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Essay on the Major Figure in Development of Jazz Rock or Fusion

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When a person hears the word Jazz the first people they usually think about are Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, or Miles Davis. One person who fails to get the recognition that he deserves is Ian Ernest Gilmore Green better known as Gil Evans. After doing research on topics and people of Jazz history the most interesting and unspoken person encountered was Gil Evans. His accomplishments and contributions to Jazz usually fall under the radar in Jazz History. Evans’s unique music style makes him stand out and even attracted other popular Jazz artists such as Miles Davis and John Lewis. Ranging from collaborations with famous Jazz artists, making famous Jazz pieces, having his unique music style, earning many high-class awards, and being acknowledged at the White House add up to create a successful career. Gil Evans’s resume without a doubt makes him eligible to receive the title of being one of the most important artists in the history of Jazz. He deserves more recognition as a Jazz arranger/conductor and as a contributor when it comes to influencing Jazz culture.

Before getting into Evans’s accomplishments and contributions it's important to discuss his early days before all the fame and success. Evans got introduced to music by his friend’s father who was a big jazz fan. From there he developed a love for music and enjoyed music from Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Armstrong had a great impact on Evans as an adolescent gaining a passion for music. Evans claims that Armstrong is the reason he started to love music. Evans had created a band with some school friends which started off small by playing at local schools to filling in for Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Evans was a perfectionist when it came to how his band sounded he denied offers to perform in certain venues since he thought his band didn’t sound good enough. Despite some complications, Evans and his band were able to find steady work until 1942. Evans’s first major job was as an arranger for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra between 1941 and 1948. Taken from a book called A History of Jazz ”The most eccentric sound during the war was produced by the orchestra and was formed in 1937 by white pianist Claude Thornhill that in 1942 boasted four vocalists, seven clarinets, two french horns, and a tuba. Its arranger, Gil Evans, concocted dreamy and hypnotic textures, such as the portrait of a Guinea Farm (April 1941) and Snowfall (may 1941), that toyed with timbric and rhythmic mannerism. Their sophisticated chamber jazz even scored a couple of hits, A Sunday Kind Of Love (May 1947) and Love For Love (September 1947), but the band became even more cryptic after the addition of white alto saxophonist Lee Konitz (1947) and of arranger Gerry Mulligan, who penned Elevation (October 1948). Evans, Mulligan, and Konitz were defining a white man's version of bebop, much more abstract than swinging” (Scaruffi page). These couple of lines talk about some of the work Evans did under the wing of Thornhill. In 1942 he was drafted by the military during World War II and finished his service in 1946. After he finished his service he met Miles Davis who together created some great pieces of music. In 1948 they formed a nonet that included a unique combination of instruments such as the french horn, trombone, tuba, trumpet, alto, and baritone sax. This led to the recording of “Birth of Cool” by Miles Davis which will be discussed later in depth.

Evans and Davis are credited as the main people that helped in the creation of cool Jazz. What is cool Jazz exactly? Cool Jazz is a style of jazz that is differentiated by its relaxed tempo and lighter tones, unlike the bebop style which is faster and more dynamic. It is a mixture of classical and jazz music. Cool jazz is a style of jazz that developed in the United States during the late 40s. The term cool comes from what people saw as a downplayed or repressed inclination in the music of Miles Davis, The Modern Jazz Quartet, and others. Drummers played milder and less intuitively than in bop, hard bop, and other current styles that existed together with cool. There was also a renewed interest in collective improvisation among melody instruments. People used this time to make a name for themselves, people such as Gerry Mulligan and Art Pepper. They were Saxophonists in Los Angeles who helped towards cool jazz also getting the name West Coast jazz. Miles Davis and Gil Evans sparking the start of Cool Jazz did more than just create a new sub-genre of jazz they created opportunities for musicians to make a name for themselves. Cool jazz was seen as a “white man’s Jazz” mostly because it was usually played by white musicians because more classical influence was more popular with white audiences. Now onto what caused the creation of cool jazz.

The “Birth of the Cool” album is a compilation of 12 songs that helped propel Miles Davis to possibly the most influential jazz artist of all time, he was a trumpeter, keyboardist, composer, and band leader, who is responsible for the popularization of many styles of jazz. There are twelve tracks that make up the famous “Birth of the Cool” album. These tracks can be separated into four different kinds of groups. The first one consists of two fast-tempo songs the next group contains five upbeat pieces and the third group contains three bluesy feel tracks, and finally, the fourth group has two slow-tempo ballad pieces. This album played an important part in jazz history and also helped out Evans’ career as an arranger and composer. Gil Evans had some great arrangements that stood out in that album in songs such as “Moon Dreams” and “Boplicity”. Moon Dreams has a slow tempo with a unique combination of instruments playing giving off a sad feeling throughout the song a very relaxing piece. Boplicity was one of the more popular songs in the album which also has a slower tempo and a unique flow. Both songs with great arrangements by Gil Evans and are not the only successful songs that he had. He had success with albums such as Miles Ahead Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain, Quiet Nights, and The Individualism Of Gil Evans.

