Gil Evans with RMS: Little Wing
Gil Evans with RMS
Take Me To The Sun (Last Chance Music LCM 002)
Henry Lowther (trumpet), Ronnie Asprey (alto sax), Malcolm Griffiths (trombone), Ray Russell (guitar), Mo Foster (bass), Simon Phillips (drums).
Composed by Jimi Hendrix.
Recorded: Montreux, Switzerland, July 1983
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
After gaining recognition with bandleader Claude Thornhill, arranger Gil Evans worked with Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and other jazz icons. His orchestral prowess and open-mindedness made him a prime mover in "the birth of the cool." Evans's career didn't begin or end with those associations or that genre, however. He also made important contributions to the modern and jazz-rock idioms. In 1983 he was invited by the fusion trio RMS to perform with them at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Years earlier, Evans had scheduled a meeting with Jimi Hendrix to discuss the possibility of the guitarist fronting a big band that would play Gil's arrangements of Jimi's compositions. Hendrix died before that meeting could take place, but Evans never let go of the idea. From then on, he played at least one Hendrix tune in most of his performances.
"Little Wing" is a blues ballad arrangement of Hendrix's classic. Gone are the guitar power chords that Hendrix, and everyone else, used to introduce the piece. Instead, Evans plays a mellow electric piano as drummer Phillips adds some flourishes. Russell's whining guitar and Isham's echo-plexed (or some such effected) trumpet play the beautiful melody. The tune is stretched out into full-blown blues mode for an extended and impressive Russell solo. The arrangement allows Foster's bass to expound as well. The horns dominate a dramatic coda to bring this satisfying performance to an end.
How that big band with Hendrix would have sounded, we will never know. But this music gives us a pretty damned good idea! (Although I do think Jimi would have asked to keep those opening power chords in. :-)
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky