For the unitiated and from Wikipedia:
Reviewing the work of Gil Evans is like trying to be the hitting instructor for Albert Pujols. You do not review genius you acknowledge it and pay fitting tribute to the impact of the work and the influence the Evans discography has had on other musicians and will continue to do so for many more years to come. Evans for some is an enigma despite a career that spans decades and work that will go down in jazz history as some of the most influential of any artist working in any genre. Words like brilliance can be played out to the point they lose their real meaning but not with Gil Evans. The epitome of musical genius is Gil Evans.
Centennial marks what would have been Evans 100th birthday with a treasure chest of newly discovered works made accessible thanks to the Evans family and the hard work of Ryan Truesdell. In going through some of the Evans manuscripts, Truesdell remarked Evans would have appeared to have been somewhat of a perfectionist or perhaps simply a searching artist as numerous pieces were revamped and appeared in various forms. In speaking with Lorraine Feather the daughter of famed jazz critic Leonard Feather she remarked, " You finish editing...you simply stop." The irony was not lost. History indicated Evans had a personal dislike of where the more commercial side of jazz may be headed including a noted dust up with Verve records. Evans also developed a particular fondness of Jimi Hendrix, recorded a live release with Sting and arranged the music for the move The Color of Money. Creative irony and being your own man when he came to artistic expression were his trademarks.
Centennial is an eclectic yet focused presentation that is perhaps the cream of the crop of Evans discoveries from acclaimed producer Ryan Truesdell. Half of the ten compositions here were originally written for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra including a stunning arrangement of "The Maids of Cadiz" written in 1950, seven years prior to the version for Miles Davis on their iconic collaboration, Miles Ahead. Three of the new works, two of which were originally written for Astrud Gilberto and Lucy Reed feature vocalists. Much in the spirit of Evans, the arrangements are all the work of Gil Evans while producer Truesdell adds such creative voices such as Kate McGarry on the vocals for the blues infused "Smoking My Sad Cigarette." McGarry captures the sad melancholy of this tune perfectly. McGarry belongs in that special group of vocal story tellers that paint vivid images with words much in the same way Evans handled arranging a tune for a specific artist. Joe Locke on vibraphone adds a brilliant color to "Barbara Song" in a Broadway sound that only Evans could work as well for modern jazz orchestra. A vibrant tune with texture and subtle nuance showing Evans meticulous attention to detail. "Look To The Rainbow" with the impeccable vocals of Luciana Souza is a strikingly beautiful number and a fitting way to close out an epic release that celebrates the 100th birthday of a true jazz master.
With Centennial as Truesdell's first release as a leader he succeeds on every possible level. Truesdell is now leaving his own impressive calling card and certainly a name to remember in the future.
For complete information on this release please check out http://www.gilevansproject.com/