Book Review:

Jazz Great Gil Evans

Review by Joseph Rosenberg

Gil Evans: out of the cool
His life and Music


by Stephanie Stein Crease
A Capella Books (2002)

Modern jazz finally arrived 50 years late in our millennia kulture. Riffs heard from the horns of Dizzy and Bird now provide background to the hawking of countless products. Little Monkish tunes show up in the oddest of places. Chet Baker and Miles Davis have become the salt and pepper of everything cool.

So now its time to praise men like Gilmore Ian Ernest Green—a.k.a. Gil Evans. In his life (1912-1988) as arranger, conductor Evans invented sounds first for his own bands in California and then for Skinnay Ennis and Claude Thornhill. He hit his stride in the post-World War II era with the collaboration on four albums with Miles Dewey Davis: "The Birth of the Cool" (1950), "Miles Ahead" (1957), "Porgy and Bess" (1958) and "Sketches of Spain" (1959). These masterpieces took jazz to new dimensions of performance, creativity and invention.

As delineated sympathetically by Ms. Crease, Evans lived a life that was as sensitive and creative as his music. Race, money, status, comfort were concepts that were alien to Evans, who truly was a friend and mentor to many. He floated through life in a fantasy world far apart from the mundane and ordinary.

I refer you to the excellent discography at the end of 334 pages of text, for the scope of Evans' recordings with his own groups and as arranger/conductor for others.

This man, in my untutored opinion, was as important an arranger of so-called orchestral jazz music as Ellington-Strayhorn, Monk and Mingus. That he was a man of integrity, generosity and geniality was a bonus for his friends and our ears and minds.

If you want some insight into the life of an artist, this book is for you.


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This story was published on June 5, 2002.