Any time a jazz great passes away, collectors are curious about unissued recordings and unrecorded compositions and arrangements. To celebrate the centennial of Gil Evans' birth, Ryan Truesdell gathered a number of scores from Evans' family and musicians who had worked with him (or their surviving relatives), while also exploring charts in the libraries of bandleaders for whom the composer had worked. Once Truesdell reviewed all of the music to make his final selections, he recruited a top-notch orchestra. The reed section alone includes 13 players, among them are Steve Wilson, Scott Robinson, Dave Pietro, Charles Pillow, and Donny McCaslin, all of whom play multiple instruments. The ten-piece brass section includes trumpeters Greg Gisbert, Laurie Frink, and trombonists Ryan Keberle and Marshall Gilkes. The rhythm section consists of guitarists James Chirillo and Romero Lubambo, pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Jay Anderson, and drummer Lewis Nash, while vibraphonist Joe Locke, percussionist Mike Truesdell, and tenor violinist Dave Eggar are also featured. The exotic "Punjab" was rehearsed and recorded for The Individualism of Gil Evans LP, though the piece was rejected due to problems with the integration of the rhythm section. Truesdell's solution was to add Dan Weiss on tabla to the percussion section to unify the work, an extended piece that has a meditative, yet driving air. The wistful ballad "Smoking My Sad Cigarette," with music by Bee Walker and a lyric by Ellington collaborator Don George, has a whimsical air with a laid-back vocal by Kate McGarry and brooding reeds and brass. Evans' score of the standard "How About You" dates from 1947 and swings like mad with intricate, overlapping section work and Robinson doing double duty as a soloist on both tenor sax and clarinet. Evans' "Dancing On a Great Big Rainbow" was penned in 1950 and deserved a better fate, as this upbeat swinger should have become a jazz standard. Donny McCaslin's hip tenor sax steals the show, though Frank Kimbrough and Greg Gisbert also shine in the spotlight. Vocalist Wendy Gilles delivers an infectious performance in the ballad "Beg Your Pardon" (published in 1946). For many Gil Evans fans, the medley "Waltz/Variation On the Misery/So Long" is likely to become an instant favorite. Not only did Truesdell work hard at uncovering, adapting (when necessary), and performing these long-lost scores, he also took the time to identify the bandmembers and soloists by track, in addition to giving a detailed background to the project in his extensive liner notes. It's obvious that the musicians who took part in Truesdell's dream recording project were all focused on bringing out the potential of Gil Evans' timeless scores.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden