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Ryan Truesdell: The Gil Evans Project

Ryan Truesdell: The Gil Evans Project
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Imagine the commotion when previously unknown manuscripts of Beethoven or Bach were discovered. In the jazz world, the equivalent of such an event might occur with regard to the music of innovators like Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
or Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
. Indeed, that is exactly what composer-arranger-conductor-producer Ryan Truesdell has uncovered with Evans' music. He researched and found a treasure trove of sketches, arrangements and compositions by the great Gil Evans in several collections, and many of them have never been heard before, other than perhaps in live performances many years ago. Truesdell is preparing a CD with today's musicians playing a selection of these vintage charts that shed new light on Evans' work.

Gil Evans is especially known for his landmark Columbia recordings with Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
: Miles Ahead (1957), Porgy and Bess (1958) and Sketches of Spain (1960) as well as his contributions to the breakthrough Birth of the Cool (Capitol, 1956), album that changed the face of jazz. His legacy, however, was much broader than that, spanning five decades, beginning with his work with the Claude Thornhill
Claude Thornhill
Claude Thornhill
1909 - 1965
vocalist
Orchestra, with Evans subsequently adapting his unique sound to various formats, groups, vocalists, and instrumentalists. Truesdell has been presenting this big picture on the ArtistShare- based website www.GilEvansProject.com, and at concert halls and clubs in New York and elsewhere.

The Gil Evans Project will be featured on a CD to be released in 2012 as part of the 100th anniversary of Evans' birth. It will include performances of Evans' charts never heard before on record.

Truesdell—who also works with the world-famous Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider

band/orchestra
Orchestra, in addition to pursuing his own composing, arranging, and conducting—hails from Madison, Wisconsin, and currently resides in New York City.

Chapter Index
  1. Musical Influences
  2. The Gil Evans Project
  3. Evans' Time with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra
  4. More on the Project and AristShare
  5. Gil Evans' Musical Legacy
  6. The True Truesdell and the Evans Mystique



All About Jazz: For a warm-up, the infamous desert island Question. Which recordings would you take?

Ryan Truesdell: My first choice is definitely The Individualism of Gil Evans. It has everything about his music that I love. It was 1964 for Verve Records, produced by Creed Taylor. It's absolutely gorgeous. It includes one of Gil's greatest arrangements, "The Barbara Song," as well as "Time of the Barracudas," "Spoonful," and "Concorde." It's just an incredible album.

I've always loved Ravel's music, so I'd want a compilation of his music—the Piano Concerto in G, the Mallarme poems, and the String Quartet would all have to be on there. Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
1929 - 2011
trombone
Composer, Arranger
(Gryphon) with the Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
Orchestra in 1980 has to be on that list, too. That was very influential on my development as a composer. Brookmeyer also did a record in the early 1960s called Gloomy Sunday and Other Bright Moments (Verve, 1961) that is really amazing. The band is absolutely insane—Phil Woods
Phil Woods
Phil Woods
b.1931
sax, alto
, Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
, Bernie Glow
Bernie Glow
b.1926
, Mel Lewis, Gene Quill
Gene Quill
Gene Quill
b.1927
, et cetera— and the music is beautiful. Bob did half the arrangements, and his friends did the other half: Ralph Burns
Ralph Burns
Ralph Burns
b.1922
composer/conductor
, Eddie Sauter
Eddie Sauter
b.1914
, Gary McFarland
Gary McFarland
Gary McFarland
1933 - 1971
vibraphone
, and Al Cohn
Al Cohn
Al Cohn
1925 - 1988
sax, tenor
.

And even though I'm not a pianist, Bill Evans was very influential on my writing; the linear aspects of his playing, the melodic content, the harmony, and his whole left hand movement all affected me a lot. Perhaps to round out my desert island choices, I would probably take something by Stravinsky, like The Firebird Suite or The Rite of Spring as well.

AAJ: Both Stravinsky and Ravel influenced Gil Evans.

