"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 momentand maybe the problem here is actually with Evansis 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 Barbeque; 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: Johnny Coles: trumpet; Curtis Fuller, James Cleveland: trombones; Steve Lacy: Soprano Sax: Cannonball Adderley: also saxophone; Budd Johnson: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Gil Evans: piano; Chuck Wayne, Ray Crawford: guitars; Paul Chambers: bass' Art Blakey, Elvin Jones: drums.