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RYAN TRUESDELL’S GIL EVANS CENTENNIAL PROJECT REDUX

the celebration of Gil Evans’ 100th in 2012 continued into 2013.  conductor  Ryan Truesdell brought the large 16-piece ensemble into Jazz Standard for an encore presentation  (see my previous comments).  it was a tripartite week.  the first two days were given over to Evans’ Claude Thornhill sojourn.  next came the albums such as “Individualism,” concluding with the last day’s dedication of the Miles Davis collaborations.  i was present in the middle.

Truesdell has combed through the Evans catalog of compositions and arrangements selecting only those in Gil’s own hand.  that means that charts which were not preserved as originals are not included in the new band’s repertoire.  as i have carped before that’s too bad because there are charts such as some from the “Pacific Standard Time” LP whch Evans nortoriously “destroyed,” such as King Porter Stomp which were gems of improvisation and re-arranging.  there are transcriptions available but Truesdell staunchly refuses the use them.  i’ll keep trying as it is my singular favorite of the catalog.  (followed closely by La Nevada from “Out of the Cool.”)

some unusual selections were on tap this night.  Nothing Like You, penned by Bob Dorough, opened the set.  Dorough sang this notably with Miles Davis.  ”I’m still not sure why Miles chose me to sing with him,” Dorough has commented to me.  the Evans arrangment sticks to those “outside” chords for which both Gil & Bob are noted.

Nothing was followed by something simply called Blues.  let me say that no blues is simple. as i tell my students, you try taking chorus after chorus of three chords and 12 bars of music.  for Gil it was a challenge to which he rose brilliantly.  the Centennial band shares that spirit.

John Lewis’ Concorde from the Modern Jazz Quartet’s early Prestige album of the same title is a brllliant exposition of Bachian interpolation.  ”Concorde” remained in the MJQ catalog for deades.  the Evans chart sticks to the fugue pattern and develops it from there.  for one young classical pianist “Concorde,” the album, was the first foray into understanding how important jazz was.  my piano teacher did not agree.  Evans’ chart adds an exclamation point.  when i first visited Place de la Concorde in Paris some two decades later Lewis’ musical impressions reverberated.  again, Truedell’s troupe played it to perfection with nary a fugato flaw.

as if to emphaszie my observation about the blues, The Meaning of the Blues featured  extended chase choruses by Donny McCaslin and Steve Wilkes, tenor and trombone, respectively.  they never ran out of ideas.  and they do it for two sets a night.

by the way, i was told that the Truesdell/Gil Evans Project play different sets every night; while some tunes may be repeated, no two sets are alike.

what followed was a special treat.  Truesdell and the Project repeated their victory in the respected Jazz Journalists Association Awards by winning two in 2013.  JJA President, Howard Mandel, was on hand to present the well-deserved awards to him/them.

JJA Prez Howard Mandel presenting awards to Ryan Truesdell @ Jazz Standard  (photo Rosie Mandel) 

as time ran out on the set the band presented a lesser-known brief Evans arrangement.  the tune is the old-English madrigal Greensleeves.  this thing in its original versions has chorus upon chorus of lyrics composed by everyone’s fave writer, Anonymous and his cousin Public Domain.  Pete Seeger of the Weavers fame once noted that each verse was sillier than the preceding.  the Evans limited itself to one but it was echoed throughout the chart.

text © 2013 by arnold jay smith


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