Gil Evans At 100

Gil Evans, who enriched the art and craft of jazz arranging, was born 100 years ago today. National Public Radio this morning ended one of its hours on Weekend Edition Sunday with a remembrance of Evans and his work. To listen to it, go here and click on “Listen Now.”

Here are three pieces arranged by Evans for an all star orchestra featuring Miles Davis on a 1959 Robert Herridge CBS-TV special. They are from the 1957 Davis album Miles Ahead. Herridge introduces them.

To see a one-hour documentary about Evans, go here.

Alto saxophonist and flutist Gary Foster writes from Los Angeles:

Just in case you haven’t seen this. We recreated music from the three Miles-Gil recordings at the Hollywood Bowl in 2010 and at Monterey last September. The edited recording from Monterey is being broadcast by NPR. With Vince Mendoza conducting and Terence Blanchard playing the solos, to experience the music from inside the orchestra has been extraordinary. There is a rumor that we may play it in Southern California again and make a commercial recording in 2013.

Ending as we began, with NPR, go here to listen to the JazzSet hour of Evans arrangements with Blanchard in the solo trumpet chair.

Orchestra Members

Wayne Bergeron, Chuck Berghofer, Annie Bosler, Gene Cipriano, Wade Culbreath, Marcia Dickstein, Peter Erskine, Miles Evans, Dan Fornero, Gary Foster, Gary Grant, Larry Hall, Greg Huckins, Alan Kaplan, Charlie Loper, Bob McChesney, Charlie Morillas, Mike O’Donovan, Bill Reichenbach, Bob Sheppard, Rick Todd, Brad Warnaar.

Gil Evans, May 13, 1912 – March 20, 1988

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  1. says

    Gil humbly called himself being “just an eclectic” (memory quote from a radio portrait on his 70th birthday).

    Here’s a confirmed one: “That’s all I did – that’s all I ever did – try to do what Billy Strayhorn did.”

    …and more, I wanna add. — It was in the Summer of 1983, when I saw the very skinny man, sitting behind a fender piano, leading his orchestra at the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. Gil was in good spirits, always smiling, and making jokes. I don’t remember what they played, but it was a wild mixture of jazz, rock, and freely pulsating sounds. Very impressive for an upcoming young trumpeter, ’cause master Lew Soloff was in the band.

    One of my favorite Gil Evans recordings – and probably his most intimate – is featuring only him on electric & acoustic piano, and Steve Lacy on soprano sax: Paris Blues (1987).

    Gil’s brilliant collaborations with Miles are legend, and also his notorious “laziness”, if we can believe Miles who said that Gil sometimes needed a week for writing down just four bars of a chart.

    Jiggs Whigham once told me about those “charts” that Gil would have given some loose sheets to the trombone section, containing only sketches which had to be played on cue.

    As for trombone cues: One of Gil’s fabulous charts, featured in the radio portrait I mentioned above, was King Porter Stomp with Cannonball as the main soloist.

    Happy 100th Anniversary up there, Gil Evans!

    Thanks for the beautiful music. You will always be remembered, and *not* only for your “eclecticism”, that’s for sure!

    • David says

      Thanks for the heads up on Paris Blues. Have you heard the duo album (Heroes) that he did with Lee Konitz in 1980 (released 1991 on Delmark, reissued by Verve)? Lovely dialogues and excursions on tunes by Shorter, Mingus, Ellington, Chopin, Konitz, Evans, and two standards.

      • Doug Ramsey says

        A sequel CD, recorded at the same date, is called Anti-Heroes. Some reviewers (Jack Fuller, e.g.) thought it the equal of Heroes. Others (Scott Yanow, e.g.) thought Evans was less focused.

  2. Jeffrey Sultanof says

    I have had the honor and the great pleasure of working with the Gil Evans estate over the years. I oversaw a book of compositions and transcriptions for Hal Leonard, and JazzLines Pubiications has published my editions of Evans’ arrangements for Claude Thornhill and Miles Davis, including “Moon Dreams” and “Boplicity.” Now ensembles all over the world are getting his music directly from his manuscripts.

    Editing Evans’ music is always an adventure, as his scores are loaded with details which have to be checked and double-checked. He certainly should be considered one of the great composers of the twentieth century. He influenced musicians young and old, classical, jazz and rock. His part writing is simply brilliant, and he does have this in common with Billy Strayhorn. Every time I re-hear something I’ve heard many times, I hear things I haven’t heard before.

    I could go on and on. He was one of a kind, and his music is as fresh and contemporary as when it was first written. Happy century, Gil!