Personnel: Gil Evans (piano); Chuck Wayne, Ray Crawford (guitars); Budd Johnson (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Steve Lacy (soprano saxophone); Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone); Johnny Coles (trumpet); Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Cleveland (trombone); Elvin Jones, Art Blakey (drums).
Gil Evans released two records on World Pacific in 1958 and 1959. They were among his earliest dates as a leader. Gil Evans & Ten was issued by Prestige in 1957, but these dates stand out more. New Bottle, Old Wine was the first of the pair and the band included four trumpets, a trio of trombones, French horn (played by Julius Watkins), a pair of tubas, Cannonball Adderley as the lone saxophonist, and a rhythm section that included either Philly Joe Jones or Art Blakey on drums, Paul Chambers on bass, and Chuck Wayne on guitar. The reading of "King Porter Stomp" is the stunner here, with Adderley's solo being a prized moment. There isn't a weak cut in the whole mess though. Other standouts include Fats Waller's "Willow Tree," "Lester Leaps In," with great solos by Wayne and Adderley, the burning finale of Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca," and Charlie Parker's "Bird Feathers" closing it out.
The second of these albums, Great Jazz Standards, featured a similar band with some notable differences. For one, the inclusion of soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy as a soloist and rhythm sections that included either Dennis Charles or Elvin Jones on drums, Curtis Fuller on trombone, and Budd Johnson on tenor for about half the set. The finer moments here include "Ballad of the Sad Young Men," (a newish tune at the time with a fine piano solo by Evans) John Lewis' "Django," with a truly brilliant and understated solo by Lacy, who also does a commendable job on "Straight No Chaser." Johnson wails on Gil Evans' "La Nevada (Theme)." Evans arrangement of Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring" is also a killer, with his and guitarist Ray Crawford's solos. The Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings is a fine collection issued by Blue Note, which, as part of the Connoisseur Series, is limited and will be out of print again soon. Don't wait. ~ Thom Jurek