Gil Evans and his Orchestra
captures the great jazz pianist in concert at the Palazzo dei Congressi, Lugano on January 27, 1983. Aged 70 at the time, Evans shows no sign of flagging invention as, accompanied by his 18-piece big band, he traverses 10 numbers in just under an hour. Indeed, the 57-minute running length gives away that the concert is a version edited to fill an hour television slot; it would have been nice to have the full gig restored for DVD. Otherwise this is a fine show, with Evans fronting such luminaries as Billy Cobham, drums; Mike Mainieri, vibes; and Michael and Randy Brecker, tenor sax and trumpet respectively.
Numbers are evenly divided between Evans originals, from an expansive 10-minute introductory workout on "Hotel Me", to a "Waltz" in duple time to a selection of standards. Thelonious Monk's "Friday the 13th" is ingeniously deconstructed and never quite put back together, Gershwin's "The Honey Man" is reborn in decidedly funky guise. Inevitably Evans finds room for some Hendrix, "Stone Free" making the cut with some glorious playing by John Clark on French horn. This is essential for Evans aficionados and a more than solid introduction to a jazz master for those who wish to get to know his music.
On the DVD: Gil Evans and his Orchestra on disc has a 4:3 picture that is very good for a live, shot on video concert film, with only some soft focus long shots and "trails" on panning shots across lights revealing the limitations of the original footage. The sound is available in good PCM stereo, very good 5.1 Dolby Digital and excellent 5.1 DTS. This latter soundtrack offers superb detail and presence combined with a subtle three-dimensional ambience. Extras are a basic text biography of Evans and eight trailers for TDK jazz DVDs.--Gary S Dalkin