3. Love in the Open
4. Variation on the Misery
5. Blues in Orbit
7. General Assembly
8. So Long
Snooky Young, Mike Lawrence, Ernie Royal, Johnny Coles - Trumpets
Jimmy Cleveland, Jimmy Knepper, Garnett Brown - Trombones
Julius Watkins, Ray Alonge - French horns
Howard Johnson - Tuba, baritone sax
Billy Harper - Tenor sax, flute
Hubert Laws - Flute
George Marge - Flute, soprano sax
Gil Evans - Piano, electric piano, conductor
Joe Beck - Guitar
Gene Bianco - Harp
Herb Bushler - Bass
Elvin Jones, Alphonse Mouzon - Drums
Sue Evans, Donald McDonald - Percussion
Many big bands are unexciting because they often sound just like
other big bands: using identical stereotyped styles of arranging,
which may have seemed innovative several decades ago but have now
worn thin. However, Gil Evans knows how to be different - even if
only because he uses such unusual instruments as the tuba, the French
horn and the harp, which are all employed on this album. But Gil's
arrangements also manage to stand out from the crowd because they
avoid the overworked conventions and always seek something new - even
if that new thing is not necessarily mellifluous.
These recordings were made in 1969 and 1971, and the title reflects
the mood of the times: hinting at futuristic spacey ideas. In fact
Duke Ellington recorded an album with the same title about ten years
earlier, but it was mostly less way-out than this one. The predominant
style of the opening track Thoroughbred is primarily jazz-rock,
although with the added stimulus of unusual voicings and instrumentation.
There is a rocky beat beneath the cries of a French horn and composer
Billy Harper's tenor sax.
The next track - Spaced - is futuristically weird. Perhaps
it is free improvisation, with strange sounds from Joe Beck's guitar
conjuring up an image of aliens invading. When the ensemble enters,
the atmosphere is still unsettling and discordant.
Woodwinds dominate the waltzing opening of Love in the Open,
with a swirling tenor-sax solo before the whole orchestra cooks up
a smorgasbord of sounds. Variation on the Misery maintains
the ambiance of other-worldly sounds, which may again result from
free improvisation. Thankfully the title-track has a more graspable
melody, with elegant solos from trombone and guitar over a four-four
beat, although the recording quality turns fuzzy halfway through.
Proclamation starts anarchically but then becomes more orderly,
although still fragmented. General Assembly (co-written by
Miles Davis and Gil Evans) seems rather muddled, with instruments
playing disconnected snatches without anything integrated emerging,
until the ensemble introduces something more organised but nevertheless
ragged. The closing So Long has an exploratory air, with Billy
Harper's tenor sax strongly in evidence again, over a backing of deep
chords of the kind that Gil Evans created so well.
This album is a useful indication of Gil Evans's progress in the
period between his "cool" recordings (and his masterpieces
with Miles Davis) and his later ventures into more electronic sounds.
Nonetheless, it seems as if Gil was searching rather than finding,
and the album is only partly successful because it has no clear direction.
With only about 38 minutes of music, this CD is really only a must
for the Gil Evans completist.