Jazz Profiles Gil Evans: The Arranger as Re-composer (Part 5)
Gil: I rented a room a couple of blocks from 52nd Street, you know. When I got off the train, I got in a cab and I went right to 52nd Street. I didn't have a place to stay. I threw my bag in a check room and I just walked up and down The Street there and met a bunch of my heroes. First night, I met all my heroes! I met Ben [Webster] and Lester [Young], Erroll Garner and Bud Powell, all these people the first night.
So I got a room a couple blocks away, a basement room. Just one big room with a bed and a piano and a record player and a sink. And I left the door open for two years. Just left it open. I never locked it. When I went out, I never locked it. So sometimes I'd come home and I'd meet strangers. And most of the time I met people like Miles and John Lewis and people like that. George Russell.
We talked a lot about harmony. How to get a "sound" out of harmony. Because the harmony has a lot to do with what the music is going to "sound" like. The instruments have their wave form and all that, but the harmony means that you're putting together a group of instruments, and they're going to get their own independent wave form, right? You can't get it any other way except as an ensemble together.
So Miles and I talked about that lots of times. And played chords on the piano. And that's how it happened.
Ben: The "sound" that you did come up with so perfectly suited Miles' sound that it almost seemed like one gesture.
Gil: That's right...
Ben: You talk about the extension of the Thornhill sound. You once said about the Thornhill band that "the band was a reduction to inactivity, a stillness..."
Gil: Oh, it was. That's right.
Ben: And "the sound would hang like a cloud."
Gil: That's right. Oh yeah.
Ben: Part of what you created, then, in the "Boplicity" session is a new approach to jazz, where even with a small group, it wasn't a separate thing, a rhythm section and a horn section, but rather it was a "sound." Almost a studio form before there were studio forms.
Gil: Yeah, right.
Ben: You mention the Miles Ahead big band session. "Boplicity" was recorded in 1949 ...
Gil: We didn't get together again until '57...” [pp. 16-19]