Music

Gil Evans: Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans

Brilliant, beautiful music. Nothing else needs to be said.


Gil Evans

Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans

Label: Artist Share
US Release Date: 2012-05-13
UK Release Date: Import
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Centenntial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans is a daunting undertaking, years in the making. Producer Ryan Truesdell was given access to a humongous collection of manuscripts left by the late, great Gil Evans. Among the familiar pieces were a number of arrangements that had never been heard publicly, and in some cases had never been completed. With the blessing of Evans's estate, Truesdell took it upon himself to gather a band and record these previously unknown compositions and arrangements. Here is the fruits of his labors, with significant help from the dozens of musicians he assembled and Artist Share, the collaborative process in which fans themselves fund projects and get to help choose what kind of music gets made. And thank whatever gods you worship that this album was made, because it is beyond phenomenal.

Elmer Gilmore Evans is, of course, one of the most important figures in the history of jazz, although for the casual jazz fans Evans may be known solely as the collaborative partner of Miles Davis on such classic albums as Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain, which are perhaps the very best examples of jazz being mixed with its forgotten roots in classical music. They are exceptional examples of Davis's playing, but more importantly served as showcases for Evans's severely underrated skills as an arranger.

There is far, far more to Evans's legacy, however, than merely facilitating the masterpieces of another artist. Although his output as leader of his own ensemble is rather sparse in comparison with most other big names of golden eras of jazz, the albums he put out with his own collectives made up for the lack of quantity with exceptional quality. Like Davis, he was at the forefront of just about every new trend and movement in jazz from the '40s to the '70s. His album Gil Evans and Ten stretched the boundaries of cool jazz, he was one of many early proponents of the use of electronic instruments in jazz with his Svengali, and he swung much farther towards rock than most of his fusion contemporaries with the surpassingly good The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix.

This album, like most that are comprised of earlier compositions, tends to shy away from the fusion period and focuses on perhaps jazz's most fertile period (as well as Evans's) of the 1950s. So of course the vast majority of the pieces here slip very, very easily into the collection of any jazz fanatic, although Evan's distinctive arrangements always place his work above is peer and this is no exception. His ability to subvert the pitfalls of big band jazz, which could often fall into vats of extreme cheese, despite using the same set of tools as the cheese purveyors. A number of the tracks do this by inserting tonal colors or instruments that are downright foreign to the kind of jazz that was being produced at the time that these arrangements were written, i.e. the table on "Punjab", which absolutely makes the track. Evans's desire to create gorgeous music spurred on a natural talent, making him a restless virtuoso of orchestration. The sonic textures conjured up here by the specific combinations of instruments and melodic passages are revelatory. "Punjab" as an opener is a good indicator of the level of quality that the listener is in store for on this album.

Other highlights of the album are the beautiful "Look to the Rainbow", with it's sweet folklike melody and harmonic accompaniment that builds and climbs throughout. The bass solo in the break between verses is sublime, as are the mellow vocals of Luciana Souza and the occasional glissandos of the slide trombone. "Smoking My Sad Cigarette" is almost the opposite on the emotional spectrum. Each note can be seen through a thick haze of smoke as the splendorous bass trombone and piccolo combine in a perfect distillation of the prototypical "dark night of the soul." There are so many highlights here that you could pore over basically every note played on the album, from the fantastic syncopations of "The Maids of Cadiz" to the frightening, haunting dissonances of "Barbara Song", that sound exactly like a film noir starring Dracula. The best, though, is the nearly twenty-minute medley of "Waltz/Variation on the Misery/So Long", that producer Truesdell describes as Evans's "magnum opus", an apt description if ever there were one. There is so much ground covered here that it would takes miles of wreaths of words to explain the power of this piece; it is akin to a symphony and is most certainly an uncovered diamond of the jazz world that will hopefully be treasured for a long time to come and given it's due credit when the last book on the subject is written.

No beating around the bush; get this album. Any fan of jazz will love this. Any fan of Gil Evans will live and breathe for this. If you don't like this, you don't like music.

Buy it. Listen to it. Love it.

10

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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