Where Flamingos Fly: Perspectives on The Music of Gil Evans

Admittedly, Gil Evans is a subtitle under the name of Miles Davis at first. An explanation for why the band on that record is so big, and the mood so airy. But once you see his name all of a sudden he’s everywhere. Record bins filled with his works stretching from the 40’s well until before his death in the late 80’s appear in every shop. His name popping up on countless credit sheets, an arrangement here or a composition there – for over forty years. His work with Davis stretches beyond his collaborative albums (Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain) to the beginning of Davis’ career as a bandleader to his stellar run with his 50’s quintet. This collaboration is best understood live. The record Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall features Davis’ 60’s quintet with an orchestra conducted by Evans. Just Click to give it a listen.

As people run the ink well dry on most everyone whose career can be anthologized, still Gil Evans seems to be missing his due. Perhaps it’s difficult to classify the music of Gil Evans, to define what exactly its role was in the development of the new jazz.

There’s a stillness to the music of Gil Evans – each moment is a portrait. From his debut as a bandleader Gil Evans and Ten to his entrancing work on his Impulse! there’s a deliberateness that refrains from being uptight. The result is an idyllic and enrapturing sound that establishes a delicate mood firmly. Once the needle drops a gin and half burnt cigarette appear in your hand. This collection is a great example of what his arrangements can do to a song – even if that song is a standard. Cannonball Adderley is featured prominently, as is Evans himself. Click it to listen.

His apartment was a workshop for most bop legends, but when he manages to put a mic on them they sound like ethereal doppelgangers. Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis serve as great examples of that. Evans seems to be bring out some of the most emotional elements of a musician’s playing, yet his arrangements have a comforting stoicism to them. His is a body of work worth exploration. And as many devoted fans explore, new arrangements seem to appear quite often. This Cenntenial collection was recommended to me and I have to say I’ve spent many mornings with it. Unfortunately, it ain’t hip to Spotify. Another great revisiting of his arrangements that rewards listening is available by clicking this sentence, dig.

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