You might say December is unofficially Gil Evans month in the Big Apple, as three exciting events turn the spotlight on this legendary jazz composer, arranger, pianist, and long-time Miles Davis collaborator. On the schedule this month are a lively symposium, the release of the first studio album by the Gil Evans Orchestra in more than four decades, and an all-star CD release gig that’s sure to attract a who’s who of the New York music scene.
Gil Evans made a lasting mark on numerous areas of jazz. He led swing dance bands, pioneered the cool school of jazz, and did landmark work with jazz icon Miles Davis, which can be heard on enduringly acclaimed albums such as Sketches of Spain, Porgy and Bess, Birth of the Cool,and others. Evans also delved into electronic music and jazz-rock fusion, drawing new listeners with his arrangements of Jimi Hendrix songs for large brass- and synth-heavy ensembles.
“Gil was a great innovator,” says his son Miles Evans. “He had the next great sound as an orchestrator and arranger, after Duke Ellington.” Gil Evans also had a knack for attracting the cream of the musical crop. In addition to mentoring and collaborating with the greatest jazz musicians across a half century, he formed strong ties and recorded with pop icons like Sting and Paul Schaffer. In recognition of his work, Evans garnered three Grammys and 13 nominations, received one of the first Guggenheim Fellowships ever awarded to a jazz musician, and was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985, among other honors.
On Dec. 15, at 11 a.m., MOMENT NYC and the NYPL are hosting a symposium on the jazz genius at NYPL for the Performing Arts in the Astor Gallery at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza. Expect to gain insights into Gil Evans’ art and more through presentations by his biographer, Stephanie Stein Crease, the author of “Gil Evans: Out of the Cool: His Life and Music”; Miles Evans, and NYPL’s David McMullin, who will present highlights from the library’s Gil Evans archive. And as with any Gil Evans event, there’s always the chance there will be surprise special guests on hand.
The NYPL for the Performing Arts setting is a good fit for the event, Miles Evans says. “At NYPL, they’re very knowledgeable about Gil’s music. They’re aware that you can hear the Ravel chords in his music, you can hear Debussy; and the people at NYPL know Gil went to the library to listen and study up.”
The event also will include a display of photos, sketches and audio samples from the Evans family’s collection, a Q&A session, and samples of music from a new recording from the Gil Evans Orchestra, “Hidden Treasures Monday Nights, Volume One” (Bopper Spock Suns Music).
The brand-new album, set for Dec. 7 release, is the first studio recording by the Gil Evans Orchestra in more than 40 years. It features several mainstays of the band that held court every Monday for more than a decade at the fabled Greenwich Village club Sweet Basil. Instead of going the “greatest hits” route, “Hidden Treasures” features seldom-heard tunes from the extensive Gil Evans repertoire, many of them written by long-time band stalwarts. “We wanted to showcase the fantastic cast that played with the band,” Noah Evans says. “We wanted to bring back memories of all those great Mondays at Sweet Basil, and bring Gil back to people’s awareness.”
More than a dozen Monday Night Band alumni and several special guests will be on hand Dec. 22 to celebrate the release of “Hidden Treasures Monday Nights, Volume One” at the Cutting Room (44 E. 32ndSt., NY; tickets and info: https://tickets.thecuttingroomnyc.com/event/1796799
MOMENT NYC and the NYPL
Gil Evans Symposium
Saturday, December 15, 11AM to 1PM
NYPL for the Performing Arts in the Astor Gallery
40 Lincoln Center Plaza (65th St and Columbus Ave)
New York, NY, 10023
Stephanie Crease (Gil's Biographer) and David McMullin (NYPL)
• 11:00-11:10 Entrance audio
- Introductions and acknowledgements (David McMullin)
• 11:10-11:20 The Individualism of Gil Evans (Stephanie Crease - images)
• 11:20-11:25 Growing up with Gil
(Miles Evans & Stephanie Crease - images)
• 11:25-11:30 Gil's Life & NYC Stories (whole panel - audio/images)
• 11:30-12:00 Selections from the NYPL collections and discussion (audio/images - David McMullin)
• 12:00-12:10 The legacy of the Gil Evans Monday Night Orchestra
(audio from new album/video - Miles Evans)
• 12:10-12:20 Open forum for comments and questions (panel)
• 12:20-12:30 Closing
Gil Evans Orchestra
CD Release Show
HIDDEN TREASURES MONDAY NIGHTS
Saturday, December 22nd 9:30pm
The Cutting Room
44 E32nd St.
New York, NY 10016
Tickets & Info