GARY MCFARLAND — The Gary McFarland Orchestra - Special Guest Soloist: Bill Evans (review)

GARY MCFARLAND — The Gary McFarland Orchestra - Special Guest Soloist: Bill Evans album cover Live album · 1963 · Progressive Big Band Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Amilisom
I'm going to have to admit that the only reason why I listened to this album, as well as how I discovered it was because of Bill Evans. Before this I had no idea what the Gary McFarland Orchestra was. My impression before listening was that this was something around the lines of "Bill Evans with the Gary McFarland Orchestra" rather than "The Gary McFarland Orchestra with Bill Evans". The latter is the most accurate.

I suppose as a result I was slightly disappointed, as I was expecting an "Arbour Zena" or "Sketches of Spain" style of music. This is none of those. It features the members of the orchestra just as much as, if not more, than Bill Evans himself. But that's not necessarily a bad thing as long as your expectations are in the right place.

Being in JMA's "Progressive Big Band" category, this is a unique style of music. The term "Orchestra" can be rather deceptive. Within the Gary McFarland Orchestra are two bowed stringed instruments (viola and cello), two wind instruments (flute and clarinet), guitar, bass, drums, and Gary McFarland himself vibraphone. Although I tend to enjoy vibraphone solos, this album kind of overuses the vibes in situations when I would be preferring to hear a nice instrumental with the other instruments. I actually find myself wishing the vibes would stay out of the way at times.

Dispite all I've said, this album does have its good moments here and there. Many of the instrumentals sound nice and creative and can evoke mental images of serene landscapes (particularly "Night Images"). Bill Evans sounds good as usual (at least when he is featured), and the vibraphone solos aren't necessarily poor.

So, I would say this is no "Arbour Zena" or "Sketches of Spain", but it is certainly worth a listen for anybody who is interested in hearing something different than the usual.
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