Recording Date: Apr 9, 1958-1959
#1-8 originally issued as "New Bottle, Old Wine" (World Pacific WP 1246)
Recorded on April 9 (1,2,5,6), May 2 (3), May 21 (7,8), 1958 at Judson Hall in New York City
#9-15 originally issued as "Great Jazz Standards" (World Pacific WP 1270)
Recorded in early 1959 at Webster Hall, New York City (9,10,13)
Recorded in February 2, 1959 at Webster Hall, New York City (11,12,14,15)
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.
All Music Guide
If Stan Kenton's ponderous Sophisticated Approach (1961) showed how little jazz it is possible to make with an orchestra the size of Texas, Gil Evans' The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions shows how much more you can make with a lot less. The CD brings together two collections of brilliantly reimagined standards, New Bottle, Old Wine (1958) and Great Jazz Standards (1959), recorded when Evans was red-hot from two successes with Miles Davis, Miles Ahead and Porgy And Bess.
Evans' signature brass choir is in place-creatively voiced, spaciously arranged, a supple, multi-coloured, sonically surprising counterpoint to a succession of superb soloists. The added bonus, for Evans' projects, is the foregrounding of saxophone and clarinet soloists-Cannonball Adderley on New Bottle, Old Wine and Steve Lacy and Budd Johnson on Great Jazz Standards.
Trombonist Frank Rehak, tubaist Bill Barber and Evans himself all get to stretch out on New Bottle, Old Wine, but the album is practically an Adderley showcase (he too was newly hot in '58). He blows his stirring, circa-Somethin' Else stew of bop and soul, and it's good-but Lacy and the original swing-to-bop missing link, Johnson, are the ones who will make the hair on your neck curl.
Lacy's solos on Monk's "Straight No Chaser" and John Lewis' "Django" must be some of the finest pre-free improvisations he recorded, already heading from quirky to out-there. Johnson's clarinet solo on Don Redman's spooky, swing-meets-whole tone classic, "Chant Of The Weed," and slow-burning, stirring tenor solo on Evans' "La Nevada" are some of the finest the all-but-forgotten genius ever recorded. (Both tracks appear here for the first time in their original unedited form, with missing passages restored, and the whole Great Jazz Standards set has been sympathetically remixed from a newly discovered three-track master tape.)
Trumpeter Johnny Coles, featured on both albums, has the inevitable misfortune of being compared to Miles Davis and being found to be... different. Sunny, open and extroverted, he may not be a stylist of Davis' proportions, but he's an enjoyable alternative foil for Evans' arrangements.