The Gil Evans Orchestra “Hidden Treasures Monday Nights, Volume One” Bopper Spock Suns Music GEO 34752 45:53****
( John Clark – French Horn; Mino Cinelu – percussion; Kenwood Dennard – drums; Mark Egan – bass; Miles Evans – trumpet; Alex Foster – tenor & soprano saxophones; Chris Hunter – alto saxophone, flute; Pete Levin – keyboards; Shunzo Ohno – trumpet; David Taylor – bass trombone; plus numerous guest musicians)
Gil Evans was born in Toronto, Canada in 1912 and while Canadians liked to claim him as one of their own, he moved to Stockton, California at a very early age, and spent all of his working life in the United States.
Although Evans was predominantly self-taught, he demonstrated that he had a gift for arranging that began first with the Skinnay Ennis band (1938-41) and later with the Claude Thornhill orchestra (1941-48). His progression to an arranger of substance began in 1947, as he developed his relationship with Miles Davis. That led to the seminal Miles Davis Birth Of The Cool album in 1950.
Throughout the 50s and into the early 60s, there were multiple Evans/Davis collaborations that catapulted both individuals into the jazz stratosphere. Evans used this association to launch several of his own recordings such as Gil Evans And Ten, Great Jazz Standards. Out Of The Cool, and The Individualism Of Gil Evans among others.
Following this, Evans began an initiative fronting a large ensemble that played Monday nights at The Village Vanguard and later on at Sweet Basil. This resulted in several live recordings under the title of Gil Evans and the Monday Night Orchestra. It is this latter construct this release seeks to emulate with the first of a trilogy of recordings celebrating Evans music. Getting this session underway is an original from keyboardist Pete Levin entitled “Subway”. It opens with some deep brass voicing, then segues into surges of sound fully in keeping with the Evans arranging model. With drummer Dennard connecting the proceedings, trombonist Dave Bargeron and Alex Foster on tenor sax build scope and substance in their solo offerings. One can imagine the swerve and swoop, stops and starts of an underground journey.
Trumpeter Miles Evans (son of Gil and named after Miles Davis) penned “LL Funk” and it begins with drummer Dennard laying down a funky beat to propel the number forward. Keyboardist Paul Shaffer ( who led the band on The Late Show With David Letterman) interjects a minimalist solo just before bassist Matthew Garrison and guitarist Vernon Reid add lines that are a rock and jazz combination that deliver a live-wire sound.
French hornist and composer John Clark wrote “Groove From The Louvre” which the Evans orchestra played frequently when they were installed at the club Sweet Basil. Evans regularly used the French Horn in his arrangements noticeably on the Birth Of The Cool album as well as on the other Miles Davis/Evans orchestral releases. He believed that the horn extended the range of the orchestra to create a new sound. Clark opens the number on French horn in a gentle mode, but it gradually shifts into a strong melodic statement. The number has an understated swinging feel with trumpeters Shunzo Ohno and Alex Spiagin along with percussionist Mino Cinelu all of whom eventually give the outing a sinuous colour.
“Moonstruck” is a delicious little vignette written by Gil Evans that has nuanced and textured sonorities that are typical of his musical expressions.
The final track is another Gil Evans offering. It has an eclectic sound and is set in motion by the alto saxophonist Chris Hunter and the synthesizer of Charles Blenzig. There is a fervid approach to the composition that is delivered by a big sonorous attack. Tenor saxophonist Alex Foster adds his voice to the proceedings with authority and confidence.
This release is filled with strong musical impressions that are a hallmark of music that was created and played by Gil Evans.
Groove From The Louvre
Lunar Eclipse; Moonstruck