Gil Evans – The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions – Band includes Ernie Royal, Julius Watkins, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey, Curtis Fuller, Steve Lacy and others – Blue Note

by | Nov 4, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Gil Evans – The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions – Band includes Ernie Royal, Julius Watkins, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey, Curtis Fuller, Steve Lacy and others – Blue Note Connoisseur CD Series 0946 3 58300 2 6, 72:00 *****:

Evans was one of the greatest composer-arrangers in modern jazz. He recorded two projects in NYC for Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz label in 1958-59, which were released on two LPs at the time and are here combined on this important reissue. Always ahead of his time in his forward-looking arrangements, Evans accomplished these superb tracks a year before Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue session and a year before George Russell’s Lydian Chromatic Concept exciting the modern jazz world. 

The first eight tracks are from the first album, “New Bottle, Old Wine,” and nos. 9 to 15 comprised the second LP, “Great Jazz Standards.” Like RCA’s Living Stereo and Mercury’s Living Presence recordings, the second session was preserved on three-channel tape, which was rediscovered and used for remastering this new CD compilation. Some passages in solos which had been edited out were restored for this reissue and some spots where a track faded out were also restored. I have the original LPs and the sonics of the CD is a definite improvement.

First, Evans made a terrific selection of great jazz compositions, and then he reorchestrated all of them in his very own unique style, which sounds like no one else. The focus with the first album was on some of the major personages in jazz and a tune associated with them. The performer-composers, in order, are W.C. Handy, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.  For the second album the list runs Bix Beiderbecke, Thelonious Monk again, the beautiful Ballad of the Sad Young Men (from a Broadway show), Clifford Brown, John Lewis, Don Redman, and the closing track is Evan’s own composition La Nevada. I’ve made a mix tape of dozens of different versions of John Lewis’ classic tribute to Django Reinhardt, and I believe Gil Evans’ is the very best of the ensemble arrangements. Mosaic’s Michael Cuscuna produced the reissue, and it’s fully up to the standards of that jazz reissue specialist. Highly recommended!

Tracklist: 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.

– John Henry

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