It’s April and that means penpals and jazz. At least in my world it does. My penpal and her family were visiting and on Friday night we headed out to the Jazz Standard for a tribute to Gil Evans’ Out of the Cool and a celebration of Evans’ centennial curated by Ryan Truesdell. Truesdell has been working with the Evans family collecting a lot of never recorded works by Gil Evans. The orchestra Truesdell conducted on Friday included original Gil Evans Orchestra member Howard Jones on tuba. Other members are Steve Wilson (alto saxophone, flute, piccolo), Marcus Strickland (tenor and soprano saxophone), Michael Rabinowitz (bassoon), Greg Gisbert (trumpet), Tim Hagans (trumpet), Ryan Keberle (trombone), John Allred (trombone), George Flynn (bass trombone), Ben Monder (guitar), Frank Kimbrough (piano), Kiyoshi Kitagawa (bass), Clarence Penn (drums) and Charles Pillow (woodwinds). (There was also a percussionist who I don’t see listed.) As you can see the small stage was packed tight and the reeds were on the floor in front of the stage.
One of the reasons I was looked forward to going to the Jazz Standard again was because of their great sound and magnificent mojitos. One person in our party wanted a Pinot Grigio and the waiter said the closest they had to that was a Pinot Noir. That produced a lot of head-shaking on my part but was the only negative note.
The orchestra was tight and there was a lot of room for improvisation. They performed the songs from Out of the Cool and one or two others. “La Nevada” is a sixteen-minute song with only 12 bars. The rest is improvised – the orchestra played three sets that night and Truesdell told us he had no idea what was going to happen in each set. It was always a surprise.
One of our surprises is that Evans’ widow was sitting at the table right next to us. She just radiated joy. And for the last number a couple danced the Lindy. The rest of us danced and bopped in our seats and the joy spread out from the audience to the orchestra and back to us.
By Carene Lydia Lopez