Gil Evans Biography
Gil Evans was a Canadian jazz pianist, arranger, composer and bandleader. He passed away at the age of 75 and is widely known as one of the greatest orchestrators in jazz, as he played an important role in the development role in the cool jazz, modal jazz, free jazz and jazz fusion. He is best known for his celebrated collaborations with Miles Davis.
Gil Evans Family
The jazz artist was born as Ian Ernest Gilmore Green in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 13, 1912 to March 20, 1988. His name was changed early on from Green to Evans (Ian Ernest Gilmore Evans), the name of his stepfather. His family moved to Stockton, California where he spent most of his youth. After 1946, he lived and worked primarily in New York City, living for many years at Westbeth Artists Community.
Gil Evans Career
Between 1941 and 1948, Evans worked as an arranger for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. His basement apartment behind a New York City Chinese laundry became a meeting place for musicians looking to develop new musical styles outside of the dominant bebop style of the day. They included the leading bebop performer, Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan and John Carisi.
In 1948, Evans, with Miles Davis, Mulligan, and others, collaborated on a band book for a nonet. These ensembles, larger than the trio-to-quintet “combos”, but smaller than the “big bands” which were on the brink of economic unviability, allowed arrangers to have a larger palette of colors by using French horns and tuba.
The Miles Davis-led group was booked for a week at the “Royal Roost” as an intermission group on the bill with the Count Basie Orchestra. Capitol Records recorded 12 numbers by the nonet at three sessions in 1949 and 1950. These recordings were reissued on a 1957 Miles Davis LP titled Birth of the Cool.
Later, while Davis was under contract with Columbia Records, producer George Avakian suggested that Davis could work with any of several arrangers. Davis immediately chose Evans. The three albums that resulted from the collaboration are Miles Ahead (1957), Porgy and Bess (1958), and Sketches of Spain (1960). Another collaboration from this period, Quiet Nights (1962) was issued later, against the wishes of Davis, who broke with his then-producer Teo Macero for a time as a result.
Although these four records were marketed primarily under Davis’s name (and credited to Miles Davis with Orchestra Under the Direction of Gil Evans), Evans’s contribution was as important as Davis’s. Their work coupled Evans’s classic big band jazz stylings and arrangements with Davis’s solo playing. Evans also contributed behind the scenes to Davis’ classic quintet albums of the 1960s.
From 1957 onwards Evans recorded albums under his own name. Tubist Bill Barber and trumpeter Louis Mucci from Thornhill’s band were both stalwarts in Evans’s early ensembles, with Mucci finding a spot on nearly every pre1980s Evans recording. Among the featured soloists on these records were Lee Konitz, Jimmy Cleveland, Steve Lacy, Johnny Coles and Cannonball Adderley. In 1965 he arranged the big band tracks on Kenny Burrell’s Guitar Forms album.
In 1966 he recorded an album with Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, Look to the Rainbow. He was discouraged by the commercial direction Verve Records was taking with the Gilberto sessions, and he went into a period of hiatus. During this period while he was somewhat depressed about the commercial and logistical difficulties of his previous scoring requirements, his wife suggested that he listen to the guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
He developed a particular interest in the work of the rock guitarist and gradually built another orchestra in the 1970s, with none of the coloration instruments from his past arrangements. Working in the free jazz and jazz-rock idioms, he gained a new generation of admirers. These ensembles, rarely more than fifteen and frequently smaller, allowed him to make more contributions on keyboards, and with the development of truly portable synthesizers, he began using these to provide additional color.
Hendrix’s 1970 death precluded a scheduled meeting with Evans to discuss having Hendrix collaborate with a big band led by Evans. In 1974, he released an album of his arrangements of music by Hendrix, with guitarists John Abercrombie and Ryo Kawasaki.
Fro then on, Evans’s ensembles featured electric guitars and basses, including a notable collaboration with Fender bassist Jaco Pastorius. Before the 1970s, his keyboard playing was sparse on recordings, because the intricacy of his music required that he conduct, but after the 1970s, he gradually moved from the front of the band back “into” the band.
Where Flamingos Fly (recorded 1971, released 1981) demonstrated his ability to contract the most accomplished musicians, with veterans Coles, Harry Lookofsky, Richard Davis and Jimmy Knepper (who played the solo on the “Where Flamingos Fly” track on 1961’s Out of the Cool) alongside young multi-instrumentalist Howard Johnson, synthesizer player Don Preston (at that time still a member of The Mothers of Invention), and Billy Harper.
In 1987, Evans recorded a live album with Sting, featuring big band arrangements of songs by and with The Police. In the same spirit of introducing new talent in his bands, he collaborated with Maria Schneider with her as an apprentice arranger on this and other final projects.
Ryan Truesdell began the Gil Evans Project, which resulted in a 2012 CD entitled Centennial, featuring previously unrecorded compositions and arrangements. These were produced with the permission of the Gil Evans estate, who gave Truesdell access to these scores and materials. Miles Evans, Gil’s son, also led the Gil Evans Orchestra for a centennial concert at New York’s Highline Ballroom, featuring many of the musicians heard in the orchestra during Evans’s lifetime.
Gil Evans Out of The Cool
Out of the Cool is a jazz album by The Gil Evans Orchestra, recorded in 1960 and released on the Impulse! label the following year. Wikipedia
Artist: The Gil Evans Orchestra
Release date: February 1961
Producer: Creed Taylor
Label: Impulse! Records
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Miles Davis Gil Evans
Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings is a box set of music by jazz musicians Miles Davis and Gilmore Evans originally released on CD in 1996 and remastered and re-released in 2004. It collects work from 1957 through 1968 at Columbia Records recording studios.
