- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
EVANS, Gil. Svengali. Five Four. Orig. 1973 or 1974; reissued in 2012. $13.43. GE, p, arr; Ted Dunbar, guit; Marvin ‘Hannibal’ Peterson, tpt; Tom Malone, tbn; David Sanborn, alto sx; Trevor Koehler, bari sx, sop sx, flt; Billy Harper, ten sx; Howard Johnson, tuba, bari sx, flgl hrn; Herb Bushler, elec bs; Bruce Ditmas, dr; others.
This isn’t five star music but it’s close to it, another late-midlife album by one of jazz’s truly great arranger bandleaders, Canada born Gil Evans. It contains two tunes by Billy Harper, who also solos to devastating effect on his own “Cry of Hunger”; a George Russell staple, “Blues in Orbit”; a 1 minute 41 second reworking of Evans’s early tune with Miles, “Eleven”; a virtual replay of Evans’s original chord-shifting backdrop on “Summertime,” setting off Ted Dunbar’s effective guitar solo. (Evans used this arrangement a third time to back Helen Merrill, who, with her smoky, affecting voice, may have been the one perfect vocalist for Evans’s signature floating clouds backing.) The solo turns are all good, with Howard Johnson’s tuba solo on “Thoroughbred” and Harper’s solos especially affecting. By the time Evans recorded this album, he had moved to a looser framework than in his earlier albums, a looser balance between ensemble and solo sections, but, better than in some of his later albums, they still seem in balance on this outing. The result isn’t a better music than in earlier albums, just different, and most of the time, it works well. A ten-minute run on George Russell’s “Blues in Orbit” shows how tricky Evans’s arrangements could be, especially the vamps leading into his long pieces. (“Tricky” is a good word here, not a pejorative.) And no one, absolutely no one could voice harmonized unison lines better than Evans could (although Bill Holman and George Russell matched him).
I’ve been replaying a lot of Gil Evans’s albums lately and I was talking about him with a friend last week, who is the former dean of instruction at the community college in Modesto, CA, where he and I live. He told me that way back when, Evans attended Modesto Junior College briefly. The information didn’t add anything to my appreciation of Evans’s music but I liked hearing it.