Friday, April 11, 2008

Sunday at the Village Vanguard: Punctures

punctum (adj.): a moment that establishes a connection - permanent or fleeting - between a piece of art and its audience. (cf. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida)

Background Noise
The clanging of cutlery and crockery conspire to remind you that this is a live album, a far more effective measure than any amount of applause ever could, taken place within a social situation. Just how many people in attendance were in fact there for the Beef Wellington? Does their conversation occasionally get interrupted by the odd bit of noise from the stage? Feeling that there may be an audience that doesn't care makes me care all the more for this recording.

His body otherwise in repose, Bill Evans' hands look primed. The piano effectively becomes not so much an instrument he plays as the most adequate use of his ever ready hands. The cigarette burns but it is never smoked: his hands are otherwise occupied.

Laugh Lines
His friend and partner Scott La Faro having recently been killed in a car accident, the laugh lines become Evans' most compelling facial feature. This is a visage that has never smiled before - how could it possibly sport laugh lines? - and never smile again. Bursts of sheer joy on the album itself appear only to magnify the sorrow.

Shirt Sleeves
Rolled up to the mid-way point of the forearm, Evans wears his shirt like a draftsman. He also plays the piano as if hunched over a drafting table, the keys his pencil, the music his t-square. Precision, accuracy and texture: the hallmarks of Evans' art and trade alike.

At most jazz gigs booming applause is the order of the day; here, occasional bursts of clapping at the conclusion of a piece seem like an intrusion, the equivalent of canned-laughter. The audience needn't applaud, their silence says far more about such a mesmerizing performance than any amount of cheers ever could.

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