later wrote. For a few months he stopped playing the piano and withdrew from the jazz scene, also sinking deeper into a drug habit that LaFaro had tried to get him to quit.

Orrin Keepnews, who had been producing Evans for the Riverside label, finally managed to coax him back into the studio for an appearance on vocalist Mark Murphy’s album Rah. We’ll hear music from that record as well as recordings that Evans made with flutist Herbie Mann, vibraphonist Dave Pike, and composer Tadd Dameron–in addition to a rare live February 1962 broadcast of Evans’ new trio ( featuring Motian and bassist Chuck Israels), Evans’ spring 1962 collaboration with guitarist Jim Hall, and music from the pianist’s “official” return to the scene, the trio albums Moonbeams and How My Heart Sings.

More About Bill Evans

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Night Lights Classic Jazz:

Support For Indiana Public Media From

About Night Lights

Search Night Lights

where to hear night lights

This Week On Afterglow

Doris Day, Jazz Singer

We remember Doris Day, who passed away last month at age 97, and her work singing jazz with Les Brown, Andre Previn and more.

Read more »

Afterglow is WFIU's weekly program of jazz and American popular song hosted by David Brent Johnson.

More from Afterglow »