Ryan Truesdell – Lines of Color: Gil Evans Project Live at Jazz Standard – Blue Note/Artist Share, 61:41 (Rec. May 13-18, 2014) ****:
(Ryan Truesdell – producer and conductor; Jesse Han, Jessica Aura Taskov, Steve Kenyon, Steve Wilson, Dave Pietro, Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson, Brian Landrus, Tom Christensen, Alden Banta – woodwinds; Adam Unsworth, David Peel – french horns; Augie Haas, Greg Gisbert, Mat Jodrell – trumpets; Ryan Keberle, Marshall Gilkes – trombones; George Flynn- bass trombone; Marcus Rojas – tuba; James Chirillo, Frank Kimbrough – piano; Jay Anderson – bass; Lewis Nash – drums; Wendy Gilles – vocals; Lois Martin – viola)
For the second CD issue from composer/producer Ryan Truesdell, leader of the Gil Evans Project (the first was Grammy winner, CD Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans, released in 2012), Ryan decided to record portions of the group’s annual week-long stay at Jazz Standard. He felt it could capture Gil’s music even better than a studio recording. In the later part of his career, he branched into more free expression, live recordings were the most financially feasible way to present his compositions. From 1973 (Svengali) until his passing in 1988, more than half of Evans’ orchestra’s recordings were done in live settings.
The eleven tracks on Lines of Color cover the period of time that Gil was with the Claude Thornhill orchestra and up to mid-‘60s compositions. Six charts cover the Thornhill period, while two are from the middle period of his career, one of which the band never recorded. “Time of the Barracudas” and “Concorde” are from mid-‘60s. They previously appeared in different form on Individualism of Gil Evans.
Highlights on the CD are numerous. Marshall Gilkes’ trombone shines through on “Time of the Barracudas.” “Davenport Blues” involved major work by Truesdell as Evans had altered his arrangement for different groups and had erased and written over the original score. Ryan found four pages in the middle of the score that were omitted from the recorded version. “Avalon Town” was the most recently discovered previously unrecorded Evans’ arrangement. Seven band members get solo time here.
John Lewis’ well-known MJQ composition, “Concorde” gets the Evans’ treatment for a full band, and Lois Martin’s viola solo is striking. “Can’t We Talk it Over” features Wendy Gilles’ vocal that would have been de rigeur for the 1940s. “Gypsy Jump” was written for Thornhill in the late ‘40s and is a first time recorded presentation. It’s a cool time piece from that era. “Greensleeves” arranged in 1965 for Kenny Burrell is a solo feature for trombonist Marshall Gilkes, and he makes the familiar melody swing.
Truesdell feels that the Evans’ arrangement of “Easy Living Medley” was one of Gil’s greatest works as composer/arranger as “there are subtle shifts in the harmony on nearly every eighth note and it has counter melodies weaving in and out of each other.” Vocalist Gilles and Scott Robinson are again featured as they were with pianist Frank Kimbrough on “Can’t We Talk It Over.”
The arrangement for “Just One of Those Things” is different than found on the Gil Evans +10 album, and is presented here for the first time. Soprano sax star, Steve Wilson, takes honors here.
“Sunday Drivin” with a part written for Lee Konitz is from 1947, and when this tune was recorded at the Jazz Standard last year, Konitz was in the audience 67 years later. How time flies….The CD concludes with “How High the Moon” and is a chart of the standard that Gil Evans wrote in 1951 as one of his last for the Thornhill band. This chart, like several presented here had remained unrecorded until now.
Going back to the concept of big band jazz being unfeasible to take on the road, it is a shame that music of this caliber and historical significance can not be presented throughout the country and not just in Jazz Central/New York City where the band’s members live. Till that eternal problem is solved, be thankful for the issuance of the Gil Evans Project CDs honoring a musical genius with previous unreleased material.
TrackList: Time of the Barracudas, Davenport Blues, Avalon Town, Concorde, Can’t We Talk It Over, Gypsy Jump, Greensleeves, Easy Living Medley, Just One of Those Things, Sunday Drivin’, How High the Moon