Gil Evans

Gil Evans (13 May 1912 in Toronto Canada20 March 1988 in Cuernavaca, Mexico) was a jazz pianist, arranger, composer, and bandleader, active in the United States. He played a seminal role in the development of cool jazz, modal jazz, free jazz and jazz-rock, and collaborated extensively with Miles Davis.


Born Ian Ernest Gilmore Green, his name was changed early on to Evans, the name of his stepfather. His family moved to Stockton, California, where he spent most of his youth. After 1946, he lived and worked primarily in New York City.

Between 1941 and 1948, he worked as an arranger for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. Evans' modest basement apartment behind a New York City Chinese laundry soon became a meeting place for musicians looking to develop new musical styles outside of the dominant bebop style of the day. Those present included the leading bebop performer Charlie Parker himself. In 1948, Evans, with Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, and others, collaborated on a band book for a nonet. The group was booked for a week at the "Royal Roost" as an intermission group on the bill with the Count Basie Orchestra. Capitol Records recorded 12 numbers by the nonet at three sessions in 1949 and 1950. These recordings were reissued on a 1959 Miles Davis LP titled "Birth of the Cool".

Later, while Davis was under contract to Columbia Records, producer George Avakian suggested that Davis work with any of several arrangers. Davis immediately chose Evans. The three albums that resulted from the resulting collaboration are "Miles Ahead" (1957), "Porgy and Bess" (1958), and "Sketches of Spain" (1960). Another collaboration from this period, "Quiet Nights" (1962) was issued later, against the wishes of Davis, who broke with his then-producer Teo Macero for a time as a result. Although these four records were marketed primarily under Davis's name (and credited to "Miles Davis and the Gil Evans Big Band"), Evans's contribution was as important as Davis's. Their work coupled Evans's classic big band jazz stylings and arrangements with Davis's solo playing. Evans also contributed behind the scenes to Davis' classic quintet albums of the 1960s.

From 1957 onwards Evans recorded, under his own name, "Big Stuff" (1957, aka "Gil Evans & Ten)", "New Bottle Old Wine" and "Great Jazz Standards" (a.k.a. "Pacific Standard Time", 1957-58), "Out of the Cool" (1960), and "The Individualism Of Gil Evans" (1964). Among the featured soloists on these records were Lee Konitz, Steve Lacy, Johnny Coles and Cannonball Adderley. In 1965 he arranged the big band tracks on Kenny Burrell's "Guitar Forms" album. Evans was quite warm to Latin and Brazilian music. 1966 he recorded a 'special' Latin album with his orchestra, "Look To The Rainbow," for the Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto. Evans toured extensively during 1972-87, performing frequently in European concerts and festivals, and traveling twice to Japan, once with Jaco Pastorius.

For a man of his generation and training, Evans was surprisingly open to new directions in popular music. In the 1970s, following Davis and many other jazz musicians, Evans worked in the free jazz and jazz-rock idioms, gaining a new generation of admirers. Evans had a particular interest in the work of rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix's 1970 death made impossible a scheduled meeting with Evans to discuss having Hendrix front a big band led by Evans. In 1975, he released an album of his arrangements of music by Hendrix. In 1986, Evans produced and arranged the soundtrack to the film of the Colin MacInnes book Absolute Beginners (film), therefore working with such contemporary artists as Sade Adu, Patsy Kensit's Eight Wonder, The Style Council, Jerry Dammers, Smiley Culture, Edward Tudor-Pole, and, notably, David Bowie. In 1987, Evans recorded a live CD with Sting, featuring big band arrangements of songs by and with The Police.

In April 1983 the Gil Evans Orchestra was booked into the Sweet Basil jazz club (Greenwich Village, New York) by jazz producer and Sweet Basil owner Horst Liepolt. This turned out to be a regular Monday night engagement for Evans for nearly five years and also resulted in the release of a number of successful albums by "Gil Evans and the Monday Night Orchestra" (produced by Horst Liepolt). One of these albums, "Bud and Bird", won the Grammy award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band in 1989.

In 1986, Evans was inducted into the "Down Beat" Jazz Hall of Fame.

Evans died in the same Mexican city as Charles Mingus, Cuernavaca.


* "Gil Evans & Ten" (1957)
* "New Bottle Old Wine" (1958)
* "Great Jazz Standards" (1959)
* "Out of the Cool" (1960)
* "Into the Hot" (1961). While this album was credited to the Gil Evans Orchestra, it in fact consisted of original material by Cecil Taylor and John Carisi, with no actual Evans involvement.
* "The Individualism of Gil Evans" (1964)
* "Verve Jazz Masters 23: Gil Evans" (1963–1964)
* "Guitar Forms" (1965) (with Kenny Burrell)
* "Look To The Rainbow" (1966) (with Astrud Gilberto)
* "Blues In Orbit" (1971)
* "Svengali" (1973)
* "Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix" (1975)
* "There Comes a Time" (1975)
* "Priestess" (1977)
* "Little Wing" (1978)
* "Live at the Public Theater Volume 1 & 2" (1980)
* "Live at Sweet Basil" (1984–1986)
* "Farewell" (1986)
* "Bud and Bird" (1986) (Grammy award winner 1989)
* "Absolute Beginners" film soundtrack (1986)
* "Live at Umbria Jazz: Volume 1 & 2" (1987)
* "75th Birthday Concert" (1987)
* "Paris Blues" (1987) (duo with Steve Lacy)
* "Last Session" (1987) (with Sting)
* "A Tribute to Gil" (1988)

ee also

*List of experimental big bands


External links

* [ Gil Evans Homepage ]
* [ Interview with "Gil Evans: Out Of The Cool" author Stephanie Stein Crease]

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