How do you summarize the history of jazz on a couple records? Ask Gil Evans. His two records New Bottle Old Wine (1958) and Great Jazz Standards (1959), originally released on World Pacific, have been reissued on one CD entitled The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions. Each of the fifteen tracks is a chapter in the music's history from the start to the years when these recordings were made. From Jelly Roll Morton and W.C. Handy to Monk and Charlie Parker, most of the great composers are represented, including Evans himself. The soloists involved include jazz luminaries such as Cannonball Adderley and Steve Lacy; the orchestra's lineup is not too shabby, either, with names like Paul Chambers and Art Blakey.
The compositions are classics, but their arrangements and interpretations are as modern and refreshingly surprising as we have come to expect from Evans. The fluid alto saxophone lines blend seamlessly with the crisp piano notes played by Evans himself on the first three tracks. Deep tuba notes open the fourth track, which remains bottom-heavy, with a trombone solo following the tuba, and then it concludes beautifully with the alto saxophone.
The last seven tracks, which originally made up Great Jazz Standards, are more brassy, and most of the solos are taken by trumpets. A few of the pieces include Monk-ish solos by Steve Lacy, and again it's nice to hear Evans play the piano. The ensemble playing is extremely polished and creative, with unexpected takes on familiar themes. This welcome addition to Gil Evans' CD catalogue allows us to hear his take on jazz classics and enjoy his virtuosity on the piano, as well as his arranging skills.
Track Listing: St. Louis Blues; King Porter Stomp; Willow Tree; Struttin' with Some Barbecue; Lester Leaps In; 'Round Midnight;
Manteca; Bird Feathers; Davenport Blues; Straight No Chaser; Ballad of the Sad Young Men; Joy Spring; Django;
Chant of the Weed; La Nevada (Theme).
Personnel: Gil Evans: piano; Johnny Coles, Louis Mucci, Ernie Royal, Clyde Reasinger, Allen Smith, Danny Stiles: trumpets;
Frank Rehak, Joe Bennett, Tom Mitchell, Bill Elton, Curtis Fuller, Dick Lieb, Jimmy Cleveland, Rod Levitt:
trombones; Julius Watkins, Bob Northern, Earl Chapin: French horns; Harvey Phillips, Bill Barber: tubas;
Cannonball Adderley, Eddie Caine: alto saxophones; Gerald Sanfino, Phil Bodner, Al Block: flutes and clarinets;
Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone; Chuck Wayne, Ray Crawford: guitars; Paul Chambers, Dick Carter, Tommy
Potter: basses; Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey, Dennis Charles, Elvin Jones: drums.