RT: I know Ravel influenced him, for sure. Gil was very interested in classical music, and you can find classical influences in his own writing as early as his work with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra or even earlier for the various bands he was working with, as well as his own orchestra that he formed right out of high school.

Musical Influences

AAJ: Let's hear a bit about your youth. Where did you grow up? What were your earliest exposures to music?

RT: I'm from Madison, Wisconsin. My mother played piano, and my parents were always very supportive of anything my brother and I wanted to do, so music was always part of our lives. We had piano lessons; I took violin in fourth grade, and ended up taking band in middle school. My first wind instrument was oboe, and then I switched to saxophone. I was in Madison through high school, and then I went to the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and received my undergrad degree in music education, in addition to playing classical and jazz saxophone.

AAJ: Wait a minute, classical saxophone? Please spell that out.

RT: It was mostly in wind ensemble and saxophone quartets. I was doing a lot of conducting at that time too, of works by Dello Joio, Hindemith, and so on. Through the saxophone, I started playing and getting interested in a lot more jazz, and through that got interested in writing.

AAJ: What music were you listening to back then?

RT: My first sax teacher in the Madison area was Anders Svanoe. He was a great teacher and remains a good friend today. He wasn't just interested in the music, but also the history. We would look at pictures of Charlie Parker or other saxophonists, and try to figure out the type of saxophone they were playing, the history behind the instruments and all the other aesthetics, in addition to just how to play the instrument. Anders was very influential in sparking my love of not just music, but its history, too.

And, of course, I discovered music just by going to record bins. I had Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) on cassette. I was big into Art Pepper
Art Pepper
Art Pepper
1925 - 1982
sax, alto
, and had a lot of his recordings. One of my first interests in composition and arranging came through Art Pepper Plus Eleven (Contemporary, 1991), for which Marty Paich
Marty Paich
1925 - 1995
composer/conductor
wrote the arrangements. It was beautiful. And it was different; it used French horn and tuba, for example. I had never heard that before in jazz. That was when I started to wonder what composition was about.

But the big one for me was Gil Evans, when I was in high school. I was shopping around for records by Miles Davis and by Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
, and I came across a recording called Porgy and Bess, that they were both on. I played it when I got home, and the first notes of "The Buzzard Song" were like nothing I'd ever heard before. I couldn't believe it! I couldn't figure out what was going on, and who or what instrument was making these sounds. It was totally mind-blowing. I went out the next day and bought these other records that Miles did with this guy called Gil Evans. So that was how, early in high school, I made the connection to Gil Evans. As you know, a lot came out of that for me.

AAJ: So the Gil Evans connection goes back a long way for you. Now, what did you do after college?

RT: I went to the New England Conservatory and studied composition with Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
1929 - 2011
trombone
. I wanted to spend those two years studying composition. That became my passion.

AAJ: Of course, Brookmeyer is known for valve trombone. However, he is also a great writer and arranger. But what made you choose him as a mentor?

RT: Well, earlier I got a recording of Brookmeyer's arrangement of "You Took Advantage of Me," that he did for the Mulligan Concert Jazz Band, and it blew my mind. When I was contemplating grad school, I was just getting to know Maria Schneider, with whom I've now worked for eight years, and I discussed Bob's teaching with Maria, whom she studied with, too. I was looking for someone who was forward thinking and could stretch me as a composer. Bob was the obvious choice for that. He used the analogy of a rubber band. When you're with him, he stretches you as far as you can possibly go. Then, when he lets go, the shape is still there but it's changed and expanded. That's definitely what he did for me. He opened up my ears, showed me that basically anything is possible in development, and so on.

AAJ: Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band was a fabulous group. Did Brookmeyer write some of those arrangements?

RT: I would say that Bob was more or less the musical director of that band. Gerry really didn't write that much of the music. He wrote some charts, but most were written by Bob. Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman
b.1927
sax, tenor
and Al Cohn also did some arrangements.

AAJ: Did you have any connection with the Eastman School of Music?

