WBGO Radar

Gil Evans Project: "Lines Of Color"

gil evans project lines of color

Ryan Truesdell can’t get enough of a good thing. Thanks to him, neither can we.

The preternaturally talented young bandleader spent six years on a quest to restore lost works by Gil Evans. He scoured archives for scores, fragments and musical sketches, and brings them back to life with a top-flight big band.

Truesdell even recovered an arrangement Evans literally erased – he used a scanner to restore a score from indentations on paper Evans reused to write new music.

The fruits of such heroic efforts first came to light in 2012, when Truesdell released an album of ten hitherto-unknown works to mark the centennial of Evans’s birth.

That fan-funded ArtistShare CD captured the jazz world’s attention, bringing Truesdell to the Newport Jazz Festival’s main stage and earning a Grammy Award.

Now he’s back with a second album of Evans. Lines Of Color captures splendrous moments from his band’s week at New York’s Jazz Standard last May, which has become an annual affair.

“It was like an out of body experience for me,” says Truesdell of the band’s 2013 residency at the club. “When I looked at the musicians in the band, I knew they felt it too; we had to record this music live.”

Live recording, says Truesdell, also captures an important side of Evans’s personality – more than half of his output after 1973 was only captured in this way.

The album opens with “Time Of The Barracudas,” a piece Evans wrote with Miles Davis in 1963, which resurfaced later in his career under the title “Waltz.” Here it is a showcase for the dazzling talents of trombonist Marshall Gilkes, who also shines on “Greensleeves.”

Bix Beiderbecke’s “Davenport Blues” is the piece Truesdell restored from ghostly pencil marks, brought to life here by the trumpet of Mat Jodrell, with echoes of New Orleans added by Steve Wilson on soprano sax, Marcus Rojas on tuba and Ryan Keberle on trombone.

“Avalon Town” comes from a 1946 Evans’s arrangement Truesdell unearthed in the archives of bandleader Claude Thornhill.

“What drew me to this chart was the way it developed over the course of a few minutes, from a seemingly traditional swing-era tune, to the kind of modern, complex, and quirky arrangement that we have come to expect from Gil,” he says.

Other gems from Evans’s Thornhill catalog are “Can’t We Talk It Over,” “Gypsy Jump,” Sunday Drivin’” and the ten-minute “Easy Living Medley,” which features the superb vocals of Wendy Gilles.

What does it say about jazz in 2015 that we have TWO stunning versions of John Lewis’s nail-biting fugue “Concorde” back to back on RADAR? This one features marvelous contrasts of high and low brass, and Lois Martin on viola.

And what does it say about the state of jazz in general that we have musicians of such dazzling ability and passion as those Truesdell has assembled here?

And that Truesdell himself has the vision and abilities to reach across the ages and bring these musical riches back to life?

Only good things, I tell you, only good things. This is magnificent music.

Hear for yourself on Lines of Color, which comes out March 17. Are you in Toronto or Iowa? Lucky you, or take a trip.

You can hear The Gil Evans Project at Canada’s Royal Conservatory March 28, and at Drake University in Des Moines March 29.

AND the Gil Evans Project returns to New York's Jazz Standard May 14th to 17th.

   - Tim Wilkins, WBGO digital content producer

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