Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Gil Evans Orchestra, La Nevada.
Gil Evans Orchestra, Where Flamingos Fly.

Something is always happening on this record, and some passages have a hallucinatory vividness that nonetheless conceals vital evidence...

Gary Giddins, on Gil Evans' Out of the Cool.

Gil Evans is remembered primarily as a collaborator, an amplifier of others' voices, such as his work with Miles Davis, from LPs like Sketches of Spain to Evans' (uncredited) arranging work on Filles de Kilimanjaro. One imagines Evans would have preferred it that way--even his "solo" albums are pure collaborative works, in which Evans provides a sketch and his players fill in the picture.

Out of the Cool, the debut showcase for an orchestra Evans assembled in 1960, begins with the fifteen-minute "La Nevada," a snowdrift that starts from a four-bar theme that Evans had been toying with for years. It's a simple phrase--wavering back and forth between G minor 7th and G major. The track begins with a vamp that serves as a royal procession--the musicians entering single-file (Elvin Jones on shakers), and trumpets, flutes and piano offer shards of the the theme. Then, at last, the orchestra sings the theme at once. Solos follow, by John Coles (t), Tony Studd (bass tb), the old master Budd Johnson (tenor sax), Ron Carter (string bass) and Ray Crawford (g). As the recording was underway, Evans walked over to the trombone stand and wrote on a matchbook a riff for them to use.

"Where Flamingos Fly," written by John Benson Brooks, is concise where "Nevada" rambles--its stark beauty is marked by an ominous coolness, with a four-note pattern on piano, flute and guitar serving as a backdrop to the gorgeous trombone playing of Jimmy Knepper.

"Flamingos" was recorded on November 18 & 30, and "Nevada" was recorded December 10 & 15, 1960; on Out of the Cool.

Top: M.C. Escher, Ascending and Descending.

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