Release date: 26 August 1996
The Individualism of Gil Evans
This is an album by pianist, conductor, arranger and composer Gil Evans originally released on the Verve label in 1964. It features Evans’ big band arrangements of five original compositions (two cowritten with Miles Davis) and compositions by Kurt Weill, Bob Dorough, John Lewis and Willie Dixon. Tracks 1, 6, 7, 8 & 9 first appeared on the CD version of the album.
Release date: 15 June 1964
Producer: Creed Taylor
Label: Verve Records
- “Time of the Barracudas” (Miles Davis, Gil) – 7:26
- “The Barbara Song” (Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill) – 9:59
- “Las Vegas Tango” – 6:35
- “Flute Song/Hotel Me (Miles Davis, Gil) – 12:29
- “El Toreador” – 3:26
- “Proclamation” – 3:55
- “Nothing Like You” (Bob Dorough, Fran Landesman) – 2:36
- “Concorde” (John Lewis) – 7:39
- “Spoonful” (Willie Dixon) – 13:46
Gil Evans Albums
- 1957: Gil Evans & Ten (Prestige)
- 1958: New Bottle Old Wine (World Pacific)
- 1959: Great Jazz Standards (World Pacific)
- 1960: Out of the Cool (Impulse!)
- 1961: Into the Hot (Impulse!)
- 1964: The Individualism of Gil Evans (Verve)
- 1969-71: Gil (Ampex) – rereleased as Blues in Orbit (Enja)
- 1971: Where Flamingos Fly (Artists House)
- 1972: Masabumi Kikuchi + Gil Evans (Philips [Japan])
- 1974: The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix (RCA)
- 1975: There Comes a Time (RCA)
- 1978: Parabola (Horo)
- 1985: The Mother of the Book – with Glen Hall
- 1987: Collaboration (EmArcy) – with Helen Merrill
- 1987: Rhythm A Ning (EmArcy) – with Laurent Cugny Big Band Lumiere
- 1987: Golden Hair (EmArcy) – with Laurent Cugny Big Band Lumiere
- 1987: Paris Blues (Owl) – duo with Steve Lacy
- 1973: Svengali (Atlantic)
- 1974: Montreux Jazz Festival ’74 (Philips )
- 1976: Tokyo Concert (Studio Songs)
- 1976: Synthetic Evans (PolJazz)
- 1977: Priestess (Antilles)
- 1978: Gil Live at the Royal Festival Hall London 1978 (RCA)
- 1978: The Rest of Gil Evans at the Royal Festival Hall 1978 (Mole Jazz)
- 1978: Little Wing (Circle)
- 1980: Heroes (Verve/Remark) with Lee Konitz
- 1980: Anti-Heroes (Verve/Remark) with Lee Konitz
- 1980: Live at the Public Theater (New York 1980) (Trio)
- 1983: British Orchestra: the Complete Concert (TAA)
- 1984: Live at Sweet Basil (Gramavision)
- 1984: Live at Sweet Basil Vol. 2 (Gramavision)
- 1986: Farewell (Evidence)
- 1986: Bud and Bird (Evidence)
- 1987: Live at Umbria Jazz Volume 1 & 2 (Egea)
- 1987: 75th Birthday Concert (BBC Worldwide)
- 1987: Last Session – with Sting
- 1988: Tribute to Gil
Gil Evans Discography
Singles & EPs
- Miles Ahead, Vol. II
- Miles Ahead, Vol. III
- New Bottle Old Wine Vol.2 (7″)
- Gil & Ten (7″, EP)
- Ray Davies/Gil – Quiet Life /Va Va Voom (12″)
- New Bottle Old Wine (7″, EP)
- Davenport Blues (7″, Single)
- Helen Merrill, Gil – Dream Of You / Summertime (12″)
- Favorite Catalina Memories (Shellac, 10″)
- Pacific Standard Time
- Gil And Tadd Dameron – The Arrangers’ Touch
- Gil / Gary McFarland – The Great Arrangers
- Miles Davis & Gil Evans
- Gil Evans (Cass, Comp)
- Gil Evans (CD, Comp)
- Concierto De Aranjuez (CD, Comp)
- Las Vegas Tango
- The Historic Collaboration In Words & Music (CD, Comp, Promo, Smplr)
- The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings Sampler (CD, Comp, Promo)
- Helen Merrill With Clifford Brown & Gil Evans
- Priceless Jazz Collection (CD, Comp)
- The Gold Collection (CD, Comp)
- The Complete Instrumental Charts For Claude Thornhill – 1942 – 1947 (CD, Comp)
- Gil Featuring Claude Thornhill And His Orchestra With Lee Konitz – The Real Birth Of The Cool – Studio Recordings (CD, Comp)
- 100th Anniversary (CD, Comp)
- Columbia Jazz Profiles
- Out Of The Cool… Into The Hot (Comp + CD, Album, RM + CD, Album, RM)
- Four Classic Albums (2xCD, Comp, RM)
- Six Classic Albums (4xCD, Comp, Enh, RM)
- Miles Davis and Gil – The Original Greatest Hits (2xLP, Comp)
Gil Evans Orchestra Plays Jimi Hendrix
Gil Evans Awards and honors
In 1986, Evans was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.
Grammy awards: 1986: Bud and Bird (Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band)
- 1960: Sketches of Spain (Grammy Award for Best Original Jazz Composition) with Miles Davis
Gil Evans Orchestra
Members: Gil Evans, John Abercrombie
Record labels: Enja Records, Impulse! Records, RCA Victor, Jazz Door, Giants of Jazz, Egea