Gil Evans

By: Jerrold Freitag
May 13, 2014

Gil Evans with Miles Davis
Gil Evans with Miles Davis

The Canadian pianist, arranger, composer, and bandleader GIL EVANS (Ian Green, 1912–88) contorted impressionist harmonies from classical music, sifted them through the concussion a big band can bring, passed Bebop, itemized devices from Gershwin and Cole Porter and leveraged them into pioneering jazz – the only corral for music like Evans’ that takes everything from everywhere. He arranged Jimi Hendrix as if to prove it wasn’t haze and that Hendrix too was beyond racket. Arranging is the higher order as it applies to Evans because that’s how he took mythical themes from artistic geniuses among us, broke them apart and put them back together into different perfections. Miles Davis, with whom Evans birthed cool (and the 1960 collaboration Sketches of Spain), called it Evans’s “witchcraft”: The softer a musical spell like the adagio from Rodrigo’s 1939 classical composition Concierto De Aranjuez is played, the stronger that spell gets. Arranging and rearranging unearths what you don’t hear or see or taste the first time around and confirms the integrity of work.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Bea Arthur, Bruce Chatwin, Samantha Morton, Stephen Colbert.

READ MORE about members of the Partisan Generation (1904-13).


HiLo Heroes, Jazz, Music