Ryan Truesdell: Centennial - Newly Discovered Works Of Gil Evans
Centennial: Newly Discovered Works Of Gil Evans
Those who choose to focus their energy on arranging and composing rarely get the attention and praise that comes to their instrument-wielding counterparts, but the cream always manages to rise to the top and get noticed. Such was the case with the great Gil Evans. He expanded and experimented with the sonic color scheme of jazz during his time with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, helped to define "cool jazz" while working with Miles Davis, collaborated with said trumpeter on a string of classic albums for Columbia Records, and fused musical ideals, worlds and expressions long before the word "fusion" took on significance in the realm of sound. While none of that information is new, it does help to set the stage for this newsworthy album, which is best described as the new old works of Gil Evansas presented, preserved, completed and polished up by Ryan Truesdell. Centennial is part tribute, part archeological unveiling and part career-spanning pastiche, with all three ideals adding up to a brilliant album.
While the music speaks for itself, the back story of this work, which is likely to end up on plenty of year-end "Best Of" lists, is worth noting. Truesdell's zealous efforts to explore all things Evans brought him into contact with some of the late composer's friends, disciples and family. Truesdell furthered his efforts to understand Evans from all angles and the late composer's family eventually granted him access to all they had, which led to the discovery of these previously unrecorded charts. Some were performed but never recorded, while others were meant to end up on record ("Punjab"), but didn't cohere. All ten tunes that ended up on this album are worthy examples of Evans' brilliance with a pen, but they also serve as an indication of Truesdell's vision.
The lengthy, album-opening "Punjab," originally intended for The Individualism Of Gil Evans (Verve, 1964), is Indo-intrigue at its best. Dan Weiss' tabla work brings authenticity to the music, Frank Kimbrough hits the right nerves with his piano playing and Steve Wilson contributes some stunning and tumultuous alto saxophone work. The two other long-running tracks on the album go to completely different places. "The Barbara Song" has an eerie underbelly and features Joe Locke's snaking vibraphone work and "Waltz/Variation On The Misery/So Long" touches on myriad moods.
An arrangement of "The Maids Of Cadiz," written for the Thornhill band a full seven years prior to the famous version on Davis' Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957), features some fine muted trumpet work from Greg Gisbert. Other Thornhill-related instrumental material includes "How About You," which moves from an uncertain place to a cheery environment, "Who'll Buy My Violets," which finds beauty in the calm and features Scott Robinson's unmistakable clarinet work, and the fun, swinging "Dancing On A Great Big Rainbow."
Three vocal numbers, originally written for different people and featuring different singers, add another dimension to the album. Kate McGarry delivers a moody performance over a bottom-heavy ensemble on "Smoking My Sad Cigarette," which Evans crafted for singer Lucy Reed, Wendy Gilles is charming on "Beg Your Pardon," which dates back to the Thornhill days, and Luciana Souza closes out the album with "Look To The Rainbow," which was meant for Astrud Gilberto.
Centennial is Truesdell's loving 100th birthday present to a sadly departed giant of jazz, but it's also a gift to the world. It doesn't get any better than this.
Tracks: Punjab; Smoking My Sad Cigarette; The Maids Of Cadiz; How About You; Barbara Song; Who'll Buy My Violets; Dancing On A Great Big Rainbow; Beg Your Pardon; Waltz/Variation On The Misery/So Long; Look To The Rainbow.
Personnel: 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 saxophone, alto saxophone, flute, clarinet; Dave Pietro: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute, alto flute; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Scott Robinson: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Brian Landrus: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, alto flute, piccolo; Charles Pillow: flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, English horn; Adam Unsworth: French horn; David Peel: French horn; John Craig Hubbard: French horn; Augie Haas: trumpet; Greg Gisbert: trumpet; Laurie Frink: trumpet; Ryan Keberle: trombone; Marshall Gilkes: trombone; George Flynn: bass trombone; Marcus Rojas: tuba; James Chirillo: acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Romero Lubambo: acoustic guitar; Frank Kimbrough: piano, harmonium; Jay Anderson: bass; Lewis Nash: drums; Joe Locke: vibraphone; Mike Truesdell: timpani, marimba; Dave Eggar: tenor violin; Dan Weiss: tabla; Kate McGarry: vocals (2); Wendy Gilles: vocals (8); Luciana Souza: vocals (10).