Saturday, August 26, 2023

Gil Evans on Verve (1964-88)

Under the aegis of Creed Taylor, Verve Records may well have reached its commercial, critical and artistic zenith in 1964. Consider just some of the label’s releases that year.

There was not one but three great Jimmy Smith records issued in 1964, notably the exceptional Lalo Schifrin-arranged The Cat.

Also out that year were guitarist Wes Montgomery’s Verve debut, Movin’ Wes; Bill Evans’s evergreen Trio 64; and, of course, the multiple Grammy Award-winning Getz/Gilberto, the disc that recognized and rewarded saxophonist Stan Getz and guitar/vocalist João Gilberto, engineer, Phil Ramone, and the album’s huge hit single, “The Girl from Ipanema,” helmed by ingenue Astrud Gilberto.

And then there was The Individualism of Gil Evans, the exceptional Verve debut of the great arranger, then-reluctant bandleader and pianist Gil Evans (1912-88).

The album was Evans’s first foray under his own name since the magnificent Out of the Cool four years earlier, an album also produced by Creed Taylor. (That album’s sequel, Into the Hot [1961], was a Gil Evans outing in name only.) In the meantime, Evans was actively working with Miles Davis on the trumpeter’s celebrated Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall (1962) and the troubled but still worthy Quiet Nights (1963).

While Evans effectively recorded only one album for Verve, the majority of his studio work for the remainder of the decade was with the label and yielded several discs well worth exploring. (Evans’s work with Miles Davis in 1968 and an eponymous disc some two years later, for the briefly-lived Ampex label, later retitled Blues in Orbit, are not part of this conversation.)

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