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About the Reviewer - Wes George

I have been associated around the jazz genre all my life, growing up in a family of jazz professionals my parents played the classic swing and big band dance music throughout their 30 years on the road.

 
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I grew up being bathed during practice nights by my mother who was the vocalist and pianist in the band and she would wash me during rehearsal breaks on a Sunday evening.

Although I heard all of the pop music growing up in the 50's, 60's and 70's and the soul, rock and country music that my brothers were playing in their bands I started playing soul, funk and fusion jazz in my live shows in the 70's and apart from a radio break in Canada whereby soft rock was the menu I continued with my live shows until 1994 when JazzNet247 Radio Europe was founded.

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Artist : Gil Evans

Album : Out Of The Blue

Year : 1961

Label : Impulse

 
gil evans

Personnel : Gil Evans : Piano, Arranger | The Gil Evans Orchestra

Gil Evans, born Ian Ernest Gilmore Green in Toronto, Canada on May 13th 1912 was a jazz pianist, arranger, composer and orchestra leader. He was unique in the history of jazz and his recordings revolutionised the entire concept of harmony and jazz instrumentation. He created an entirely personal and instantly recogisable style which few before him had achieved, and definitely few after him.

Gil Evans was highly original but his noteriety came late in his career and he had many long spells of inactivity. This set OUT OF THE COOL was recorded in 1960 with his orchestra when he was 48 and this is the album that showed the world of his true talent.

When his father died his mother married a miner called Evans and hence he became known as Gil Evans.

Gil was a self aught piano player and first got the jazz bug listening to the Duke Ellington Orchestra, he formed his first band in circa 1933-34 which became popular in the California area.

Evans met bandleader Claude Thornhill in 1937 and went to New York where he would spend most of the rest of his life. He became buddies with saxman Lestor Young during the second world war and at the end of his service in 1946 remained in New York where he was to create a new sound in jazz called COOL JAZZ.

He lived in a basemnet flat on 55nd Street which was to become the meeting place for the jazz stars of the day including Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, John Carisi, George Russell and a young trumpter called Miles Davis.

Their collaboration as a 9 piece ensemble in 1949-50 using Gil's arrangements was to yield one of the most important recordings in jazz history entitled BIRTH OF THE COOL.

OUT OF THE COOL is considered a flawless masterpiece in jazz recordings and although there are only 5 tracks on the LP they are performed by an orchestra of acclaimed musicians and would remain one of the iconic jazz albums of that period and of all time.

The man behind the release was Creed Taylor ( who would go on to release the wonderful albums on the CTI (Creed Taylor Impulse) label on Sony Jazz ), but the Impulse label was relatively new at that time but yielded imppeccable recordings and painstaking intense graphics of the day displaying the cover art. They had a policy of devising hard-hitting titles that fired the imagination of the listener.

Up to this point Gil Evans' music had been associated with COOL JAZZ mainly because of his association with Miles, on this set Gil began to move away from it and forge his own identity, hence the album title ' OUT OF THE COOL '.

The Gil Evans Orchestra included such wonderful musicians as trumpeter John Coles, trombonists Keg Johnson and Jimmy Knepper and saxman Budd Johnson who was the partner for many years to Earl Hines. Guitarist Ray Crawford and tuba player Bill Barber were included in the ensemble and the rhythmn section was the iconic Ron Carter on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, both of whom would go on to feature in The Miles Davis Quintet and The John Coltrane Quartet respectively.

As for the songs on OUT OF THE COOL, it opens with a 16 minute rendition entitled LA NEVADA which has staggeringly only two chords : G minor seventh and G major, only a small part of this track was scored with the rest left to the orchestra's improvisation.

WHERE FLAMINGOS FLY is a more melancholy affair whereby a repeated arpeggio accompanies the suggestive theme played by Jimmy Knepper on trombone with a mournful intensity.

BILBAO SONG was taken from the movie Happy End and it is more like a 'musical journey' with subdued drums and percussion leading to saxophones playing the theme slowly over reharmonised chords. The double bass then takes center stage on the melody line and is followed by a third harmonic interpretation played by the full orchestra,

The track STRATUSPHUNK is a play on the words funk and stratosphere and was conceived by George Russell, a long time exponent of Modal Jazz and had worked with Gil and Miles in the past. It features layers of sound superimposed upon each other, yet partially independent of each other, rather like piecing a jigsaw together on the improvisational fly.

The album closes with a Gil Evans compostion called SUNKEN TREASURE whereby the orchestra creates dark undulating backgrounds and trumpter John Coles plays a lengthy muted solo whilst the percussion element is heard sparingly in the background.

Hailed a masterpiece at the time this is an album for 'true blue jazz fans' to listen to, but once won't be enough, there is so much going on here that it will take the avid listener a number of plays to understand the concept and appreciate the wonderful arrangements and musicianship on one of jazz's classic recordings. ^

Review by Wes George
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