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Ryan Truesdell: Gil Evans Project – Lines Of Color – ArtistShare/Blue Note

Ryan Truesdell: Gil Evans Project – Lines Of Color – ArtistShare/Blue Note ASBN 0133, 62:00 ****:

Gil Evans has sometimes been described as the most important jazz arranger of the 20th Century. Born in Toronto, Canada on May 13, 1912, he was trundled around the country by his peripatetic mother, until about 1920 when he moved to California. Although he did not have any formal musical education, he developed his arranging skills by listening to both jazz and classical musicians. Accordingly, he used these learnings to bring out new sounds, filled with unusual musical colours that became his trademark. Ryan Truesdell has taken some key Evans’ arrangements along with a large orchestra, and presented them before a live audience at the Jazz Standard in New York City in May 2014. The result is this offering Lines Of Color.

The choice of the charts that Truesdell made for inclusion on this releases is interesting. With one exception, Truesdell stayed away from those numbers that were tied to the well-known Miles Davis/Gil Evans recorded collaborations.  Beginning with “Time Of The Barracudas”  which is filled with repeating rhythmic cadences, the Evans touch is identifiable, with space provided for trombonist Marshall Gilkes, and tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin to show their wares. Drummer Lewis Nash pushes the arrangement forward covering his drum kit, and offers a skillful solo demonstration. “Davenport Blues” was written by cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, and recorded by him and His Rhythm Jugglers in 1925. The Evans chart used here is a bluesy affair, with some extraordinary trumpet soloing from Mat Jodrell.

There are several of the very early Evans’ charts from his time with the Claude Thornhill Band. One is “Avalon Town” which has a decidedly 1940s catchy swing-era feel. As the arrangement progresses, more complex harmonies emerge to give the composition a modern interpretation. Another other tune is “Gypsy Jump” which was originally written for the Thornhill band in 1942, which after an intricate opening, the reeds take over in some unison voicing, that sets the stage for a clarinet solo from Steve Kenyon, followed by Donny McCaslin on tenor sax. The reeds again in unison the take the tune out.

Included in the “Easy Living” medley is the one arrangement associated with Miles Davis and that is “Moon Dreams”. The tune was written in 1942 by Johnny Mercer and Chummy McGregor and was the first tune to be issued by the fledgling Capitol Records(owned by Johnny Mercer) and was sung by Martha Tilton. The Miles Davis version on the album Birth Of The Cool was, in a way, a quintessential Evans arrangement. Filled with close-note chords, with the instruments playing in a low register, it had a floaty effect that was unusually beautiful. The iteration used by Truesdell is somewhat different from the Davis version, partially because of the larger ensemble with some higher register instruments. The similar elements are readily recognizable including the coda, which is replete with classical references. All in all it is an enticing version of the tune.

The session closes with “How High The Moon” which according to Truesdell’s liner notes, was one of the last charts Evans wrote for Thornhill in 1951. For a variety of reasons, it was never recorded by Thornhill and so this is the first time the arrangement has been heard. This version swings along with a unison trumpet opening, and several snappy solos mostly noticeably Dave Pietro on alto sax, Frank Kimbrough on piano, Ryan Keberle on trombone and Dave McCaslin on tenor sax.

Finally a big shout-out to Ryan Truesdell for researching and recording these gems which help to document the career of a jazz innovator, Gil Evans.

TrackList: Time Of The Barracudas; Davenport Blues; Avalon Town; Concorde; Can’t We Talk It Over; Gypsy Jump; Greensleeves; Easy Living Medley: Easy Living/Everything Happens To Me/Moon Dreams; Just One Of Those Things; Sunday Drivin’; How High The Moon

—Pierre Giroux

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