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Gil Evans: Old Bottle New Wine

Patrick Burnette By

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Arranger / pianist Gil Evans did not record extensively as a leader, and he only released a few albums in the "classic" mode established by his collaborations with Miles Davis. New Bottle Old Wine (originally released on Pacific Jazz in 1958) is perhaps the best regarded—due to the vibrant presence of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley as the featured soloist, and the killer line-up of tunes from jazz's past, which Evans transformed into modern, third-stream-leaning music with all the wit of his best collaborations with Davis.

Perhaps this is the reason this release—originally on Pacific Jazz—was chosen to be part of the Blue Note Tone Poet vinyl series. Unfortunately, while the music is excellent, the reissue is disappointing on two levels. It suffers from clicks and pops unacceptable in a relatively highly priced "audiophile" reissue like this. Also, unlike other albums in the series, the album is not a gatefold.

Most important is the sound of the recording itself. It is plagued by distortion. The painstaking transfer only highlights the problem—it's like watching a sloppily-shot television show from the 1970s on a modern high-resolution television set. In the pitiless glare of this reissue, the distortion of the louder passages is painfully obvious, and the reverb slathered on Adderley makes it sound like he teleported in from another session. One can only guess what a first-rate studio might have brought out of these sessions (if only they had been recorded by RCA, Columbia, or, indeed, Blue Note). Pacific clearly didn't have the technical chops to capture the music properly.

Anyone who loves early Gil Evans needs to hear Old Bottle New Wine. It's a delightful album. But in this case, a little sonic Vaseline on the lens can only be a good thing. Like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, the album really isn't ready for its close-up.

Track Listing: Side One: St. Louis Blues; King Porter Stomp; Willow Tree; Struttin’ With Some Barbeque. Side Two: Lester Leaps In; ‘Round Midnight; Manteca; Bird Feathers.

Personnel: Gil Evans: piano, arranger, conductor; Cannonball Adderley: alto saxophone; Jonny Coles, Louis Mucci, Ernie Royal, Clyde Reasinger: trumpet; Joe Bennet, Fran Rehak, Tom Mitchell: trombone; Julius Watkins: french horn; Harvey Phillips or Bill Barber: tuba; Jerry Sanfino or Phil Bodner: reeds; Chuck Wayne: guitar; Paul Chambers: bass; Philly Joe Jones or Art Blakey: drums.

Title: Old Bottle New Wine | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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