Gil Evans

Gil Evans was a Canadian musician, arranger and band leader who orchestrated classic jazz albums from the 1940s onwards including three with Miles Davis - 'Miles Ahead' (1957), 'Porgy and Bess' (1958) and 'Sketches of Spain' (1960) - that were recognised by the Grammy Awards Hall of Fame. He was known for the rich texture of his charts and the unusual combination of instruments such as alto saxophone, baritone, French horn, trumpet and tuba that set the stage for soloists to shine. Born in Toronto, Canada, Evans, who took his name from his stepfather, moved to California and after a time with a band of his own he joined arranger Claude Thornhill's band and began to write what the 'New York Times' called "luminescent, floating arrangements and reworking bebop standards". One of his early arrangements, 'Boplicity', hailed as a masterpiece, was recorded by a big band he put together in 1947 with Miles Davis, saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and pianist John Lewis, who later co-founded the Modern Jazz Quartet. The band recorded several other numbers with Evans' arrangements over the next decade but their disinclination to try to please an audience or make music for dancing did not lead to commercial success, while Evans prospered by writing and arranging for popular artists such as Pearl Bailey, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee and Johnny Mathis. In 1957, a collection of the recordings with Davis, Mulligan and Lewis was released on an album titled 'Birth of Cool' followed rapidly by the three classic Davis albums; their introduction is regarded as a seminal moment in the development of modern jazz. Evans went on to record several albums under his own name with an assortment of players including Bill Barber on tuba and Louis Mucci on trumpet. He released several well-regarded albums in the 1960s including 'Out of the Cool' and 'Individualism of Gil Evans', which featured saxophonist Wayne Shorter. He recorded with Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto and in 1974 he released an album titled 'The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix' featuring David Sanborn on alto saxophone, Howard Johnson on tuba, Billy Harper on tenor saxophone and John Abercrombie on guitar. For years, he played every Monday night at a club called Sweet Basil in New York's Greenwich Village, and those performances are preserved on four live albums. He died of peritonitis in Mexico aged 75 in 1988. In its obituary, the 'New York Times' noted his "gauzy, immensely felt orchestrations" and said, "Mr. Evans's music was an affirmation of his inquisitiveness and courage, and a tribute to the possibilities open to American artists."

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Stations Featuring Gil Evans

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