Gerry Mulligan en Gill Evans: Undiscoverd works

Wie kent de cd’s van Miles Davis niet: “Miles ahead” “Porky and Bess” en “Sketches of Spain”. Ze behoren tot de canon van de jazzplaten, niet in de laatste plaats door de bijzondere, visionaire arrangementen van de meester Gil Evans.

Na de succesvolle cd’s die het Dutch Jazz Orchestra heeft gemaakt met nooit eerder uitgevoerde composities en arrangementen van Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams en andere jazzlegendes, heeft het orkest in samenwerking met musicoloog en Nederlands eerste ‘Jazzprofessor’ Dr. Walter van de Leur, opnieuw een uniek document gemaakt. Een cd met een aantal wereldpremieres, door van de Leur boven water gehaald, van de grootheden Evans en Mulligan. Lees voor meer achtergronden de volgende engelse tekst.

Gil Evans (1912-1988)

Gil Evans was born as Gilmore Green in Toronto, Canada. His mother and stepfather (whose surname Evans he adopted), led itinerant lives but eventually settled in California when Gil was about ten years old. His first true encounter with music occurred at the age of fifteen, when he heard the Orchestra of Duke Ellington perform at a local auditorium--an experience which was to change his life for good.

Convinced he too would dedicate his life to music, Evans set out to learn to play the piano and trained himself as a composer-arranger by transcribing jazz records. In the early 1930s, he began to work with different, today little-known orchestras on the West coast. By 1941, had honed his skills sufficiently to become the staff-arranger of Claude Thornhill (1909-1965). Thornhill was a conservatory-trained pianist, bandleader and composer-arranger, who in 1939 began a band that would be “something new and arresting.” European classical and Impressionistic elements formed an important part of the musical palette of this new Claude Thornhill Orchestra. As an unusual addition, the big band featured two French horns. Thornhill was quick to recognize and incorporate budding talents. Gil Evans and later Gerry Mulligan would write for him.

In Thornhill’s band, Gil Evans found fertile soil to further nurture and develop his musical vocabulary. Evans’s first work for Thornhill falls roughly into two categories: arrangements of pop tunes, such as There’s a Small Hotel and I Don’t Know Why, and arrangements of classical melodies, such as Mussorgsky’s The Old Castle, and Tchaikovsky’s Arab Dance. The Thornhill orchestra’s quasi-classical recordings and performances received critical acclaim from the trade press, but audiences were less enthusiastic.

Practical problems challenged the band as well: the draft put the band into a constant state of transition, until finally Thornhill himself was enlisted in October, 1942. his departure put an immediate end to the orchestra. Thornhill returned to the big band business after the war, having spent three years in the South Pacific as a Navy band leader. Early in 1946, he assembled a new band. In an unexpected tribute, no fewer than twelve of the original members returned, including Gil Evans. To achieve the sound he had striven for in his earlier band, Thornhill added a tuba, thus creating the particular instrumental combination of tuba and French horns, that Evans cum suis were to use later for the Miles Davis Nonet.

Around that time, Evans’s Spartan basement apartment on West 55th Street (the door always unlocked) became the regular pit stop for those who gigged on 52nd Street, including Gerry Mulligan, John Carisi, Charlie Parker, John Lewis, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach and Miles Davis. Through these musicians, Evans acquired first-hand knowledge of the bebop idiom, and before long he brought his first bop arrangements to Thornhill’s band, which, its name notwithstanding, was now effectively led by Evans. He used the band to try out his latest arrangements: an unlikely mixture of European Impressionism and American bebop.

Among the seminal yet hitherto unrecorded works from this period are three arrangements for the full Thornhill orchestra, which call for an additional three flute players, i.e., a total of eight woodwinds. This Thornhill Orchestra-plus apparently never recorded--it may have been a rehearsal band. Evans’s arrangements for this large ensemble include a take on Lover Man (markedly different from the earlier version recorded by Thornhill) and a remarkable medley of three works--Easy Living, Everything Happens to You, and Moon Dreams. Evans would thin out the final segment of this medley for the so-called The Birth of the Cool sessions with the Miles Davis Nonet.

