Isn’t the world of jazz wonderful? Anything can happen. This year, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, the legendary composer, arranger and bandleader Gil Evans’ best album has been released. Thanks to fan-funded record label ArtistShare and a young man named Ryan Truesdell, we can listen to previously unheard arrangements by Evans on Centennial, which was released earlier this year.
Going to ArtistShare.com will give you the details on how Truesdell put this together. In fact, the CD comes with a number, which you can use on the ArtistShare website to get a multimedia story on “How It All Happened.” But what’s most important on Centennial is the music. Here’s a quick look at what treasures you’ll find:
Punjab – Right off the bat, Truesdell adds his own touch. Tabla, played here by Dan Weiss, is an Indian drum, and a color that Evans never used in his own orchestra. It’s too bad that this percussion instrument was popularized after Evans was extant. He would’ve loved writing for its liquid sound. It blends perfectly with the inner voices of this composition.
Smoking My Sad Cigarette – Kate McGarry puts on a Rickie Lee Jones voice for this film-noirish tune, which features low brass and emotional barroom piano from the great Frank Kimbrough. Just remember, the Surgeon General has determined that cigarettes are bad for your health.
The Maids of Cadiz – A 1950 version of the second cut from Miles Davis’ Miles Ahead (1957), the album that cemented the relationship between Evans and Davis in the public’s mind.
The Barbara Song – A 1971 take on a Kurt Weill composition arranged by Evans on what, in this writer’s opinion, was Evans’ finest work, The Individualism of Gil Evans. Released in 1964, it featured Wayne Shorter playing tenor sax on the original version. Truesdell picks vibraphonist Joe Locke to feature on this one.
Waltz/Variation on the Misery/ So Long – “Waltz” will be familiar to Evans fans as “Time of the Barracudas,” incidental music written for a play of the same name. It also appears as the first cut on the CD version of The Individualism of Gil Evans.
And those are just the highlights! Sadly, this writer can’t recommend that you go to Twist and Shout, Denver’s best independent record store, to get this CD. It’s only available on the ArtistShare website. If you love big band/orchestral jazz at its very finest, get Centennial. Then, don’t go crazy thanking me; it’s all good.