Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Gil Evans and the Music of Jimi Hendrix

Some blues enthusiasts familiar with jazz will know of Gil Evans, the arranger and big band leader who is best known for his association with Miles Davis (Think of "The Birth of the Cool," "Porgy and Bess," "Sketches of Spain"). Evans was highly fascinated with Jimi Hendrix's music and orchestrated an album of Big Band versions of Hendrix's compositions. Hendrix, is highly regarded as one of the most influential guitarists and musicians of the 20th Century. Listening to Evans' orchestrations of Hendrix tunes, one also realizes how marvelous a composer Hendrix was, and how his songs lend themselves to what some might consider radical reinterpretation. I believe there had been hopes of Evans and Hendrix collaborating as there had been hopes of Miles and Hendrix working together.

Hendrix compositions bvecame part and parcel of Gil Evans Orchestra performances. The German label Jazz Club has issued "Voodoo Chile" which is predominantly from a 1974 Swedish performance and after a medley of compositions by Alan Shorter and Trevor Koehler (who was on baritone sax on this performance), the Orchestra launches into 'Voodoo Chile' with Tom Malone's trombone taking the lead before the horns start filling in and providing an energetic if occasional chaotic sounding counterpoint to the lead. It is followed by the two-part 'Blues Medley' (over a half-hour) of John Lewis' 'Concorde', Charlie Parker's 'Cheryl' and a vocal medley entitled 'Stormy Monday' (which has lyrics from several other songs including 'Rock Me Baby') sung/shouted by trumpeter Hannibal Marvin Peterson. The mix of acoustic horns and reed instruments with electronic instruments makes for some fascinating listening and mau open up some ideas of what it means to play the blues. The CD concludes with the Evans Orchestra (slightly different personnel) in Cologne, Germany in 1978 performing one of Hendrix's most evocative compositions, 'Little Wing,' which features the tenor sax and flute of George Adams. Listening to this CD one can imagine what a Hendrix and Evans collaboration might have sounded like. Certainly it would have been an intriguing presentation of Hendrix's music.

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