The Gil Evans Orchestra is back after 40 years

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Sometimes jazz is experimental. Other times, it is fused with other genres for even more unexpected sounds. At yet other times, it is (or it sounds like what jazz fans and non-jazz fans alike expect the genre to sound like. That is exactly what happens with the Gil Evans Orchestra on their first release in 40 years. To say that the music found on “Hidden Treasures Monday Nights, Volume One” plays like a celebration is an understatement. The music is alive. All the right jazz phrases are there, and even a few groovy phrases from soul and pop show up.

There is a glamour present in the soundscape that probably has nothing to do with the group’s hiatus. The malleable bass will keep dance-oriented listeners moving. Each smooth piece of every song fits together in a seamless package of horn blare, percussion that attacks the groove, and a dancing bass line that intersects with the drums in a way that can’t be missed.

“Hidden Treasures Monday Nights, Volume One” will be available Dec. 7, 2018. The recording contains seven songs. The most original of which is “Groove From the Louvre.”

About the Gil Evans Orchestra

Named after the late band leader, Gil Evans, the ensemble pays tribute to Evans’ role in the development of modal jazz, free jazz and jazz fusion. All of those types are heard throughout “Monday Nights…”

Evans is considered one of the world’s greatest jazz composers. His work with Miles Davis includes such iconic works as “Birth of the Cool,” “Porgy and Bess” and “Sketches of Spain.”

The current album is named after a series of gigs that actual began in the late 1970s, but by 1983 had become a regular occurrence. The gigs were played at the Greenwich Village Club, Sweet Basil. The club was also the site of live recordings by Evans and the ensemble. The gig series continued sporadically until 1994.

The original incarnation of the band was outfitted with some of the best musicians of the day, including David Sanborn, Tom “Bones” Malone, Howard Johnson and others. The spirit of the group is kept alive by Evans’ sons, Noah and Miles. The current roster of players has some well-known names, too. In a few cases, they are outside the world of jazz, but nonetheless famous in their own right. Paul Shaffer (of David Letterman fame) and Vernon Reid, guitarist for Living Colour, brings a rock edge to his guitar work with the group.

There are a number of talented musicians in this well-developed jazz orchestra. The array of instruments represented by the musicians here is almost overwhelming. There are multiples of basses, trumpets, nearly all ranges of saxophone, various drums and percussion players, synthesizers, keyboards and pianos and even a bass trombone round out the ensemble. The instrumentation bears well on the sound of the recording.

“Groove From the Louvre” by The Gil Evans Trio

The song begins with an innocuous series of long notes by the flugelhorn, which are augmented by other brass instruments. A slow swaying line builds from the horns. A drum and percussion run remind listeners that the sound could change, and within a few measures it does.

The brassy, bold sound seems to have little to do with the nearly tranquil opening. The build up might remind some listeners of disco songs, the way the beat comes back around. There are instrument solos, but the main beat, the groove remains. When the song slows down in the latter half, it still keeps its verve, and just when audiences think they understand where the song is going, it changes direction, but wait a few measures and the beat comes back.

Engaging and fun, but all around classic. The recordings to celebrate Evans’ work are national treasures. Other recordings are planned, and jazz fans need to be aware for their release dates. “Hidden Treasures Monday Nights, Volume One” will be available Dec. 7, 2018.

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