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Gil Evans : Gil Evans And His Orchestra

This live recording of a concert in Switzerland is a rare document of the late ’70s edition of the Gil Evans Orchestra featuring Randy and Michael Brecker, vibist Mike Mainieri, drummer Billy Cobham, bassist Tim Landers and guitarist Dean Brown. They join longtime Evans regulars like Howard Johnson on baritone sax and tuba, Lew Soloff on trumpet, Gil Goldstein on synths, John Clark on French horn and others in an eclectic program ranging from Monk to Mingus to Hendrix and Gershwin, with a couple of evocative Evans originals thrown into the mix.

Evans’ enigmatic touch on grand piano comes to the fore on the concert opener, his sparse, rubato meditation “Hotel Me,” which also features a riveting trumpet solo from Randy Brecker. An extended baritone solo by Johnson morphs into an inventive, loping arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s “Friday the 13th” while Gil’s bluesy dirge “Copenhagen Sights” highlights some stellar trumpet work by Soloff, who squeezes out tender passages with the Harmon mute before breaking into some bristling high note pyrotechnics on open horn. Clark adds a virtuosic French horn solo at the dynamic peak of this expansive Evans opus. Soloff also blows aggressively on a funky rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Stone Free,” which Evans underscores on Fender Rhodes.

Cobham, manning an imposing fortress of drums and cymbals all around him, powers the 18-piece band throughout this dynamic and seamless 57-minute set, which includes memorable Evans arrangements of Mingus’ “Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk” and Gershwin’s “Here Comes De Honey Man” from his collaboration with Miles Davis on Porgy & Bess.

While the titles on the DVD are all scrambled (“Orange Was the Color” is mislabeled as “Waltz,” “Friday the 13th” is mistakenly identified as “Copenhagen Sights” and an expansive “Stone Free” suite is wrongly listed as both “Variations on the Misery” and “Orange Was the Color”) and Michael Brecker, unfortunately, does not solo at all on the entire set, this should not diminish enjoyment of this bracing set by Evans’ dynamic ensemble.

Originally Published