GIL EVANS — The Individualism of Gil Evans (review)

GIL EVANS — The Individualism of Gil Evans album cover Album · 1964 · Progressive Big Band Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
Well, there was an almost three-year gap in Evans’ solo career before the present on a different label (Verve, this time), in which I’m not sure what he did (outside Miles collabs) and it would almost seven years before another album would come out under his name. In the meantime, this isolated album just happens to be among his top 3 most essential albums, along with previous Out Of The Cool and the latter Svengali 70’s release. As often with GE, the music has a cinematic film (meaning it would be perfect to illustrate images, either documentaries or fiction), but it never gets boring and certainly don’t need visuals to exist and explode in your brains. Actually, as often, the music will induce images before you aural eyes. Among the cast of actors, you’ll find Shorter, Peacock, Elvin & Thad, Dolphy, Carter, Lacy, Chambers, Coles and Knepper and that’s only the name-dropping part.

The CD version of this album is a rather strange format that includes plenty of bonus tracks: nothing strange to that you’ll tell me, but to have the disc open on a bonus track is a relatively odd manner to reissue a classic album. There is somewhat of an explanation: if Time Of The Barracudas was recorded in the same session as Barbara Song, both are exquisite typical Gil Evans tracks that fit rather well together in terms of musical continuity. So much for preserving the integrity of the original release, but the cause is indeed a valid one. Past the exciting but still-swingy new opener, we come to the amazing Barbara, one of the masterpiece of this album, which starts out over some excellent horn works over Peacock’s excellent bass, soon joined by Elvin’s always excellent drumming, then it continues with an anguished piano over a smooth and very slow but brooding low-brass background. Excellent stuff!! Another chef d’oeuvre is the outstanding Las Vegas Tango, with its opening piano prefacing awesome Spanish-type mid-tempoed brass lines, before exploding your mind in pieces with an amazingly effective three notes high-brass ostinato riff coupled with low-brass single note answers, while guitarist Burrell sends one of those most definitive jazz-guitar solo ever through your eardrums, thus spending chills in your spine. Awesome stuff, really

Across the slice of wax, on the flipside, there was the 12-mins+ Flute-Hotel suite, the mood remains Rodrigo-styled in the intro, before Elvin bangs a tempo forcing the blowers and Gil to rolling over in a semi-bluesy groove, but it kind of overstays its welcome. Closing the original album is another Spanish-tinged track called Toreador that puts on an extra layer of dramatics. The album gets a prolonged life with the excellent and very à-propos Proclamation, another slow, brooding and dramatic cinematic piece. So far the new version of the album is nearly flawless, but it stops here, because the remaining tracks (however good they might be in their own genre) have simply nothing to do with the original album, at least musically speaking.

The Ellington-typed big band piece Nothing Like You sticks out like a toe, while the semi-goofy bluesy-swing jazz Concorde is again out of subject from the original lp. However, the last (and lengthy) bonus track, the Willie Dixon classic blues Spoonful is much more in line with Individualism, because the album’s aesthetics are respected. So the Cd version of the album is an undeniable plus to the vinyl version, if you’re willing to use the skip button on two ill-advised additions. But by all means, don’t let this slight imperfection discourage you from this absolutely essential album. Your life won’t be complete without this one, really!!!!!

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