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Miles ahead another collab album between the talented combination of Gil Evans and Miles Davis was also successful. Miles Davis was the only soloist on this album accompanied by sixteen brass and woodwind players and while there were no exciting moments in the album Miles Davis’s voice with the background of the orchestra adds up to something beautiful. Evans can be thanked for that because his arrangements made sure everything sounded smooth and worth using. Evans designed the album to flow from one song to the next with smooth transitions to make it sound like there are no pauses. “Porgy and Bess” was the second collab album by Miles Davis and Gil Evans and is said to be the best collab album they created. Davis was given more freedom to add more of himself into this album and Evans adapted some of the arrangements and songs from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bees in the making of this album by Davis and Evans. Evans was a talented enough arranger/conductor that he could use someone else’s work add his own twist to it and create something wonderful. “Sketches of Spain” is a jazz album with classical composition modifications and a Spanish feeling to it. This album was also different in the sense that Evans got to work with Flamenco who had knowledge of Spanish composers that Evans exploited fully which helped give the album a Spanish feeling. “Sketches of Spain” demonstrates the skills and talent of Evans as he stepped out of his usual comfort zone to create an album like this and it also won a grammy. But Evans’s interest in South America did not go away after that, in the final collab album “Quiet Nights” of the dynamic duo some songs had inspiration by bossa nova which is a style of Brazilian music that has jazz and samba origin. This album was significant to his resume because just like Sketches of Spain Evans was able to use different inspirations to make his arrangements unique. One of his personal albums that was nominated for a grammy, “The Individualism Of Gil Evans” which is one of his best solo albums containing top hits such as “Las Vegas Tango”, “Time of the Barracudas” along with original compositions and compositions by Kurt Weill, Bob Dorough, John Lewis and Willie Dixon who were very talented jazz musicians. This album shows risks being taken by Evans but still incorporates his signature sounds and productions to still give Gil Evans’s feeling to the album. Evans plays the piano on every track of the album even on the ones where he uses the composition of someone else. Evans's throughout most of the 70s had performances that were rare and usually infrequent, but he never lost his work ethic when it came to his music and continued to receive awards and recognition in different ways that surprised him.

Gil Evans is a unique part of jazz culture whose accomplishments and music should receive more credit along with more recognition. Evans as mentioned is best known for the music he created between the years 1957 to 1963, and how his 19-piece orchestra backed Miles Davis. He won a Grammy for ” Sketches of Spain” and his solo album was nominated for a grammy in 1962 for two albums “Quiet Nights” and “The Individualism Of Gil Evans”. Evans received the Guggenheim Fellowship for composition in 1968, which is a prestigious award that is given to one who has demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”. He is among the first two jazz musicians to earn this award. Evans was named a founding artist of the Kennedy center located in Washington D.C. where he gave the audience an impressive performance with his expanded group of sixteen musicians. Evans was even honored at the White House by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, who was holding a national tribute to jazz musicians. The same year that he was acknowledged at the White House his orchestra went on three trips to Europe that turned out to be a success. In 1985 he was given an Honorary Doctorate from the New England Conservatory that is located in Boston, Massachusetts, Evans received another award this time an even more important one he was awarded a Jazz Masters Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts, one of the highest honor given to receive as a jazz musician. He even developed some relationships with rock musicians such as Jimi Hendrix before he passed and David Bowie. Towards the end of his career in 1987 Evans and his Orchestra were unsurprisingly still in high demand. Evans and his band proceeded to go on a three-week special tour of Europe, in honor of Evans’ 75th birthday, as they performed at many different international festivals. Evans and his orchestra did a 10-day short tour in July at Umbria Jazz in Italy and to top it off they had a concert with a string. Evans as mentioned always had a thing for South America it made sense for him and his band to make an appearance at a festival in Brazil that fall of the year of his 75th birthday. A little while after his appearance in Brazil Evans joined forces with Laurent Cugnhy’s Big Band Lumiere as they toured throughout France. That year was the product as he ended it by recording a duet with Steve Lacy completing the final recording of his career.

After stating some background about Gil Evans along with some of his music and accomplishments it should be clear why he should get acknowledged more for all his accomplishments. He brings a unique style to jazz by using unusual instrumentations. Evans took the opposite route of simply just using standard jazz instruments such as trumpets, saxophones, and trombones. He also incorporates instruments such as uses flutes, oboes, French horns, and a few conventional jazz instruments to expand the variety of his orchestra even more. Gil Evans was one of the first to use French horns in jazz, while he was still under the wing of Claude Thornhill's orchestra. While he does use instruments you usually did not see in jazz he also arranged them in a unique way, but would still make the music he produced sound great. Evans has a variety of things to throw at you, such as cutting the music to an abrupt stop, leaving it quiet for a second or two then shocking you with all his instruments at once. He can mix hot and cool, spicy and sweet, heavy and light, and still manage to make it flow. As a composer being able to make unordinary or unusual things mix is what elevates your talent level is what Gil Evans displays. Also being one of the main pieces of starting the genre “cool jazz”, being awarded at the white house, winning a grammy and other awards, and taking different aspects of jazz to better his production add up to make an outstanding resume worth learning about.

In conclusion, Gil Evans left his mark in many areas of jazz as a composer and arranger. He led swing dance bands, started “the cool school of jazz” in his basement, and did a great amount of outstanding work with Miles Davis that was previously mentioned. Collaborations such as Porgy and Bess, Birth of the Cool, and Sketches of Spain along with others. Evans also dove into another genre of music electric rock by doing arrangements of Jimi Hendrix songs. Putting into consideration all that he has done throughout his career Ian Ernest Gilmore Green should be spoken about more and taught in classes talking about the history of Jazz, especially to those who have no jazz or music background. As the only way Gil Evans gets mentioned is if Miles Davis or cool jazz is being taught about.

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