RT: That came later. I know Dave Rivello who teaches up there. I knew Dave when I was in college. He came as a guest artist to the University of Minnesota, back when I was a student there. We've stayed in touch ever since, and he has been very helpful in my development of the Gil Evans Project. There is so much music from so many different periods, and the number of musicians needed to play the music is very large. One piece may have 25 parts and, say, three bassoons, French horns, harp, and so on. Ordinarily, this would be financially impossible to manage. But Dave has invited me up to Eastman to do reading sessions of this music with the Eastman students. I didn't go to school at Eastman, but I have the connection through Dave.

AAJ: So you're working on a CD of the Gil Evans music you located?

RT: Yes. We're recording it in August, and the CD will be released on May 13, 2012, which is Gil Evans' 100th birthday.

AAJ: Good timing. So what group are you going to use for that recording?

RT: I'm putting together a band consisting mostly of New York musicians.

AAJ: Will there be some from the Maria Schneider Orchestra?

RT: I've worked with Maria for eight years now. I started off as a copyist, and now I help her with the tour managing, and I co-produced the last two records that she's done, Sky Blue (ArtistShare, 2007) and Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004).

It's inevitable I would use some musicians from her band, because I've known them for so long, and they are all great friends. But it just so happens that they are also some of the best musicians around, so even if I didn't have the connection through Maria, I would be calling them anyway. They are all so great. I can't wait to hear these musicians playing Gil's music for the first time.

AAJ: Just briefly, before we segue into the Gil Evans Project, can you give us an overall portrait of your life today as a musician?

RT: At this moment, the Project is consuming most of my time. However, many other things come across my desk on a day-to-day basis. I do some writing through the occasional commission and I do arrangements for some people. I deal with a lot of the logistics involved with running large ensembles: the nuts and bolts of scheduling, hotels, and so on. Tomorrow, Maria and I are flying to Minneapolis to rehearse her Carnegie Hall concert with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and soprano Dawn Upshaw. Then we fly back on Thursday, and the concert is on Friday (May 13, 2011) at Carnegie Hall. I work with various colleges too, doing concerts and master classes. But the Gil Evans Project is central right now; putting the music together, planning the recording, hiring the musicians, et cetera.

The Gil Evans Project

AAJ: How did you find all the music that must have been hidden in various nooks and crannies? And perhaps give us a broader description of what you're trying to accomplish in the Project.

RT: The project started gradually through my desire to know more about Gil Evans. A lot of his sheet music is just not available, and I was interested in it from a composer's standpoint. I wanted to find out what he was writing so I could learn from it. Maria was his assistant during the last few years of his life, so I had that connection. I also knew other people who had worked with Gil: Howard Johnson, Gil Goldstein and others. So, once in a while, I'd come across a photocopy of a musical sketch of his. I started collecting his sheet music just for my own basic information. Gradually, I got to know the Evans family—Miles Evans, Anita and Noah. And once in a while, I'd ask for a score, and Miles would make a copy for me. Soon I realized I had three or four pieces in my possession that had never been recorded.

About a year and a half ago, I really started working with Miles Evans to put Gil's music together. A lot of it isn't out there, and what is out there are transcriptions and not what Gil originally wrote. My first goal was to help the Evans family get Gil's music in order so that it could be performed again. In the process, I began calling people Gil had worked with—singers in the 1950s, and so on, like the singer Lucy Reed
Lucy Reed
b.1921
, for example. Gil did three arrangements on a record of hers called This is Lucy Reed (OJC, 1957). George Russell did some of the other arrangements. Lucy had died in 1998, so I called her son, and he had all the parts from that recording session, including a fourth piece by Evans that wasn't on the record. Often, I'd be looking for music that was recorded and find extra pieces that weren't.

So I started amassing all this music, and now I have over 50 pieces throughout Gil's entire career that have never been recorded. Amazing! That's when I decided that this music had to be shared and had to be recorded, so I decided to start the Gil Evans Centennial Project.

AAJ: Before you get to that, where did you find these documents? Where were they stored?

