Thursday, June 14, 2012

CDs of Note - Evans and Evans

Taking a closer look at new CDs from Ryan Truesdell and Bill Evans....
Ryan Truesdell, Centennial - Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans (artistShare)
What a perfect way to honor the late Gil Evans on what would have been his 100th birthday. Only we get the presents this time around, though he gave us a legacy of presents with the sheer breadth and depth of his skill as a composer and arranger, and the impact they have had on modern jazz through his work and his protégés.

Composer/arranger Ryan Truesdell is also an Evans scholar who was given full access to Evans’ extensive musical archives. During his research, Truesdell unearthed nearly 50 works that never had been recorded. Centennial (released on Evans’ 100th birthday, May 13) features 10 of those discoveries. Half were written for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. One of them, the Evans original composition “Dancing on a Great Big Rainbow,” was in the books of three prominent 1950s big bands (Thornhill, Tommy Dorsey and Les Brown) but had never been recorded. There’s also a very different arrangement of “The Maids of Cadiz” that Evans wrote for Thornhill in 1950, seven years before a well-known version he did for Miles Davis.

The CD opens strong with a 14-minute version of “Punjab,” which Evans had written for his 1964 album The Individualism of Gil Evans but didn’t include on the final product. The tune is rooted in Indian folk music and Truesdell wisely added table to the instrumental mix. Another standout: his gentle and dreamy arrangement of “Who’ll Buy My Violets.”

The playing and singing on this CD is marvelous, tapping the talents of more than 30 of New York’s finest jazz artists. No matter which track grabs you ear here, you’ll dig the sonic layering and colors that emerged from Evans’ musical imagination. I can’t wait to hear the project live in Newport on August 5. You’ll be hearing a lot of accolades for this project throughout 2012. They’re well deserved.

Bill Evans, Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate (Resonance)
Resonance Records continues its strong run of releasing significant, historically important, jazz material with this two-CD gem that label president George Klabin recorded more than 40 years ago. He was a 22-year-old recording engineer at the time, who got permission to record pianist Bill Evans’ performance at The Village Gate for broadcast on Columbia University’s radio station, WKCR-FM. The concert aired only once and was never released in any form - until now.

Evans’ fine trio with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morrell was recorded on the night of October 23, 1968. Gomez was two years into an 11-year stint with Evans) and Morrell had joined the group that week. The first disc contains the entire first set; the second disc has set two. This is an amazing live recording. Three tunes (“Emily,” “Yesterdays” and “’Round Midnight”) were performed in both sets, and it is a delight to hear the very different takes by Evans and Co.

This project included the first documented Evans trio performance of “My Funny Valentine,” “Here’s That Rainy Day” and possibly Earl Zindars’ “Mother of Earl.” The band’s takes on “Autumn Leaves” and Evans’ own “Turn Out the Stars” are also gems. The freshness of this music, recorded very well in a live setting, is another reminder of what an influence Evans continues to have on contemporary jazz more than 30 years after his passing.

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