"Sunday at the Village Vanguard" Mobile Fidelity Ultradisc Sells Out

Bassist Scott LaFaro's death in a Geneva, New York car accident ten days after the Sunday, June 25th, 1961 recording of this Village Vanguard set did more than add a tragic luster to the story. It upended what might have been a very different track order here and on Waltz For Debby, the second record sourced using tracks recorded that day by engineer David Jones on a modified Ampex 350 using Scotch 111 tape.

The trio of Bill Evans, LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian had been together for almost two years when this, the group's fourth Riverside release and Evan's first live record, was documented. LaFaro's playing—unusual for its melodic improvisations at a time when most bassists limited themselves to time-keeping—thrived in the company of Motian and Evans. By the time of these live performances, beginning with a Sunday matinee, the group had achieved an ethereal, almost otherworldly back and forth and give and take that produced "lift off" almost from the first note.

After La Faro's passing, Evans became deeply involved in the record, determined to turn it from a collection of the day's best tracks into one that paid tribute to the bassist. Thus it opens with La Faro's "Gloria's Step" and closes with his "Jade Vision" which was the evening's closer and the final time the trio played together.

In between were the "standards" "My Man is Gone", "All of You" and the buoyant "Alice in Wonderland" plus Miles Davis's "Solar", which wasn't then but today might be considered a "standard".

The sparse applause heard on some tracks was not because those afficienados in attendance weren't impressed, but rather because the matinee audience was probably small.

This justifiably legendary recording both for music and sound has been issued and reissued numerous times. I don't have an original Riverside pressing of this but I've got many original Riversides bought at the Cornell Campus store in 1964 when the label folded, and they are not what I'd considering "audiophile quality".

I've got a 1977 Japanese reissue of this (SMJ 6201), plus the German alto High Fidelity '90's edition (Alto-edition AE004 cut by Nick Webb, probably at Abbey Road) and the double 45 edition cut by Kevin Gray for Analogue Productions' original box set reissue and none of these can compare to this Mobile Fidelity Ultradisc "One Step" Ultradisc 45rpm reissue. By comparison all sound, to varying degrees, soft and muted, yet this "one step" reissue does not sound "hyped up" or oddly "EQ'd". It just sounds more open and transparent.

I've heard stories that the tape was "on its last legs" but apparently not ! The transparency and detail resolution here are absolutely spectacular. Astonishing, really, especially in terms of natural instrumental attack. This is after all a rhythmic power trio. No other version I've heard comes close to expressing the speed and precision of La Faro's playing—the clarity and finesse with which he attacks the strings. The same is true of how the mastering and one-step plating capture Evans'and Motian's playing.

Assuming your system can do it, anyone who has been to the small basement venue that is The Village Vanguard will feel as if they are traveling through time and seeing into the space. Yes of course that's hyperbole, but if you know this record well from the previous versions, that's how you're likely to feel.

Even those who find Mo-Fi's almost funereal black packaging "memorial-like", will find it appropriate here as a fitting La Faro tribute. Mo-Fi includes two superb 8x10 black and white photos sourced from original session photographer Steve Schapiro—one of Evans and one of the group seated around a small table (Motian smoked Kools).

Pressing quality is key on a generally quiet recording with a great deal of empty space between the notes and here RTI knocks it out of the park. Backgrounds on my sealed pressing were drop dead quiet throughout. Not a pop or click on all four sides.

Sadly the box sold out quickly and though Mo-Fi and Music Direct has done its best to limit the number of copies any one person can buy there's no way to stop speculators from enlisting their friends and neighbors so if you do want this, you'll have to hit the auction sites.

At $100 a box, I doubt Mobile Fidelity made a "killing" here, though they've produced a killer reissue!

azmoon's picture

An amazing sounding LP of a great performance. The Kevin Gray 45RPM was really good but this one beats it. A must have for Jazz fans.

Yu review says it all.

azmoon's picture


SeagoatLeo's picture

Right now on Ebay there are 29 MoFis with asking prices of $200 to $500. That's a significant number of the total pressed. Sellers maybe holding on to two or three times as many. One seller has listed 4 copies and another has 2 copies.

Wymax's picture

...such a release shouldn't be limited. The ones that are priced out of this world will stay in the shops, so perhaps that is still the way to do it, although I think music should be made available to the normal people, not only the well-heeled. But I am even more opposed to people seeing this as an opportunity to corner the market solely for their own gain.

