Gil Evans Orchestra: 75th Birthday Concert
Live at the Hammersmith Odeon London 1987
BBC Jazz Legends
Boogie Stop Shuffle
Orange was the colour of her dress then Blue Silk
Up from the Skies
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Murder by Numbers
Gil Evans interview with Charles Fox
Gil Evans was a musician who had no classical music background, but learned
his craft as pianist and arranger for the Claude Thornhill Band in the 1930's.
Claude however did not appreciate the be-bop influence that Evans had absorbed
and they parted company. Gil took the opportunity this break gave him, to
study the approach to composition of Debussy and Ravel. He is however best
known for his collaboration with Miles Davies on the very influential 'Porgy
and Bess' and 'Sketches on Spain' albums, recorded in the late 1950's and
still in the catalogues today.
Gil Evans work could never be classed as 'easy listening', if your taste
is for 'swing' era Big bands; this is not for you. This is demanding music
both for the musician and the listener, you can't listen to this whilst you
read the paper and I don't recommend as background music when your Grandma
comes to tea! It is however well worth the concentration it requires to listen,
the music contains elements of every other kind of music known to man, it
has simply hundreds of tone qualities and draws its influence from music
as diverse as that of Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus. The
volume level also varies from a whisper to a loud cacophony, where everyone
seems to be improvising at once!
Gil Evans was a unique figure in jazz, a very quiet man who showed a great
deal of warmth to his musicians, as they did to him. What to me is astounding,
was that whilst the Orchestras he used on his various tours had some regular
'sidemen', he also included some local musicians and it still worked! Don
Weller on Tenor and John Surman feature here, both are very well established
on the UK scene. Though most of us would associate Don Weller with a more
'straight ahead' style, he seems to flourish in this company. Why there are
two versions of Stone free is not clear to me.
To be honest, I find it hard to be objective about Gil Evans music, it contains
a lot that I like very much and quite a lot that I really don't like at all.
What I certainly don't understand, is that the more I listen to it, the amount
I like increases, but I'm still left with parts that I feel come close to
anti-music. What I am sure of, is that everyone who is seriously interested
in jazz, should listen carefully to a Gill Evans Album to experience the
full range of emotions that the large jazz ensemble can display. It won't
happen for most people with one hearing, but it is worth investing some time
to find out about it. The audience at this concert certainly enjoyed it,
judging by the applause.
I don't know how to come to a conclusion about the number of stars to give
to this work, as I don't know what to judge it against! If you are a serious
listener to jazz however, you should buy it!
Don Mather is a Saxophone Player and Bandleader based in