Claude Thornhill (featuring Gil Evans): Sorta Kinda
Claude Thornhill Orchestra
The Real Birth of the Cool: Studio Recordings (Sony)
Ed Zandy, Louis Mucci, Emil Terry (trumpets); John Torrick, Allen Langstaff (trombones); Walt Weschler, Sandy Siegelstein (French horns); Harold Weskel (tuba); James Gemus, Victor Harris, Ed Stang (flute, piccolo); Danny Polo (alto saxophone, clarinet); Bill Glover (alto saxophone, flute) Mickey Folus (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet); Mario Rollo (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Billy Bushey (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet); Barry Galbraith (guitar); Joe Shulman (bass); Bill Exner (drums); Gene Williams (vocal).
Composed by James Oliver Young.
Recorded: New York, June 4, 1947
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
This recording has so many great Gil Evans arrangements that I'd easily qualify it as a must-own CD. I love this particular arrangement because it's just so swingin’ and hip (I know–very subjective words).
First of all, this is probably not the hippest song on the planet, and neither is the singing, but what Gil manages to create is extraordinary. The intro is quirky and wild, starting with the ascending sax line leading into the huge ensemble blast, then dropping off a cliff into a little piano moment. Contrast is a big part of the personality of this arrangement. It's very daring. Gil doesn't bring in the vocalist until after a full minute into the tune, and the whole piece is less than 3 minutes. He makes a very bouncy version of the melody with tight ensemble writing. After the intro, it feels very conventional, but rhythmically it swings like crazy. At the end of this first statement of melody between Gil's mid-range brass and piano, he creates a really unexpected transition and modulation. Listen to the bottom of the brass, the unison line against the quirky line in the trumpets. Also, this transition extends the form of the tune and creates an odd phrase that goes on longer than expected. The piece is full of surprises–the kind you want to experience again and again. I find it to be a hilarious moment when this wildly creative transition settles into a new key and the simple vocal entrance. As the vocal delivers the melody, Gil throws in some awesome counter-lines in the saxes and French horns, with great little brass hits–endless details that make the feel so lively! Then the band's full, concerted ensemble send-off to the tenor solo is superb line writing, creating a completely light and fluid full ensemble. Not easy to do, trust me! And the band is so swingin', too. Check out how hard the band swings and the great line in the ensemble right before the vocal returns. Man! Of course, Gil writes fantastic lines for every player so it's super-gratifying to play, and, with the inner parts so well written, it's almost impossible not to swing. Just when you think Gil's given you his last surprise, check out the last note. With a very dry delivery, he lands on an odd note (the relative minor key). How I wish I’d known this piece when I knew Gil. I'd have loved to listen to it with him. I know the exact look on his face and the laugh he'd make when he heard the last note himself. That man had some sense of humor and this is one fantastic arrangement. And to think it was recorded in 1947. Wow!
Just a side note: obviously Gil also realized how hip this arrangement was, because he would come to reuse a lot of this same ensemble passages almost 10 years later for his arrangement of “People Will Say We're In Love” with Helen Merrill on her wonderful album, arranged entirely by Gil, called Dream of You.
Reviewer: Maria Schneider