“That’s all I did – that’s all I ever did – try to do what Billy Strayhorn did.”
…and more, I wanna add. — It was in the Summer of 1983, when I saw the very skinny man, sitting behind a fender piano, leading his orchestra at the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. Gil was in good spirits, always smiling, and making jokes.
I don’t remember what they played, but it was a wild mixture of jazz, rock, and freely pulsating sounds; very impressive, especially for an upcoming young trumpeter, ’cause master Lew Soloff was in the band.
Here is the Gil Evans Orchestra from 1983; Lew Soloff can be spotted here, also Jiggs, and the other maestro on trumpet, Mr. Ack van Rooyen:
One of my favorite Gil Evans recordings – and probably his most intimate – is featuring only him on electric & acoustic piano, and Steve Lacy on soprano sax: Paris Blues (1987).
Gil’s brilliant collaborations with Miles are legend, and also his notorious “laziness”, if we can believe Miles who said that Gil sometimes needed a week for writing down just four bars of a chart.
Jiggs Whigham once told me about those “charts” that Gil would have given some loose sheets to the trombone section, containing only sketches which had to be played on cue.
As for trombone cues: One of Gil’s fabulous charts, featured in the radio portrait I mentioned above, was King Porter Stomp with Cannonball as the main soloist.
Happy 100th Anniversary up there, Gil Evans!
Thanks for the beautiful music. You will always be remembered, and *not* only for your “eclecticism”, that’s for sure!
Blog owner’s addendum:
Early big-band-arranging efforts with Claude Thornhill & His Orchestra and Buster’s Last Stand (1942) (sorry for the annoying fanfare in the beginning)…
…and I Don’t Know Why (1942) with vocals by Lilian Lane & The Snowflakes:
More sounds here; another, comparably ‘conventional’ duet recording with Gil Evans & Lee Konitz from their ‘live’ album Heros:
Here we go with Gil Evans & His Electric Freebop Big Band, ‘live’ at Sweet Basil, 1986: