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Gil EVANS

Centennial

Newly discovered works of Gil Evans

AS 0114

 

 


1. Punjab [14:20]; 2. Smoking my sad cigarette [4:23]; 3. The maids of Cadiz [6:20]; 4. How about You [3:06]; 5. Barbara song [11:52]; 6. Who'll buy my violets [3:55]; 7. Dancing on a great big rainbow [3:23]; 8. Beg your pardon [2:53]; 9. Waltz/Variation on the misery/So long [19:02]; 10. Look to the rainbow [4:14]
woodwinds

Henrik Heide (flute, piccolo), Jesse Han (flute, piccolo, bass flute), Jennifer Christen (oboe), Sarah Lewis (oboe), Ben Baron (bassoon), Michael Rabinowitz (bassoon), Alden Banta (bassoon, contra bassoon), Steve Wilson (soprano sax, alto sax, clarinet), Dave Pietro (alto sax, clarinet, flute, alto flute), Donny McCaslin (tenor sax, clarinet), Scott Robinson (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), Brian Landrus (baritone sax, bass clarinet, alto flute, piccolo), Charles Pillow (flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, English horn)
brass
Adam Unsworth (French horn), David Peel (French horn), John Craig Hubbard (French horn), Augie Haas (trumpet), Greg Gisbert (trumpet), Laurie Frink (trumpet), Tran keberle (trombone), Marshall Gilkes (trombone), George Flynn (bass trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba)
Rhythm
James Chirillo (acoustic and electric guitar), Romero Lubambo (acoustic guitar), Frank Kimbrough (piano, harmonium), Jay Anderson (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
with
Joe Locke (vibraphone), Mike Truesdell (timpani, marimba), Dave Eggar (tenor violin), Dan Weiss (tabla)
voices
Kate McGarry (on track 2), Wendy Gilles (on track 8), Luciana Souza (on track 10)
conductor: Ryan Truesdell
rec.at Avatar Studios (Studio A), New York, USA on August 24-26, 2011. Engineers: James Farbe, Bob Mallory, Tim Marchiafava. Voice engineers: Helik Hadar (for Luciana Souza) and Jason Richmond (for Kate McGarry).
[74:18]

