Thursday, June 14, 2012
Birthday Celebration and Gift
With the encouragement of Maria Schneider (for whom he has worked as a copyist for the past decade), Truesdell met with Gil Evans' family and was, after a while, granted full access to all of his scores and arrangements. What the young arranger found was amazing, works that dated back to the mid-1940s and later pieces with different arrangements. Over the space of 2 years, Truesdell has amassed an amazing amount of music, much of which had never been recorded.
With the help of ArtistShare and in time for the 100th anniversary of Evans birth, Ryan Truesdell created "Centennial", 10 newly discovered pieces recorded with a wonderful ensemble. The core group features Frank Kimbrough (pianist), Jay Anderson (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums) augmented on several tracks by guitarist James Chirillo. The entire ensemble (13 reeds, 10 brass, 2 guitars, Dave Eggar on tenor violin, Joe Locke on vibraphone, Dan Weiss on tabla, brother Mike Truesdell on marimba and timpani plus vocalists Kate McGarry, Wendy Gilles and Luciana Souza on 1 track each) came together for 3 days of recording in August of 2011 in Studio A of Avatar Studios in New York City. All of the larger ensemble cuts were recorded with everyone in the studio at the same time, no separate sessions for the rhythm section (although Ms. Souza and Ms. McGarry's vocals were recorded elsewhere.)
Truesdell's sequencing is very intelligent. The first sound one hears is tabla drums played by Dan Weiss leading in "Punjab", an Evans composition from 1964. In the manuscripts of the piece, Truesdell found complete parts for brass and woodwinds but only 4 measures for the rhythm section. And, when he heard the studio rehearsal tapes (the piece was originally slated to appear on "The Individualism of Gil Evans"), Truesdell heard that Evans never found the correct "groove" for the tune.That gave the young man the freedom to "play with what he had found and the results are a long (14+ minutes), languid, meditation with roots in Asian Indian folk music.
Other highlights include "Smoking My Sad Cigarette" originally created for vocalist Lucy Reed (who passed in 1958.) It was the 4th arrangement for an Lp that only featured 3 of Evans' finished works. Here, Ms. McGarry delivers a powerfully bluesy performance supported by Kimbrough, Anderson and Nash plus Brian Landrus (bass clarinet, alto flute, piccolo), Michael Rabinowitz (bassoon), Eggar's tenor violin, Marshall Gilkes (trombone) and George Flynn (bass trombone). The fascinating blend of sounds create a "noirish" aural-scape without sounding theatrical or contrived. "Waltz/Variation on the Misery/So Long" is a 19-minute medley that covers a wide swath of musical territory and includes strong work from Locke, Gilkes, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson and tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin. Of course, the work of of Scott Robinson on numerous reeds makes the music better.
The work of the rhythm section throughout this CD is just super. One does not think of Nash as a driver of a large ensemble but his playing is exemplary. Kimbrough has more room here than he does in Maria Schneider's Orchestra; his creative solos and accompaniment shine brightly. Anderson's gentle touch and melodic interplay as well as being the solid foundation this music needs. As for Truesdell, he exposes to the world the many facets of Gil Evans' writing and arrangements. The use of French horns, oboe, piccolos, bassoons (contra bassoons, even), the brilliant addition of tabla to the opening track and more illustrates how Evans heard the possibilities inherent in large ensemble music.