RT: They were all over the place. Lucy Reed's son was in California. The Thornhill music is in a library in Missouri. The Evans family had some of these in their collection here in New York. Recently, I went to North Carolina to do some research; Gil had written a piece for the Les Brown Orchestra that was never recorded and was in a collection at Duke University. And they just pop up all over the place. The Evans family had something for a recording that Gil did with Astrud Gilberto
Astrud Gilberto
Astrud Gilberto
b.1940
vocalist
, too.

AAJ: So it was in various places, not just in an attic somewhere.

RT: It's taken years to track it down. Sometimes I'd locate a piece of music and it would take several months to finally get the copies of it. It's been a long and arduous process, but well worth it. And fun, too—sort of like a really great scavenger hunt. Sometimes I'll be focusing on other stuff for a couple of months, and I'll come home to find a new piece by Gil Evans in my mailbox. It's like Christmas year 'round.

Evans' Time with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra

RT: So, once I had all this music, I thought, "Why should I keep all this music to myself?" It needs to be out there, not only from the standpoint of Gil's sound and music, but it also tells quite a bit about Gil's history. One example is "Maids of Cadiz," that he did for his first LP with Miles Davis, Miles Ahead. It turns out that he had done an arrangement of that for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra in 1950. Everyone knows the arrangement for Miles, but the version for Thornhill is much different. It's much longer, modulates a few times, and is at a faster tempo. It's interesting to see what parts he took from that to use in the Miles version, too. I've found that there are many instances of things he wrote in 1945, '46, '47 that he reuses later on in his career—for example, a melodic motive he wrote in an arrangement he did for Thornhill that he later incorporated into "Nobody's Heart." These new discoveries really shed a new light on Gil's history.

In regards to his association with Claude Thornhill, it's well known that Gil was writing for him right before the war, and continued when the band started up again in 1946 after the war. Gil presumably worked for the band until 1948, and then went off to do his own thing. But Gil's music for Thornhill I've uncovered goes all the way up to 1951—and there's quite a bit of it—showing that Gil was writing for the Thornhill band through 1951, which was all during the Birth of the Cool period. Pretty interesting.

AAJ: Apropos of that, recordings of the Thornhill band after 1946 show that the range of music is startling, going from 1930s swing styles to 1950s cool and bebop, including big band arrangements of tunes like "Jeru" and "Anthropology." Did Evans write any of those arrangements?

RT: "Jeru" was done by Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
. But Gil did "Anthropology," as well as "Donna Lee," "Yardbird Suite," and "Robin's Nest." When people think of Gil Evans during that time with Thornhill, they think of those bebop arrangements. They are very striking, and one of the first times bebop was arranged for a swing band. But it was fun for me to find out that he was also writing unbelievably complex and beautiful arrangements of these semi-corny pop tunes from the '30s at the same time. The amount of music he wrote for the Thornhill band is staggering. Every time I look around, I find something new.

AAJ: It's to the credit of Claude Thornhill and Billy Eckstine
Billy Eckstine
Billy Eckstine
1914 - 1993
vocalist
in particular that they fostered the newer music and had many progressive players in their bands.

RT: Absolutely. And I've read several interviews with Gil where he said that Claude didn't like bebop that much but was a good sport about playing it. Gil was somewhat of a music director for that band. I've talked to Hal McKusick
Hal McKusick
Hal McKusick
b.1924
saxophone
, who played reeds with Thornhill, and he said that Gil chose the music for the band quite often.

More on the Project and AristShare

AAJ: So where does the whole Gil Evans Project stand right now? You post periodic updates on ArtistShare, but sum it all up for us.



RT: Right now, we are raising money through ArtistShare, and trying to get the word out. We're setting up a recording celebrating the Gil Evans Centennial, and will be releasing it in May, 2012. I've been working out a schedule for the recording session and figuring out what tunes we're going to play. I'm trying to select the best of the best, over the full span of his career from the 1930s through the 1980s. We'll do the recording this August (2011) and release on Gil's 100th birthday, May 13, 2012. On ArtistShare, you can sign up, donate to the cause, and tune in on the work in progress. You can participate at various levels, and everyone gets to see the whole process in depth and detail, all through the website, www.GilEvansProject.com.

