Gil Evans is an ambitious, interesting writer who has a great future — providing he doesn’t allow his work to become too complex and thus stray outside the boundaries of jazz. On this particular set, there are occasional moments when his writing tends to become over-complicated and pretentious, but on the whole, he has turned out an absorbing, successful and impeccably performed recital. Evans directs operations from the piano chair, on which instrument he is a competent but unexciting soloist. His best contributions are during the bridge on “If You Could See” and “Jambangle” – the album’s outstanding track. Jimmy Cleveland blows some spirited stuff on “Jambangle” and quite a bit of solo space is given to soprano saxist Steve Lacy (especially on “Just One”); but although he appears to have some worthwhile things to say, I find his dead-pan, whining tone somewhat unappetising. Paul Chambers, an excellent bassist, makes his mark during “Remember” (a little-played Irving Berlin tune) and bows a fine solo on the bright, flowing interpretation of the old folksong “Ella Speed”. The only other solo voice belongs to Jake Koven, a mediocre trumpeter who gets little or no opportunities to prove his worth here. For those who, like myself, have a devil of a job solving anagrams, “Zeke Tolin” turns into Lee Konitz, who appears here in a supporting role only.
Nobody’s Heart; Just One Of Those Things; If You Could See Me Now; Jambangle (19 min) – Remember?; Ella Speed; Big Stuff (15 min)
Louis Mucci, Jake Koven (tpts); Jimmy Cleveland (tmb); Bart Varsalona (bs/tmb); Willie Ruff (fr.hn); Steve Lacy (sop); “Zeke Tolin” (alto); Dave Kurtzer (bassoon); Gil Evans (pno); Paul Chambers (bs); Nick Stabulas (drs). Johnny Carisi (tpt); and Jo Jones (drs) replace Mucci and Stabulas on “Remember?” September 6 and 27, October 10, 1957.
(Esquire 32-070. 12inLP. 39s. 7d.)