Evans would later in the 1950s collaborate again with Miles Davis, which resulted in some of their most famous records: Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain, and Quiet Nights. Meanwhile, Evans also recorded several albums as leader: Gil Evans and Ten (1957), New Bottle, Old Wine (1958, featuring Cannonball Adderley), Great Jazz Standards (1959), and Out of the Cool (1960). He continued to write and record in the remaining decades, although there were also intervals of relative inactivity. Among the many works that deserve mention are the live recordings with the Gil Evans Orchestra and the later so-called Monday Night Orchestra, which played weekly at Sweet Basil for some time in the 1980s.


Gerry Mulligan (1927-1996)

Gerry Mulligan was born in Queens Village, Long Island, New York. Not long thereafter his family moved to Marion, Ohio, where his father took a job as general manager of a machine factory. The family hired an African-American woman as nanny for young Gerry, and at her house he spent quite some time. There, Gerry listened to music on their player piano--the nanny had for instance Fats Waller piano rolls--and started to pick out his first tunes on piano.

When his family had moved to Kalamazoo, Gerry got the chance to learn to play an instrument. He chose for the clarinet, and played in the school’s orchestra. After yet another move, this time to Reading, north of Philadelphia, Mulligan took clarinet lessons and turned to saxophone as well. In addition, he got interested in arranging, and before long, he was selling his first charts to a Philadelphia-based radio orchestra, headed by Johnny Warrington. Other arranging jobs ensued, and Mulligan wrote charts for Tommy Tucker, George Paxton and Elliott Lawrence, among others. In 1946, now relocated to New York, he joined the orchestra of former Benny Goodman-drummer Gene Krupa as staff-arranger, and there he met Gil Evans.

Later that year Mulligan started to work for Claude Thornhill’s orchestra as well, like Gil Evans, while occasionally sitting in with the reed section, on alto. For Thornhill, Mulligan wrote a number of arrangements and originals (Elevation), including a handful that were apparently never recorded: an arrangement of Broadway and the originals Joost at the Roost, The Major and the Minor, and Brew’s Tune.

Thornhill’s band was the precursor of the Miles Davis Nonet. In the Nonet, Gerry’s first work on baritone can be heard. But Mulligan’s stamp on the Birth of the Cool sessions went well beyond his section work and occasional solos. No less than six of the twelve tracks are his: the arrangements of Godchild, Deception and Darn That Dream, and the originals Jeru, Rocker and Venus de Milo. His nonet-version of Joost at the Roost was not recorded.

Although those recordings took place in 1949 and 1950, it would take another year before his work on baritone was truly noticed. As leader of the Gerry Mulligan New Stars he recorded for Prestige, and those sides clearly display his individual sound. In Mulligan’s hands the baritone sounds remarkably light, or “cool” as some would have it. His virtuosity, speed and agility on the instrument seem to betray the effort it takes to play this large instrument.

Next, Mulligan traveled to Los Angeles, where he wrote arrangements for Stan Kenton and worked various jobs at the coast’s famous clubs, including The Lighthouse and The Haig. In both his writing and playing, Mulligan more and more turned to counterpoint (i.e., relatively independent moving melodic lines) and consequently he felt that he could better express himself without piano accompaniment. Around the same time he met trumpeter Chet Baker and they founded their famous pianoless quartet. Known as the Gerry Mulligan Quartet featuring Chet Baker, the group caught on quickly and before long, Mulligan and Baker were celebrities.

After serving time for narcotics possession, Mulligan returned in the 1950s with various other quartets (usually pianoless), alternately joining up with others, including valve-trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, trumpeter Jon Eardly, tenorist Zoot Sims and later trumpeter Art Farmer. He recorded with numerous musicians, including Thelonious Monk, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz, Ben Webster and Johnny Hodges.

In 1960 Mulligan founded the Concert Jazz Band which remained active until 1964. This orchestra enabled him to combine all his musical passions: composing and arranging, as well as playing baritone and piano. From 1968 he toured on and off for four years with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. In 1971 he founded another big band, known as The Age of Steam Orchestra. In-between he continue to tour and record with his own quartets, while doing numerous incidental gigs with a wide variety of other musicians. In 1992, he organized a new Gerry Mulligan Tentet (featuring Art Farmer and Lee Konitz) for a Re-Birth of the Cool Tour, performing the famous “Birth of the Cool” repertoire, as well as new works written by Mulligan.

Dr. Walter van de Leur



Productie en label: Castus

Gelicenceerd door: Challenge Records

Dutch Jazz Orchestra o.l.v. John Ruocco
Artistic director: Albert Beltman


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