In addition, there's a lot of Gil's material that was recorded but hasn't been performed since it was first recorded, like his work with Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
b.1931
guitar
, Astrud Gilberto and some of the Thornhill, in addition to his own recordings. So part of what I'm doing is getting that music in shape so it can be performed again. We just did a concert a week ago at the Jazz Standard in New York, recreating the music of Out of the Cool (Impulse!, 1960). We did a concert of the Thornhill music with Phil Woods, Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
b.1956
piano
and Andy Bey. We did the things Gil did with Cannonball Adderley, with musicians from Eastman in March. And I have some additional performances lined up. I want to take this incredible music to colleges and concert venues, and expose a whole new generation to the music of Gil Evans.

AAJ: What percentage of the music you found has never been recorded?

RT: It's hard to say because, for example, when I went through some of the manuscripts with the Evans family, I would find recorded pieces, like "Buzzard's Song," from Porgy and Bess with Miles, but two or three different versions of it, because Gil was always revising and modifying. Howard Johnson told me they played some these arrangements at rehearsals, but never played them again. If you count those, I would say the unrecorded material constitutes close to 40 percent of the totality of what we found so far. There is a smaller percentage of material that has never been heard in any form, like some Gil Evans original compositions, which accounts for a great deal of the material that will be represented on the Gil Evans Centennial Project recording.

Gil Evans' Musical Legacy

AAJ: The new material may then shed light on various aspects of Gil Evans' approach.

RT: Absolutely. And the CD we're making is not going to focus on just one period. We'll include things that date back to both early and later Thornhill, as well as work Gil did for a few vocalists as well has for his own bands. I even found music he wrote for large wind ensembles of 25 musicians, including timpani, vibraphone, marimba, bassoons, contrabassoons, and double-reeds. My hope is that this recording will introduce a new generation to a whole new side of Gil—one that has been overshadowed by the music he did for Miles—while also sharing these new, never- before-heard works with the die-hard Gil lovers.

AAJ: Of the several biographies on Evans, are there any that you would especially recommend?

RT: There are two biographies that I like a lot. There's one by Larry Hicock where he approaches Gil's history through the recordings he did throughout his career [Castles Made of Sound: The Story of Gil Evans (Da Capo, 2002)]. It's a good intro into Gil's history. For me, the best biography is Out of the Cool by Stephanie Stein Crease (Chicago Review Press, 2003). It's beautifully written, and it includes a lot of great detail on Gil's history. She spent a lot of time interviewing and researching and finding little snippets. For example, there are beautiful letters that Gil wrote to his friends while he was in the army. The whole book really gives you insight into Gil the person.

AAJ: The concept of "cool" is often associated with Gil Evans among others, yet there is something unique about his work, and it's hard to identify his musical influences. Can you say more about this?

RT: I think a lot of his music manifests his own personality, but there were strong influences from classical music, especially the French impressionists like Ravel and Debussy. Also, Claude Thornhill was very influential on Gil. Claude shared Gil's interest in classical music, and he was a classically trained pianist, I believe. When Gil started working for Claude's band, Claude had already established the use of the clarinet, the non-vibrato approach, French horns, and so on. What Gil did was to take the Thornhill sound and add his own approach. Gil added the tuba and a flute section, for example. The more I study the Thornhill years, the more I'm finding that the music that Gil wrote later in his life, with which we're all familiar, was derived in one way or another from his work with Thornhill. The Thornhill band was his "workshop": a place to try things out, experiment with colors and harmonies and the like.

AAJ: One of the fascinating stories was that, according to Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
, J.J. Johnson
J.J. Johnson
J.J. Johnson
1924 - 2001
trombone
, and some others, they all would go over to Evans' apartment to listen to his recordings of Stravinsky and the other modernists. Those gatherings evidently had a big influence on jazz at the time.

