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Gil Evans Centennial Celebration! New York Times Article (Part2)


(Part 2)

A similar astonishment has now come at the hands of Ryan Truesdell, a 32-year-old composer-arranger who is Ms. Schneider’s chief copyist. (He also helped produce her two most recent albums.) Mr. Truesdell spent the last few years tracking down and making sense of previously unrecorded Evans sheet music, with the blessing of the composer’s family. “Centennial,” his first album as a leader, presents a choice sampling of his findings, and makes a strong case for his absolute authority on the subject.

The album — made with crowd-sourced financing through ArtistShare, after an example set by Ms. Schneider — features a superb ensemble with more than a few musicians borrowed from Ms. Schneider’s ranks. The instrumentation often suggests a sort of chamber orchestra rather than a big band; the execution is impeccable, as is the recording quality, with a depth and transparency that capture the endless nuance of the writing.

Half of the album’s 10 tracks date to the Thornhill era, and it’s striking how fresh they sound: even amid the swinging brio of a tune like “How About You,” there are piccolo parts made to lodge a citrusy dissonance. A 1950 arrangement of “The Maids of Cadiz” delivers a more springlike tone than the version heard seven years later, on Miles Davis’s “Miles Ahead.”

Later entries, like a tripartite original titled “Waltz/Variation on the Misery/So Long,” from 1971, and an arrangement of Kurt Weill’s “Barbara Song” revised that same year, feature complex harmonic layering and stark dramatic flourishes. “Punjab,” a castaway from the 1964 sessions for “The Individualism of Gil Evans,” rides a waft of tabla drumming, based on an insight that came to Mr. Truesdell after hearing Evans’s unreleased rehearsal tapes. There’s a brilliant piquancy to all of this music, and Mr. Truesdell succeeds in making his own contribution feel nearly invisible.

Each of his four nights at the Jazz Standard will spotlight a different phase of Evans’s career, beginning on Thursday with the Thornhill era, and continuing on Friday with the reconceived standards from a pair of 1950s albums, including the pertinently titled “New Bottle, Old Wine.” On Saturday the focus will be on “The Individualism of Gil Evans,” and on Sunday it will shift to Evans’s arrangements for singers. (The vocalists will be Kate McGarry and Wendy Gilles, who have one track apiece on “Centennial.”)

If Mr. Truesdell’s labors suggest jazz repertory at its most conscientious — original texts, faithful interpretations — Monday’s concert looks more unwieldy, and more like something Evans might have put together in his later years. Along with veterans like the trombonist Tom Malone and the multi-instrumentalist Howard Johnson, it will feature prominent guests like the drummers Jimmy Cobb and Lenny White, with Paul Shaffer of “Late Show With David Letterman” as host. Anchored by electric bass and keyboards, this band seems predisposed to deal most seriously with the hard-nosed jazz-rock that Evans explored from the ’70s on.

Which would be no truer, or less true, to his memory. During that inaugural season of the New York Jazz Repertory Company, Evans headlined Carnegie Hall yet again, playing a concert of Jimi Hendrix music that was, by most accounts, undercooked. (That didn’t stop him from taking the project into a studio several days later, to record an album for RCA.) The point is that Evans was still pushing, still reaching, defying the notion of jazz repertory as a strictly past-tense concern. “Newly Discovered Works” may be the descriptive subtitle of Mr. Truesdell’s new album, but the phrase also captures what Evans was after all along.

The Gil Evans Project performs Thursday through Sunday at Jazz Standard, 116 East 27th Street, (212) 576-2232, jazzstandard.com. The Gil Evans Orchestra performs on Monday at the Highline Ballroom, 431 West 16th Street, (212) 414-5994, highlineballroom.com.