In the late 1950s, after a slew of fruitful collaborations with Miles Davis, composer and arranger Gil Evans set out to record a series of albums under his own name. The albums, recorded on the Pacific Jazz label, revealed a more traditional and decidedly more streamlined facet of Evans’ style (though no less harmonically advanced). Among the most popular of those albums was Great Jazz Standards, which was recorded on this date in 1959.
The selection above comes from a 2006 Blue Note reissue of the Pacific Jazz recordings. Here, Evans’ arrangement of “Straight, No Chaser” is clear-cut and unfussy. He lets the self-winding simplicity of Monk’s melody speak for itself. His phenomenal ensemble included Johnny Coles, Louis Mucci and Danny Stoles on trumpet; Jimmy Cleveland, Curtis Fuller and Rod Levitt on trombone; Earl Chapin on French horn; Bill Barber on tuba; Budd Johnson, Steve Lacy and Eddie Caine on woodwinds; Ray Crawford on guitar; Tommy Potter on bass; and Elvin Jones drums. Evans himself played the piano, taking a colorful, almost Pointillist solo flight before the horns return to the melody at the song’s conclusion.
Feature image: Miles Davis, left, with Gil Evans (Courtesy Michael Ochs Archive)