Archive for Sunken Treasure

Out of the Cool

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on October 28, 2012 by telescoper

I’ve been taking it easy today, attempting to recover from a bout of sickness by loafing about and listening to old records. I don’t know why I haven’t listened to Out of the Cool by the Gil Evans Orchestra for a while, but at least that meant I came back to it relatively fresh.

Gil Evans was one of the few composer/arrangers in Jazz to have successfully blended his own orchestral textures with solo improvisations in such a way that both complement each other; the scored passages he devised are complex and beautiful, but never so rigid that they inhibit the soloist’s imagination. He directed a number of albums that incorporated Jazz solos in classically-inspired orchestral settings, including Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess (with Miles Davis). This one is less famous than those, but in my opinion at least as good.

Trumpeter Johnny Coles (no relation) is particularly inspired by the imaginative surroundings constructed by Gil Evans on this album, and he responds by inventing beautiful solo lines on several tracks on this album. But the tonal spectrum he encompasses, his use of dynamics, and his distinctive play with inflection are best illustrated by his feature piece, Sunken Treasure, a mysterious, almost evanescent creation which he fashions out of Evans’ floating harmonies. I think this is the best track off a great album.