Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Gil Evans Orchestra - Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix (RCA, 1974)

Much like his colleague Miles Davis, arranger Gil Evans was fascinated by the range of music that Jimi Hendrix was able to coax from his electric guitar. In this landmark fusion release, Evans re-arranged Hendrix's music for his big band with surprisingly effective results. One of the most exciting tracks on the album is the version of "Crosstown Traffic" which features the stinging guitar of John Abercrombie (what a daunting task it must have been to play guitar on a Hendrix tribute album) and the bluesy vocals of Marvin Peterson. This is a really nice melding of jazz and rock and roll - Abercrombie's solo is pure rock while the large horn section piles on the riffs a-la the Basie big band.

Evans is most well known for his atmospheric work with Davis on albums like Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain, and he takes that pastel-like atmospheric approach on some of the spacier tracks here, like the dreamy versions of "Little Wing" and "1983 A Merman I Should Be." Tracks like these counterbalance the blasting funk of "Voodoo Chile" creating a well balanced investigation of the Henrix songbook. This fine album would make an excellent starting point for rock fans who are curious about jazz but unsure where to start listening. The compositions are familiar from years of rock radio overplay, but the arrangements and interpretations are fresh and interesting.

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