Gil Evans: Jambangle




Gil Evans (piano)


Gil Evans & Ten (Prestige OJCCD-346-2 {Mono]; PRSA-7120-6 [SACD - Stereo])

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Gil Evans (piano), Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), Paul Chambers (bass),

Louis Mucci, Jake Koven (trumpets), Willie Ruff (French horn), Bart Varsalona (bass trombone), Lee Konitz (alto sax), Dave Kurtzer (bassoon), Nick Stabulas (drums)


Composed by Gil Evans


Recorded: Hackensack, NJ, October 10, 1957


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Gil Evans kept a low profile in the music world from 1949-1955, even though he arranged for Billy Butterfield and various singers, worked on his piano playing and continued his study of music. Opportunities began to come his way in 1956: his work was featured on a Hal McKusick Jazz Workshop LP; he wrote and arranged the album Miles Ahead in 1957, and was asked to make the album Big Stuff (the original title of Gil Evans & Ten) for Prestige. Evans put together a band of veterans and some younger musicians. The result was a classic ensemble album with excellent solos and brilliant arrangements.

"Jambangle" warrants a full-scale article on its own. Expanding the setting for the McKusick album, Evans changed the feel of the first part of the melody to something more like rock 'n' roll (he would insist during his later electric big band period that he wrote popular music, and this recording seems to prove it), and then the rest of the melody is Basie-like swing. He fully exploits the instrumental colors he selected (although according to Anita Evans and Howard Johnson, he would have preferred to use the tuba instead of the bass trombone, but Bill Barber wasn't available). The bassoon hadn't been used in ensemble jazz since The New Music of Reginald Foresythe in 1935, and it works beautifully in Evans's sound world. Lee Konitz could not be credited on the original album because he was under contract to another label at the time, and in fact he is barely audible. Evans, Lacy and Cleveland solo over rich ensemble fills, which cannot fully be appreciated given that they are mixed under the solos. The out-chorus is one of Evans's best. Orchestrationally it should not work given that the lead instruments are at the bottom of their registers part of the time and should sound muddy, but as with all of Evans's work, what seems impossible is not only possible, but works brilliantly. The tone of the track is not as relaxed as the McKusick recording, but this is the definitive version of the composition in my opinion.

The SACD edition of this album is its first release in true stereo. First the bad news: because the music was difficult and there was a great deal of splicing, there are some alternate solos used (in the case of "Jambangle," the solos are the originals; the ending is from an alternate take). Now the good news: the sound is fantastic, since it is from the first-generation master, allowing us to hear more of what Evans wrote. This release is a hybrid, meaning that it is playable on a normal CD player as well as an SACD unit, so treat yourself even if you don't have one.

It should be noted that I was able to examine the manuscript of "Jambangle" when I co-edited The Gil Evans Collection for Hal Leonard Corporation, a folio of several of Evans's works spanning his entire career. I also conducted the first public performance of the piece at Town Hall for a benefit concert.

Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof

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