Gil Evans this weekend – leading a then-newly organized Big Band for the Italian Broadcasting network RAI. This first concert was broadcast live on March 3, 1980 via the radio service and features a small Evans ensemble with Lee Konitz, alto and soprano sax, Ack van Rooyen, trumpet and flugelhorn, Giovanni Tommaso on bass and Bruce Ditmas on drums with the RAI Big Band as support, filling out what was an extraordinary debut concert – luckily it was broadcast and preserved.
A lot has been written about Gil Evans and his contributions to the world of Jazz and music in general. His accomplishments and his forward-thinking can never be underestimated, although he had been given short-shrift over the years – it certainly hasn’t come from the musicians he’s worked with. There is no question that the ideas he brought to table and his seamless working with musicians. It can be said that his collaborations with Miles Davis were a crossroads in the development of Jazz and the next logical step it took.
Over the years he expanded his working with artists, extending to the likes of Sade and David Bowie and it’s been his open-minded approach and intense love of a wide range of musical genres that kept him continuously fresh and filled with ideas.
The music and ideas of Gil Evans are timeless – they are as fresh and evocative today as they were in the 1940s when he first worked with the Claude Thornhill orchestra – helping turn a seemingly innocuous danceband on the surface into a workshop for changing directions in modern music.
His contributions are worth checking out and absorbing, particularly if you’re a musician just getting your feet wet and your mind opened. An essential place to visit.