The second outing from Ryan Truesdell’s Gil Evans Project presents a transition to the live medium, and if it’s possible for Evans’ arrangements to have more bonhomie than they typically do, it’s in this setting. Rarely does a big band sound so intimate and almost touchable as it does across this most generous spread: We have six newly discovered works, a couple of arrangements kitted out with previously unheard sections and three Evans charts from Time of the Barracudas, Concorde and Greensleeves.
Cut over several nights in May at NYC’s Jazz Standard, Lines of Color has that familiar Evans swing that was always interpolated with what we think of as modern touches-spicy accents, playful melodic nods, elements of Spanish music that suggest a kind of early fusion. The take on Bix Beiderbecke’s “Davenport Blues” possesses a rustic grace courtesy of this Evans’ chart, with Frank Kimbrough’s piano suggesting the comforts you might associate with a classic midwestern Booth Tarkington novel-that sense of community and possibility all in an evening’s offing.
The 1951 Evans arrangement of “How High the Moon” is a long way from the Les Paul/Mary Ford version, and Dave Pietro on alto sax and Donny McCaslin on tenor pair up to send the core riff ever skyward, as though it’s trying to provide some musical answer to the question the song poses. Better still is the performance of the ’47 chart of “Sunday Drivin’,” so lissome you have to wonder what make of car could possibly be worthy of the jaunt at hand.