Written by Becca Pulliam from WBGO-FM
Gil Evans was born in Canada in 1912. He latched onto jazz and, in time, taught himself to write it. First, for dancers, Evans arranged tunes off the radio for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra as well as the sweet, warm sounds of flutes and French horns. Then Evans downsized the Thornhill sound to a nonet for The Birth of the Cool. Underscoring host Dee Dee Bridgewater‘s welcome to this set, you’ll hear “Boplicity” from Birth of the Cool by Evans and his new friend, Miles Davis. Its lean-in-and-listen sound steered jazz in a new direction.
Davis, the fast-rising trumpeter of the late 1950s, partnered with Evans on three great successes: Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. You can hear a Monterey Jazz Festival re-creation of the last two on our Gil Evans centennial edition of JazzSet. The last Gil Evans chapter was his own rocking Monday Night Orchestra, presented by Horst Liepolt in the 1980s at Sweet Basil in New York, as advertised every week in The Village Voice.
When Gil Evans died in 1988, many of his scores had never been recorded. A few years ago, his family opened its collection to young composer Ryan Truesdell, who studied the music measure for measure and part for part. Truesdell discovered more charts in libraries and unreleased tracks in record-company archives. Finally, Truesdell put together a band, raised money, chose 10 pieces, went into the studio and made Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans. It’s nominated for three Grammys, including Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
Besides four scores from Centennial, Truesdell selected three additional pieces for this occasion. First, “Concorde” by John Lewis acknowledges the Modern Jazz Quartet, Lewis’ cooperative group, which played at the first Newport Jazz Festival in 1954. Evans arranged it for his album The Individualism of Gil Evans. “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men” is for Newport founder George Wein, and Horace Silver closed his 1959 Newport set with “Sister Sadie.” Evans arranged the piece for Out of the Cool featuring the Gil Evans Orchestra. Truesdell closes with it. So pull up a lawn chair and enjoy the Gil Evans Project in Surround Sound.
We close with “Race to the Bridge” by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band from the 2012 Monterey Jazz Festival, as heard on New Year’s Eve on Toast of the Nation.
Recording by Steve Remote, Aurasonic Ltd., and Surround Sound mix by Duke Markos