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Bebop Spoken There

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

CD Review: The Gil Evans Orchestra - Hidden Treasures Volume 1, Monday Nights

(Review by David Brownlow).

Every now and again a CD emerges which causes one to react and take a deep breath – this is such a moment – the first release of new music from the Gil Evans Orchestra in over forty years, albeit without the maestro himself at the helm! This is a project by Gil’s sons, Miles and Noah, to produce a trilogy of CDs, of which this is the first, featuring different eras of Gil’s music recreating compositions originally played by the famous ‘Monday Night At The Sweet Basil, Greenwich Village’ during the ‘80s and ‘90s.

There are five compositions by various members of the group and two from Gil himself; the musicians involved are a nucleus of the original regulars plus a whole host of impressive players from the current scene like Gary Smulyan and Jon Faddis. From this amalgam, a magnificent orchestra has emerged where the discipline is much tighter, exuberance is high, the music is astonishing in places and is a wonderful tribute to the man who over several decades influenced much of today’s cool, modal, free and fusion genres.

Pete Levin’s Subway is a dramatic opener full of tension where strong thematic sections lead to Dave Bargeron’s outlandish trombone and Alex Foster’s proclaiming tenor solos, and a final coda typical of ‘The Master’s’ Sweet Basil endings of this era.

Miles Evans’ own LL Funk has such a powerful funk beat, a memorable melody and chord sequence, where synthesizers, two basses, keyboards and guitar weave their complexity. David Mann’s contemporary ‘preaching’ alto appears/disappears throughout….

I Surrender written by Delmar Brown (deceased in 2017) and Alex Foster is a graceful, moving tribute to the former who was a keyboard mainstay of the organisation during this period. Tenderly played, with gorgeous, at times hymn-like harmonies, this also could well be a tribute to the Maestro himself. Foster’s own impassioned playing throughout is backed by lush cushions of exceptional sound.

Popular at ‘Sweet Basil’, Groove from the Louvre is written and arranged by John Clark also a veteran of those days who is also featured on French Horn. A real swinger with strong bass riffs and a declamatory theme provides a platform for trumpeters Ohno and Sipiagin, Cinelu on percussion and Taylor on bass trombone to follow. Sterling work from the whole brass section is notable on this track.

Gil Evans himself arranged Lunar Eclipse by Masabumi Kikuchi which features another stalwart Gil Goldstein on keys in an imaginative, ‘solar flight’ based on a pedal-point. Drummer Dennard then leads the affair to a sudden spectacular conclusion.

A short (1 min 49sec) chorale-like Moonstruck from Gil Evans includes many of his unique harmonic traits equalled by no other composer since. It segues into Eleven by him, which is a blues-inflected swinger showcasing Chris Hunter’s blistering alto, Charles Blenzig on electric piano and Foster again surging on.

An outstanding album recommended unreservedly – most definitely one of the CDs of the month!
David B. 
Available now on: BOPPER SPOCK SUNS MUSIC -   GEO-34752CD. From  Pledge Music.

Miles Evans, Shunzo Ohno (trumpets); David Taylor (bass trombone); Chris Hunter (alto sax/flute: Alex Foster (tenor/soprano sax); John Clark (french horn); Pete Levin (keys);  Marc Egan (bass); Kenwood Dennard (drums); Mino Cinelu (perc.) 
Plus, on various tracks, Gabby Abularach, Vernon Reid (guitar); David Mann (alto sax); Alden Banta, Gary Smulyan (bari. sax); Dave Bargeron, Birch Johnson (trombone); Delmar Brown (synth); Jon Faddis, Alex Sipiagin (trumpet); Matthew Garrison, Darryl Jones (bass); Gil Goldstein (piano); Paul Shaffer (Rhodes).

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