Sunday at the Village Vanguard was recorded live on June 25, 1961 at the Village Vanguard in New York City over five recorded sessions (2 matinee and 3 soiree). It is well remembered as the final performance by the Evans trio of the time, which included bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. LaFaro was killed in a car accident ten days after the recording.
Evans and producer Orrin Keepnews reportedly selected the tracks for Sunday at the Village Vanguard to best feature LaFaro’s masterly performance on bass, beginning and ending with two tracks (“Gloria’s Step” and “Jade Visions”) written by LaFaro himself, and with all the others featuring solos by him. This album is routinely ranked as one of the best live jazz recordings of all time.
Additional material from the same day’s performance was released in a second album Waltz for Debby (also 1961), as was other material in another LP Bill Evans — More From the Vanguard. The entire day’s recordings were released in 2005 as The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961.
Writing for Allmusic, music critic Thom Jurek wrote of the album: “This trio is still widely regarded as his finest, largely because of the symbiotic interplay between its members. This is a great place to begin with Evans.” Samuel Chell of All About Jazz wrote “Along with bassist wunderkind Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, Evans perfected his democratic vision of trio cooperation, where all members performed with perfect empathy and telepathy… It is these performances, currently available as Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby that comprise the number one best jazz live recording in this present series.”
The album was included in Robert Dimery’s 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.