Ryan Truesdell: Centennial - Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans
Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans
Composer/arranger/pianist Gil Evans broke new ground in the arena of arranging in the late 1940s with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, and the 1949-50 singles which later came out as the album Birth of the Cool (Columbia Records, 1957), made up of sessions with trumpeter Miles Davis. He went on the arrange the music for three more of Davis' extraordinary Columbia setsMiles Ahead (1958), Porgy and Bess (1959) and Sketches of Spain (1960), as well as releases under his own name, like the excellent The Individuation of Gil Evans (Verve Records, 1964). His arranging style employed the unusual (for the time) French horns and tubas, and his sound was airy and more diaphanousand less brassythan that of most arrangers back then.
Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans is a huge project, featuring 35 of New York' top jazz players. Ryan Truesdellwho was granted access to Evans' archives by the late Evans' familywas up to the task, schooled by his involvement in co-producing two of composer/arranger Maria Schneider's masterpieces, Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004) and Sky Blue (Artist Share, 2007).
The tunes are a treasure trove, beginning with fourteen minute "Punjab," an Evans original intended for the The Individuation of Gil Evans album but not used for the project. The tabla, in the hands of Dan Weiss, brings the tune's introduction to life. It's a life of mystery, a subdued swirling of reedsoboe, English horn, bassoonthat swells as a slow creep of brass insinuates itself. Colors mix, brights asserting themselves over the pastels, leading into pianist Frank Kimbrough's snappy solo; then an oceanic ebb and flow of tones gives way to Steve Wilson's Eastern sound on alto saxophone.
"The Maids of Cadiz" appeared on Miles Ahead, but Truesdell uses the arrangement written in 1950 for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. This sounds very different from the Davis version, shinier and with a bit more swing, but every bit as beautiful. "How About You," a Great American Songbook standard, opens with French horn harmony, giving the sound a melancholy mood that shifts into a brassy, swinging groove.
On Kurt Weill's "Barbara's Song," Truesdell captures the mystique of Evans, the subtle tones blowing in like curtains in the wind, the light woodwind tints spotted with the heavy drops of color from Joe Locke's vibraphone.
Many of the players herewho together make this something of a dream bandcan also be heard on the orchestral works of Maria Schneider, who was a protege of Evans, and has built on his style and shaped it to make it her own. And Truesdell can be said to be a student of Schneider's, one who has learned the lessons well. "Waltz/Variation on the Misery/So Long," clocks in at over 19 minutes, making it one of Evans' longest works. It is rendered masterfully here. A wonderfully fluid trombone solo by Marshall Gilkes gathers steam as the orchestra expands, then Joe Locke's vibraphone rings in, finally giving way to portentous brass. In the day of vinyl albums, this and "Punjab," side one and two, would have made an extraordinary recording.
But here, on compact disc, there is so much more: three superb vocal tracks, featuring Kate McGarry, Wendy Gilles and Luciana Souza, and the brief "Dancing on a Great Big Rainbow," the set's most swinging piece, written by Evans for trombonist Tommy Dorsey.
Truesdell's Centennial marks the 100th anniversary of Gil Evans' birthday with reverence, style and verve, and must surely be judged one of 2012's finest large ensemble outings.
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 You Pardon; Waltz/Variation on the Misery/So Long; Look to the Rainbow.
Ryan Truesdell: conductor; 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, a lot flute, flute 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; 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: guitars; 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 (1); Kate McGarry: voice (2); Wendy Gilles: voice (8); Luciana Sousa: voice (10).