Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Gil Evans Centennial Celebration, Highline Ballroom, NYC, May 21, 2012

Family, friends and former bandmates honor late jazz great on centennial

Miles Davis: The Complete Birth of the Cool is out on June 7.
Gil Evans and Miles Davis

The 700-capacity Highline Ballroom in Chelsea was decked out with balloons and party favors in celebration of composer-arranger Gil Evans’ 100th birthday (he was actually born on May 13, 1912 in Toronto and passed away in 1988 at age 76). A brief film preceding the concert featured touching personal testimony from Gil’s wife Anita Evans (who was in attendance) and pop star Sting, who said, “Gil was like a wise elder, like a wise old soul the people on Star Trek would meet.” He went on to praise Evans’ open-mindedness and childlike love of music while mentioning that the greatest advice the elder statesman ever gave him was, “There are no wrong notes.”

Former bandmates from different eras of the Gil Evans Orchestra converged on the Highline Ballroom stage for this nostalgic event. Guitarist Ryo Kawasaki, who played in the band during the mid-’70s and appeared on 1975’s The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix, flew in from Estonia for the occasion. Other mainstays from the old order included tuba ace Howard Johnson and trumpeter Lew Soloff (both of whom joined the Evans orchestra in 1966), guitarist Paul Metzke (from the mid-’70s band), trombonists Tom “Bones” Malone (who joined in 1973) and Dave Bargeron (a member since 1972) and drummer Bruce Ditmas (1971-1977). Tuba virtuoso Bob Stewart, tenor sax great Billy Harper and trumpeter Jon Faddis, all from the mid-’70s Evans orchestra, were also on hand for the festivities. The remainder of the aggregation included stalwarts from the band’s longstanding ’80s Monday night residency at Sweet Basil, the now-defunct Greenwich Village club (with the exception of Strat strangler Oz Noy, who filled in for the late and much lamented Hiram Bullock).

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published