AnalogJ's picture

Yes, flippers make the world so nice for the rest of us audiophiles.

roders's picture

I am really blown away by the quality of the sound. Of course, the music is just superb, but the clarity, warmth and articulation of the trio is stunning. The attack of Le Faro's bass is so realistic, and the timbre of Evan's keyboards just floats on in. What a set of disks.

mraudioguru's picture

...the Santana "Abraxas" US1D and it was incredible. VERY well done MOFI. Hope that the next US1D, which is, Donald Fagen "Nightfly" is as good or better. One of my favorites albums.

Michael Fremer's picture
An interesting choice considering that it was an early digital recording!
richiep's picture

Opportunist, from another persons hard work and effort, if your not on time you've lost out, the early bird gets the (you know what) they try to limit the scalpers as best they can, at least they try, give'm credit. Great listen over AP 45 rpm.

AnalogJ's picture

I have the original RL of The Nightfly. The soundstage is large, but it's dynamically challenged and lacks some low end presence. I'm hoping that the One Step really expands on the sound. Otherwise it will have been a waste of effort on their part, and $100 on our's.

The next set was supposed to be Waltz For Debby, but I heard through the grapevine that the tapes aren't in great shape.

Jay's picture

I'm surprised to hear that about the Waltz For Debby master tape. Those Scotch 111 tapes were as close to bomb proof as any I've ever come across, but I suppose that nothing is indestructible. Abraxas sold out so quickly that I cursed myself for missing it so I made sure that I'd ordered The Nightfly well in advance.

Arnie's picture

I just got my copy of Nightfly pressing #233 and it sounds amazing solid black background wide soundstage and instrument detail. One of the best sounding album in my collection

MarcovS's picture

Blop! ....

Sunday June 25 1961 ...

We have decided to go to the Vanguard Village, because there is Bill Evans Trio playing which is Scott LaFaro (bass), Bill Evans (Piano) & Paul Motian (Drums)

And in that order they are still sitting at a table when I take place just in front of the stage. I'll take a quick snapshot with my Voigtlander that I took with me from the three gentlemen who will start their performance in a minute.

The theatre is not that big and it’s not that crowded, just the way I like it.

I've heard that this will be recorded for producing, always fun to be part of such things ...
I order a beer and smoke a cigarette when the 3 gentlemen begin their performance ...

I'm making another picture of Bill Evans who seems to be fully lost in his piano from the first touch, then the Voigtlander goes away, the energy with which these men play capture me completely ...

After Gloria's step, a beautiful performance of My Man Is Gone Now is played, and although I cannot fully identify with the title of this track, it's the bass notes of Scott LaFaro that give the track a huge pulse...

Strange, I'm right here in front of the stage and hear the crowd of the audience behind the music, but there's a wall! Must be me...

Applause! I applauded as well, Well done guys!
Then the applause fades away and for a moment I hear only silence...
....blop...blop...blop...Huh ?!

I kind of wake up confused, and to my surprise I see at something that seems like a phone next to me, on display: Wednesday June 28 2017....

WTF, time travel really exists ... shit ... I'm listening to an record!

So that's how it sounds, I don’t know how else to describe it...

Up till this record came along my reference was Red Norvo - The Forward Look on Reference Records, this is now history.

MarcovS's picture

In addition: yes I hate those speculators, this should be accessible for every one... Speculators are steeling the music from the real fan here, of course encouraged by the very limited availability.

madfloyd's picture

I pre ordered this from Music Direct so I'm curious...

MarcovS's picture

Shipped and sold out already... here in Holland any way..

RJ's picture

If you don't want to buy a copy at an inflated price, get off your wallet, and buy it when it's available for preorder. While I have a pretty nice system, I don't really think that it's high end enough to get the most out of this pressing, so I sold mine for a tidy profit, which I will use to buy some more realistically priced vinyl. Am I an awful person for doing this? I don't think so, but I'm sure others will disagree.

Ryskie's picture

Remarkably hard to find any info about the lineup on these. Anyone have any info/rumors?

jazz's picture

Michael, do you know if hires transfers (as for several other current „normal“ Mofi’s) or analog tape was used for this one?