This BLUE NOTE CD reissue combines two Gil Evans albums recorded originally for WORLD PACIFIC in 1958 & 1959. Among the personnel for both albums are Johnny Coles(trumpet); Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Cleveland(trombones); Steve Lacy(soprano sax); Cannonball Adderley(alto sax); Budd Johnson(tenor sax, clarinet); Gil Evans(piano); Chuck Wayne, Ray Crawford(guitars); Paul Chambers(bass); Art Blakey, Elvin Jones(drums). Tracks 1-8('New Bottle, Old Wine') were recorded at Judson Hall, New York city on April 9 & May 2/21/26, 1958. Tracks 9-15('Great Jazz Standards') were recorded at Webster Hall, New York City in early 1959. Gil Evans arrangements of these jazz classics are inventive and exhilarating with fine solos and highlights include Jelly Roll Morton's 'King Porter Stomp', Fats Waller's 'Willow Tree', Thelonious Monk's 'Straight No Chaser' & Clifford Brown's 'Joy Spring'. All in all, this 76-minute CD is an excellent introduction to Gil Evans recordings from the 1950s.
These recordings have long been unavailable. The sessions with Cannonball Adderly, originally titled 'New Bottle, Old Wine' are every bit as good as Gil's album with Miles Davis 'Miles Ahead' recorded the previous year & should to be regarded as one of the greatest albums of big band jazz. Like 'Miles Ahead' the individual pieces form a suite, with some amazingly inventive charts & Adderly at his peak (coinciding with his time in Miles' band). The Penguin guide called this "one of [Adderly's] finest hours".
The second album, originally titled 'Great Jazz Standards' is less great, somewhat let down by Gil's 'arrangers piano' playing, but with some good solos from Johnny Coles. Gil's inventiveness in his arrangement of Monk's 'Straight No Chaser' is quite incredible & Coles' playing on the opener 'Davenport Blues' is pretty special.
These recordings from 1958 and 1959 were originally released as two albums "New Bottle, Old Wine" and "Great Jazz Standards", the latter title being appropriate for both albums for that is what the fifteen tunes are. From "St. Louis Blues" and "King Porter Stomp" via "Lester Leaps In" and "Manteca" and "straight No Chaser" and "Django" Gil Evans covers the history of jazz to that date. One might argue that fewer fine tunes to join the standards library have been written since! Gil Evans plays piano on all tracks, but he is, of course, better known as an arranger. For the first album (tracks 1 - 8) he uses a full sixteen piece band, whereas for the other tracks recorded a year later, not only is the personnel different but the ensembles are marginally smaller (but still count as big band ensembles). Soloists include Cannonball Adderley, Johnny Coles, Steve Lacy, Budd Johnson, Curtis Fuller etc. other musicians include Art Blakey, Paul Chambers and Elvin Jones. However with Evans' work, it is the whole arrangement that is the key to success, not only the skills of the soloists. Evans' big bands are not in the style of either Basie nor Ellington, but sound more like small groups such is the subtlety of the arrangements. A magnificent collection of music.
Definitely a ground breaker but hard to place. Cannonball Adderley and it seems only him (correction if I'm wrong) who delivers very professional and brilliant solos on many of the pieces. There is no doubt that the structure and intent of the arrangements here was jazz (and Gil Evans was first and foremost an arranger) and the album has influenced the genres of jazz and film but the overall effect seems at one remove from what I understand as jazz. It is a bit like Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto, a wonderful thing to be sure but somewhat cold? I expect to be shot down :-) Constructive criticism (please) always welcome