Putting Gil Evans in His Place - JazzWax

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May 21, 2012


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Bill Kirchner

With all enormous respect due to Gil Evans, there would be no Nelson Riddle as we know him without the influence of Bill Finegan. (Both Finegan and the younger Riddle worked for Tommy Dorsey.) Gil, Billy Strayhorn, Riddle, and Bob Brookmeyer were all among Finegan's admirers; Brookmeyer himself told me this.

Gary Carthew

Wow project, a true labor of love. And for some reason, I couldn't help thinking of Gil Evans' famous words: "That's all I did - that's all I ever did - try to do what Billy Strayhorn did."


Brett Gold

I've ordered the CD -- I was at Truesdell's concert last year at St. Peter's where he played some other Evans pieces, including material from the Cannonball Adderly album (Phil Woods did the honors) and a couple of Thornhill pieces, and it was the best, most thrilling big band concert I've been to in 40 years of seeing jazz. The CD promises to be just as good.

For some more great unrecorded Evans, check out the Dutch Jazz Orchestra's CD of rediscovered arrangement of Evans and Mulligan, which has Evans' Spanish Dance and the Easy Living Medley (which formed the basis for Moon Dream's arrangement in Birth of the Cool -- at the St. Peter's concert the vocal part of the medley was handled magnificently by Andy Bey).

John Cooper

I read that Sauter and Finegan were also slow arrangers and when Tommy Dorsey heard they were starting their own band, he laughed and said, "Who's going to write the arrangements?!"

Larry Kart

You write:

"With the release of this album, we hear once again why Gil Evans is considered the textured link between the West Coast studio sound, exemplified by Nelson Riddle, and the East Coast orchestral sound, spearheaded by writers like Gerry Mulligan and George Russell."

Name one person, other than yourself, who thinks or has said such an a-historical, flying in the face of simple chronology, thing? Evans (b. 1912) was well on his way to becoming a personal arranger by the mid-1930s, well before there the "West Coast studio sound" you refer to existed and when Riddle (b. 1921) was still in his early teens. Further, Evans not only was an elder statesmen in the late-1940s circle of NY-based composer-arrangers that included Mulligan, Russell, and John Carisi, but Mulligan et al. also didn't regard Evans as a "textured link" to anything that was happening or had happened in the movie or recording studios of Southern California. Why would they have?

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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