RT: Absolutely. Of course, that was after the Thornhill era, when Gil was living on 55th Street. The story goes that Gil was the only one of them who had a library card, so Gil would get recordings of modern classical and world music from the library, and they'd all listen to them. Gil's apartment at that time gave musicians like John Lewis
John Lewis
John Lewis
b.1920
piano
, George Russell
George Russell
George Russell
1923 - 2009
piano
, Johnny Carisi
Johnny Carisi
b.1922
, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Gerry Mulligan—all who had great compositional minds—a chance to discuss the music and workshop their ideas. That was how The Birth of the Cool recording came about. They were discussing ways to get the sound of the Thornhill Orchestra with the fewest possible instruments.

On a side note, everyone knows Gil did two arrangements for that record, "Boplicity" and "Moon Dreams," but people might not know that "Moon Dreams" was actually an adaptation of an arrangement Gil did for the Thornhill band a few years earlier. This version was never recorded until the Dutch Jazz Orchestra did it in 2003-4. I got the chance to perform it with the Eastman students in New York this past March. It's an incredibly beautiful arrangement, and fascinating to compare the two versions.

AAJ: So where did Evans evolve musically after the 1950s?

RT: Gil went through many periods during his career. He went from the Thornhill arrangements, which were very structured (in some cases even writing out the solos) to gradually letting go and experimenting with just an outline and seeing what the musicians and the mood of the moment led to. One pivotal moment was the Out of the Cool record from 1960. There was a real change in his writing, where he began to blur the line between composition and improvisation. A good example is "La Nevada," where he wrote maybe 12 or 16 bars, and the rest of the track, which is almost 16 minutes long, was set up at the recording studio.

And then you have The Individualism of Gil Evans, which is one of my favorites because of its perfect balance of written control and freedom. And then you move into the 1970s and '80s, when his arrangements centered more around the soloists and their improvisations. So the overall arc of his writing was moving towards less structure and more spontaneity.

AAJ: One of the musicians who did the Miles Davis recordings arranged by Evans said that Evans' sensitivity and awareness of what he wanted from the music was so precise that he, as an instrumentalist, felt more like a "sound" than a person. It was meant as a compliment to Evans' acuity. But you're suggesting that later on, Evans let the musicians express themselves more. What comes as a surprise is that Evans wrote for a number of rock groups. He worked with such luminaries as Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
1942 - 1970
guitar, electric
and Sting, as well as fusion bassist Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
1951 - 1987
bass, electric
. Given his "cool" approach, it's difficult to think of him doing that.

RT: Gil was always on the forefront of music and overall interested in sound more than a specific style or genre. Hendrix, Sting, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
, Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
b.1927
sax, alto
, and all the people Gil worked with from the beginning until his death, they all had one thing in common: an individual sound. He was so fascinated by sound, and constantly searching for and discovering any new sounds he could. He was one of the first to get a Moog synthesizer and all the electronic stuff. He was into everything. He listened to Indian music, classical music, rock 'n' roll, everything! Somebody asked me what Gil would be doing if he was alive today, and one could only imagine he would be working with rappers or maybe Lady Gaga; who knows?

AAJ: That emphasis on sound as such is rare. It can be found in composers like Messiaen, who was constantly absorbing everything he heard and putting it in his music. That was true of Evans as well, and partly explains his finely tuned band arrangements that are immediately recognizable as his own.

So, now, to sum up, what would you say has been Gil Evans' lasting legacy and contribution to jazz, above and beyond the landmark albums with Miles Davis?

RT: Man, what a question! I think that, from the standpoint of a composer, Gil had the perfect balance of everything that makes music great. He had the perfect balance of classical and jazz—with harmony, a linear writing approach, improvisation, color, sound, the whole works. He just seemed to have that magic balance of all the elements. He proved that large ensemble music doesn't have to be stuck in the big band idiom as such, that you can make sounds and color within a large ensemble and still make it sound intimate. He could make 16 instruments sound like one, or he'd make nine instruments sound like 20. I'm guessing people would probably say that his contribution was orchestration. But there's more to it than that. It's the balance of taking all the elements of music, mixing it together with Gil's personality and own musical mind, and creating a great beauty within an ensemble.

