Continuing to roam through Jeff Sultanof’s new book on big band jazz I am appreciating, almost as if for the first time, pieces of music that I’ve listened to for years. For instance, Sultanof’s narrative road map to Claude Thornill’s “Robbins’ Nest” emphasizes the uncanny empathy of the band members and the genius (no other word for it) of arranger Gil Evans. (Thornhill is pictured right). The version Sultanof chose is a 1947 radio transcription available on YouTube. After a setup paragraph describing the instrumentation, the orchestration and a few solo moments, he writes this:
What happens next is one of the most striking instances of melodic paraphrasing during the late big band era. The entire ensemble plays a harmonized improvisational line that sounds like one big instrument, perfectly balanced and relaxed. Again note the dynamic range from very soft to very loud (2:05).
Here is the entire recording.
Following the “Robbins’ Nest” analysis in his book, Sultanof takes on the Evans arrangement for Thornhill of Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite.” He includes observations on solos by Red Rodney, Lee Konitz and Barry Galbraith. The book really is—as billed—a listener’s companion.