Bill Evans has more than a few fantastic live albums so if you’re looking for a place to begin, this is it. Released with perhaps his most complimentary sidemen, at a definite peak in his popularity, ‘Waltz for Debby’ is among the finest Cool Jazz releases.
Evans plays relaxed, as might be expected, but never dull. He is not known as a busy player and often seems content to let other musicians to utilize space that his notes move around, remaining gentle, emotive and effective (bassist Lafaro is an obvious example of this.) It’s a very together-sounding album, which is both a redundant thing to say about good music, and a thrilling thing to say about the trio – on their final album together, Evans, Motian and Lafaro sound whole.
While he never flies into lengthy solos here, Evans still draws out a set of standards and two compositions which later became standards, Davis’ Milestones and Evans’ own classic Waltz for Debby, which is a clear highlight. Equally pleasing is the almost ocean-like wash and shimmer of My Foolish Heart and the more upbeat moments toward the end of the album. (Evans’ fans will also enjoy familiar phrasings in Some Other Time.)
For me, more so than his more adventurous, more famous ‘Sunday at the Village Vanguard’ this is his best live outing. Not to be overlooked.