Just over 30 years after his passing, the spirit of pianist, arranger, composer, bandleader and arguably one of the greatest orchestrators in jazz history infuses Hidden Treasures Monday Nights, Volume One by The Gil Evans Orchestra - a remarkable celebration of a unique time in the classic ensemble’s history.
The vibrant Evans aesthetic and mystique is always worth a fresh spin. Noted for his fabled collaborations with Miles Davis, including “Birth of the Cool,” “Sketches of Spain” and “Porgy and Bess,” as well as playing a key role in development of cool jazz, modal jazz, free jazz and jazz fusion, Evans and his orchestra were booked into the Sweet Basil Jazz Club in Greenwich Village in early 1983.
It became a regular Monday night gig for nearly five years and resulted in the release of numerous albums under the name Gil Evans and the Monday Night Orchestra; the gig continued sporadically for a number of years after his death. Hidden Treasures Monday Nights finds his sons, trumpeter Miles Evans and producer/engineer Noah Evans, revisiting these glory days with a fresh ensemble tackling challenging, polyrhythmic compositions that the Orchestra played back in the day.
The dynamics-rich opening track “Subway” is typical of the session’s overall approach. Like a train picking up momentum as it zips along, the arrangement builds in intensity as the full force of the burning horns comes to life; the blast gives way to imaginative improvisational solos by trombonist Dave Bargeron and tenor saxophonist Alex Foster. Miles Evans penned one of the most infectious tunes, “LL Funk,” hybrid urban jazz/big band showcase for bassist Darryl Jones. The sometimes offbeat, often frenetic percussive thrust of these tunes is sweetly balanced by the passionate sax driven ballad “I Surrender,” a Delmar Brown/Alex Foster tune that is a literal musical requiem for a heavyweight.