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Gil Evans: The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions

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"Complete" in this case refers to two LPs worth of primo early Gil Evans.The first LP on this disc answers the question of what would have happened if Evans had written a concerto for anyone other than Miles Davis. "New Bottle, Old Wine" is a version of the "Miles Ahead" concerto concept for Cannonball Adderley. And while the adventurous arrangements of "King Porter Stomp" and "Lester Leaps In" exercise Cannonball's skills to the max, this is an attractively happy entertainment, rather than a monumental tour de force—"Miles Ahead" from a different angle.

Adderley's only weak moment—and maybe the problem here is actually with Evans—is swinging the Evans arrangement of Dizzy's "Manteca" in a manner that actually de-Latinizes the piece, trading off its polyrhythmic urgency for some swooping brassy choruses that sound generic. That's a minor quibble, though, about a handsome showcase for Adderley which stretches out with the likes of Art Blakey and Paul Chambers behind him.

What makes this release essential is the second LP it showcases, Great Jazz Standards. What a talented cast of soloists Evans brought to this material. Steve Lacy shines, as you would expect, with a skating solo through Monk's "Straight No Chaser." Trumpeter Johnny Coles casts a moody spell with his mournful solo on "Django." And the neglected reedman Budd Johnson does a winsome clarinet solo on Don Redman's "Chant of the Weed."

These Evans arrangements are always a revelation, without a gaffe like taking the Latin rhythms out of "Manteca." And Evans offers an early version of his "La Nevada" with a wicked interplay with drummer Elvin Jones that offers a sneak preview of "Out of the Cool."

For reasons which escape me, Blue Note has released this set in its limited edition "Connoisseur" series, despite its potential for broad audience appeal This is some of the best Evans on record, apart from what he realized with Miles.

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 (aka Theme).

Personnel: Tracks 1-8: Johnny Coles, Louis Mucci, Ernie Royal (1-3,5,6), Clyde Reasinger (4,7,8): trumpets; Frank Rehak, Joe Bennett: trombones; Tom Mitchell: bass trombone; Julius Watkins: French horn; Harvey Phillips (1,2,5,6), Bill Barber (3,4,7,8): tuba; Cannonball Adderley: alto saxophone; Gerald Sanfino (1,2,5,6), or Phil Bodner (3,4,7,8): piccolo, flute, bass clarinet, English horn; Chuck Wayne: guitar; Paul Chambers: bass; Philly Joe Jones (3), Art Blakey (all others): drums; Gil Evans: piano, arranger, conductor. Tracks 9,10,13: Johnny Coles, Louis Mucci, Allen Smith: trumpets; Bill Elton, Curtis Fuller: trombones; Dick Lieb: bass trombone; Bob Northern: French horn; Bill Barber: tuba; Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone; Al Block: flute, clarinet, bass clarinet; Chuck Wayne: guitar; Dick Carter: bass; Dennis Charles: drums; Gil Evans: piano, arranger, conductor. Tracks 11,12,14,15: Johnny Coles, Louis Mucci: trumpets; Jimmy Cleveland, Curtis Fuller: trombones; Rod Levitt: bass trombone; Earl Chapin: French horn; Bill Barber: tuba; Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone; Eddie Caine: alto saxophone; Budd Johnson: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Ray Crawford: guitar; Tommy Potter: bass; Elvin Jones: drums; Gil Evans: piano, arranger, conductor.

Title: The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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