Acoustic Sounds

Gil Evans Orchestra

Great Jazz Standards



Label: World Pacific

Produced By: Richard Bock

Lacquers Cut By: Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio

By: Michael Fremer

May 13th, 2023


Jazz Big Band



"In the Shadows" Gil Evans Orchestra World Pacific Title Gets the "Tone Poet" Spotlight

early iteration of "La Nevada" here called "Theme" is but one highlight

Reissue annotator Thomas Conrad just about backs into his praise for this lesser known Gil Evans album but he gets the vehicle parked without incident and by the time you've finished reading, if you peruse the notes before playing the record, you'll be anxious to hear it, especially if like Conrad and many other Evans fans (count me in) you can't get enough Evans on record— whether he's covering Hendrix or arranging so many classic albums with Miles Davis.

On the other hand, if you don't know Gil Evans from Bill Evans (and there are many such people, and there's nothing wrong with that), this wouldn't be the record to start your journey. I'd start with Out of the Cool recently reissued in the Impulse/Acoustic Sounds series. Then, after the opening track "La Nevada" blows your mind, you'll be ready to appreciate "The Theme", the closing track here, which is an earlier, shorter version of "La Nevada"—one that makes clear the Duke Ellington, Evans connection only shortly thereafter obscured by Evans' creative growth. Hard to believe Out of the Cool was recorded two years after the version here.

Even if you're a hard core Evans fanatic, you might start with side two, though Johnny Coles' opening trumpet solo on Evans's arrangement of Bix Beiderbecke's "Davenport Blues" that begins side one will floor you. It's just that the tune is not likely to be what you were expecting if your Evans fandom derived from Out of the Cool or a Miles album. As Conrad points out in the annotation, the arrangement though gorgeous is fairly conventional by Evans' standards. Backing into it following side 2, works best in my opinion.

Side two opens with an astonishing extended version of John Lewis's stately "Django", a song The Modern Jazz Quartet recorded numerous times beginning with the Prestige album of the same name (Prestige LP 7057). That version was recorded December, 23, 1954.

Django, MJQ Prestige The group reprised the song on Pyramid (Atlantic 1325), released in 1960, which was the way I first heard it and the MJQ for that matter. A life changer for a 13 year old rocker. Here's what an original Japanese pressing looks like

Pyramid Japanese pressingEvans's take is memorable, or as Conrad writes in the notes "'Django' has never been given such scale, such eventfulness. And yet, in its introspection and impressionism and delicacy, it is classic Evans." Amen to that!

That's followed by a slow, slinky version of Don Redman's "Reefer Song" "Chant of The Weed"— a sophisticated number written by the classically educated composer, arranger, bandleader and uncle of Dewey Redmond that makes use of the hexatonic scale used by Debussy, among other musical impressionists but not by jazz composers of that time. Stone or otherwise, you're sure to enjoy, beginning with a gorgeous, spectacular sounding clarinet solo by Budd Johnson. There's a short tape glitch on the track (as well as on "Ballad of the Sad Young Men"). It shouldn't bother you.

The closer is the aforementioned "The Theme" featuring Ray Crawford who, a few years later, reprised the guitar part on "La Nevada" taking a much more angular less lithesome approach. "The Theme" clarifies the Ellington/Evans connection if you didn't previously catch it, though Evans was quick to say no one compares to The Duke. The three track side is a winner!

Back on side 1 you get that Coles trumpet solo on "Davenport Blues", and off you go. That's it for the play by play. Your first impression of the record may be similar to mine and to Conrad's, which he writes was that "...the band was wonderful and the arrangements were very fine. But it sounded to me like early works of Evans...". You'll change your tune after a few plays or never think that if you start with side two.

If you have the 1975 United Artists "two-fer"— this album paired with Evans' other World Pacific record New Bottle Old Wine, (United Artists BN LA4612) you have two great records in a single package, but the sound is somewhat harsh and overall mediocre compared to this "Tone Poet" reissue (the "tape glitch" is there too, but somewhat less audible because so is the inner workings of the music!

The sound of this "Tone Poet" reissue is an interesting mixed bag of mostly vivid timbral excellence, with some brightness on top within an "old school" stereo spread. Despite the monaural jacket art (the only place it says "stereo" is on the spine, since, according to Joe Harley, stereo artwork could not be found) the record is stereo, something you're not likely to miss since the label says makes that clear.

The stereo picture is far superior to the hard "L/R" found on most Contemporary releases, and instead presents a 3 track "left, center, right" picture with much of it bunched hard left and right. If you crank it up too high, it can get harsh but at appropriate levels the timbral picture is honest and sounds much better than the tape looks!

"Great Jazz Standard" master tapeAnother worthwhile Blue Note "Tone Poet" series issue I'm glad I bought! A "must have" for Gil Evans fans and a "probably should have" for many others.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: B0034361-01/WP-1270 Stereo

Pressing Plant: RTI


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: original master tapes

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2023-05-15 05:15:58 PM

    Roy Edelsack wrote:

    Agree that there’s nothing wrong with not knowing the difference between Bill Evans and Gil Evans. However, mistaking Bill Evans (piano) with Bill Evans (sax) is a sin you see in the jazz bins of 90% of record stores. And special thank you to Michael for reminding me I have that UA “two-fer”.

  • 2023-05-16 11:36:00 AM

    Nigel Tufnel wrote:

    Michael - more Tone Poet (and Classic) reviews please - really appreciate your perspective!