Having just finished a review of unreleased recordings by Keith Jarrett (Sleeper 2 cd set ECM 370 5570) I didnít expect to find Iíd got some newly discovered material by another great figure in jazz to review but thatís what this cd is of. What a thrill the conductor Ryan Truesdell must have felt when he unearthed the majority of this music in Gil Evansí manuscripts, all bar one piece totally unknown to him. Those works, together with the song Smoking my sad cigarette, make up this cd which was released to coincide with the centenary of Gil Evansí birth on May 13, 1912, hence the albumís title Centennial. For me the name of Gil Evans is forever etched in my memory for a seminal record Sketches of Spain; seminal for me that is, for it showed me way back in 1960 that jazz could be as thoughtful as any classical music and I well remember the impact on me of hearing the movement from Rodrigoís Concierto de Aranjuez that opens that disc. Composer and arranger Gil Evans had worked with Miles Davis prior to that disc, on Miles Ahead and Porgy and Bess, and these three records are among the most highly prized and most influential jazz recordings of all time. That exalted position confirms Miles Davisí contribution to jazz (along with much else) but it also does the same for the reputation of Gil Evans. Gil Evans was working as an arranger in the 1940s and many people who may be less familiar with jazz may be surprised to learn how much of jazz is composed and arranged and that it doesnít always rely solely on a theme plus improvisations. This disc will certainly widen the extent to which Gil Evansí name is associated with all thatís best about jazz and it is refreshing to have a disc which is centred exclusively on his contribution to that art form rather than it being secondary to the musicians whose disc it is. The pieces on this disc show the incredible breadth of talent Evans had in the field of both composition and arranging and his musical fingerprint is so identifiable whether itís an original composition or an arrangement of a jazz standard or even a classical work. The opener on this disc is an exciting original work Punjab, influenced no doubt by the interest in India that swept the west in the 1960s. Truesdell explains in the excellent booklet notes that he had known about this piece but had never heard it and when he finally listened to the rehearsal recording tapes he realised it would need some tweaking which included a greater integration of the rhythm section into the rest of the orchestra; he also decided to add a tabla. The result is a thrilling and highly atmospheric composition that makes the best use of those gorgeous Indian rhythms that made for the surprising popularity of records of Indian ragas during that era. Gil Evansí signature sound is immediately evident, particularly in his use of brass which is so distinctive and which so impressed me on the record Sketches of Spain all those years ago. With great solos from Don Weiss on tabla, which grounds the piece, as well as from Frank Kimbrough on piano and Steve Wilson on alto sax this is fourteen minutes of pure bliss. A complete contrast follows in the shape of a hitherto unknown song that Gil Evans arranged for singer Lucy Reed back in 1957 but hadnít been recorded, and sung here beautifully by Kate McGarry and backed by eight instruments sounding like a whole orchestra, another of Evansís amazing abilities. The Maids of Cadiz, though familiar to those who know the Miles Ahead album, will not have heard this arrangement which Gil made for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, for whom he worked between 1941 and 1948, in 1950, seven years before the one he made for Miles. It is a surprise to learn that the original was by Leo Delibes who is best known for the Flower Song from his opera Lakmť,and further demonstrates Gil Evansí skill at arranging and orchestration. How about You is an arrangement Evans made for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra in 1947 and it was the late lamented trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, a friend and mentor of Ryan Truesdall who told him of it and what luck that it surfaced from among those manuscripts so that we all have the chance of getting to know such a brilliant version of a standard we might all think we know so well because this allows for a reappraisal. Kurt Weillís Barbara Song arranged by Gil Evans for his first (!) European tour in 1971 is almost symphonic in its treatment of this lovely tune though thatís no real surprise when the orchestra here comprises a total of 32 musicians! Truesdell admits to have been won over from his initial assessment of Whoíll buy my violets which on first viewing he thought seemed fairly pedestrian until he realised what Gil Evansí colouring did for an otherwise simple piece, transforming it into one with a Ďmesmerizing atmosphereí. Truesdell came to the conclusion from a score with the initials ĎTDí on it that what is here as Dancing on a great big rainbow was originally composed by Gil Evans for Tommy Dorsey who Truesdell was aware Gil wrote for sometime in the 1950s. However, the tune started off its life as Cannery Row and in fact there had been three versions, which also included those for the Thornhill Orchestra and for big band leader Les Brown. They emerged as being one and the same tune and Truesdell further discovered a letter to Les Brown in which Evans gave guidance as to how to rehearse the piece which in turn enabled Truesdell to record it in the most authentic way possible. Beg your pardon is yet another example of Gil Evansí ability to take a simple tune and arrange it in a way that renders it memorable and Wendy Gilles sings it beautifully. The medley Waltz/Variation on the misery/So long is the longest work Truesdell discovered in his examination of Evansí manuscripts and he regards it as Evansí magnum opus since it so exemplifies Evansí compositional abilities. It allows for some wonderful solos from Marshall Gilkes on trombone, Joe Locke on vibraphone, Steve Wilson on alto sax and Donny McCaslin on tenor sax and its almost 20 minute length again borders on the symphonic in structure. Look to the rainbow rounds off this unique examination of Gil Evansí hitherto unheard compositions and arrangements and the lyrically beautiful voice of Luciana Souza is a perfect vehicle to showcase it and to end a truly memorable experience. In addition to the aforementioned excellent notes there is a supplementary booklet of photos of various members of the production team and several of the musicians Ė a valuable addition to a superb album. Those involved in the ĎartistShareí scheme (a fan-funded project) which enabled its release can feel justifiable pride in it as can Ryan Truesdell who merits every jazz loverís undying gratitude.
 

Steve Arloff



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