AAJ: A couple of final questions. First, and very importantly, what would you like the Gil Evans Project to accomplish for the music, the musicians, and the historiography of jazz?

RT: My main purpose is to show the true Gil Evans and everything he did. As you said earlier, when people think of Gil Evans, they immediately think of those four records he did with Miles Davis, especially Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess. But that only represents a short time in the middle of his career. It's important to look at what he did before he got there, and what he accomplished afterwards. For example, that Lucy Reed record that I mentioned earlier—it's a beautiful record with a very unique instrumentation, but very few people are familiar with it. I want to change that. I want to have Gil's music performed again in a way that honors him and how he intended it to be performed, bringing his music into the lives of the present generation. The goal is to celebrate Gil for who he was and the sheer beauty and genius he brought to his arranging, composing, and music as a whole.

AAJ: It's a great service you're doing in that respect. The greatness of what Gil Evans did is quite evident, yet we know so little of it.

RT: Exactly; Gil is a little bit of a mystery. I love that feeling of discovery when I find some new piece he wrote in the 1940s and find, for example, quotes from classical music—like Ravel, Berg, and so on. These newly discovered works all show developmental indications that I now see influenced everything we know of his work. It also teaches us about Gil as a person through his music. I hope that the Gil Evans Project has a long life beyond this CD, and that we keep on performing his music for years to come.

AAJ: It may also awaken and inspire the creativity of current musicians to new heights such as he achieved.

RT: I really hope so. I just love this project, and the Evans family is terrific, and it's an honor to be involved in all of this.

The True Truesdell and the Evans Mystique

AAJ: About yourself as a person, tell us what you do beyond music, and also about your spirituality and how you seek ultimate meaning in life, keeping in mind John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
's statement: "Music is my spirit."



RT: For me, I've always been very emotionally attached to music, and I view that as spiritual. Now that I'm getting the chance to perform Gil's music, I'm realizing that Gil had this extra spiritual sense in his music as well. Here we are performing this music that was written more than half a century ago, and it still rings true and connects with audiences. I think a big part of that is that there is life within his music.

There is a human aspect to his music. When you perform it, there is a raw emotion embedded in the music, and you can feel it uniting the musicians and the audience, and people are affected by it. There's weight to his music. It may not be religious as such, but there is a humanistic spirit in this music that we can all learn from.

AAJ: From Miles Davis' autobiography, one gets the feeling that Gil Evans was a loving and caring man, and he came through for Miles during the latter's bouts with drugs and mental breakdown.

RT: Anita, Gil's wife, told me that he had this kind of mysticism about him. He would enter a room, and everything would stop. Brookmeyer told me that Gil would stop in at the Village Vanguard, and he and George Russell would sit in the back and listen. Bob said the feeling was as if royalty had walked into the room. Gil had this magical sixth sense that drew people to him. People really loved him. And this same magical, mystical quality comes through in his music.

AAJ: Which probably inspired the musicians to come through for him. The feeling of ensemble, of the collective, is amazing in his recorded work. One final question: what do you want to do in the next couple of years besides the Gil Evans Project?

RT: I want to continue to write my own music and have my own band. I'd like to do some touring, both with my own and Gil's music. I love working with great musicians. I've been very fortunate to work alongside amazing musicians like Maria Schneider and Bob Brookmeyer. I love a wide variety of music and all the different personalities of musicians I've met, and look forward to all the adventures and new sounds that await me in the future.

Selected Discography

Bob Brookmeyer, Bob Brookmeyer with the NDR Big Band (NDR Radio Broadcast, 2010) (producer)

Todd Coolman, Perfect Strangers (ArtistShare, 2008) (composer)

Maria Schneider, Sky Blue (ArtistShare, 2007) (producer)

Maria Schneider, Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004) (production assistance)

Photo Credits

Page 1 (Truesdell): Dina Regine
Page 2: Darcy James Argue

Page 4: Dina Regine
All Other Photos: Courtesy of the Gil Evans Centennial Project Archives

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