An Espresso with Noah and Miles Evans

January 6, 2019

Honoring Gil Evans

Two brothers, Noah and Miles speak about their father Gil Evans, and the new album trilogy honoring his work.

 Growing up, music was all around us. 
It was everyday life and quite normal to hear my father working on “Sketches” and falling asleep to that. 
He had all these iconic musicians at our apartment and every now and then he’d take us to Miles Davis’ house. We were just kids and my brother and I would be running around in his backyard. Somehow they put up with us. 
Gil was such a good dad. We nagged him to get us a train set and he was so nice he gave in though we almost burned the apartment down ’cause we left the set on too long. 
We bothered him endlessly to play cards, monopoly and he actually did. He’d be working on the next great composition and there we were pestering him to play Black Jack. 
We were very grateful for that. 
That whole world just happened around us and we never realized that the rehearsals and the jam sessions were unusual. Gil would be playing on the Fender Rhodes til 2 or 3 in the morning and it wasn’t quiet as the bottom part had an amp, which was pretty robust. (Maybe that’s why I can sleep through anything.)
 He was so generous that people would come at any time, stay, play music, and he’d give them food too. He was definitely the nurturer, the caretaker. He was senior to most of the musicians age-wise, so they looked up to him like a father figure. He’d take care of people in a heartbeat. 

MILES: Our father was such an innovator. We’d watch him work, listen to him play and it was so amazing. He was the next, great original sound after Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis was the next great original sound after Louis Armstrong. Together they produced incredible records. 
Gil had this unbelievable sound and one of the many brilliant things he did, was to create unique counterpoint lines. For example, there could be a first trumpet going up, a trombone, bass trombone and/or tuba going down with incredible syncopation and stunning harmonies. He incorporated classical influences with his new, interesting ideas. He was a master at writing and performing different instrumentations for the same songs. My father could work with a 21 piece orchestra and he could also create a 16, 11, 10 or 9 piece instrumentation with the same song.
Gil was born in 1912 and lived through some special periods of music such as (the last part of) Ragtime, Dixieland, the swing era, bebop, big band and jazz /rock/fusion. He continued to perfect his own original sound that influenced generations of arrangers.
Pictures © Melanie Futorian

How do you hear 21 different instruments when you’re sitting down at the piano alone, but Gil could do just this. It’s brilliant to do that in your head and then have it become a reality. Imagine hearing the different voices of the instruments and the interplay of how it was going to sound all together. 
Gil loved music so much that he’d walk around carrying a harmonica or melodica so he could work musically at any time. It was just impossible for him not to create. 
Apparently, Gil had an apartment in the 50’s and all these musicians would come over at any hour. It was their workspace in addition to a crash pad. Miles Davis was collaborating with Gil and they were bouncing ideas off each other there too. 
We had so many stepdads in the 70’s like Howard Johnson, Lew Soloff, Hannibal Peterson. They were all gifted, wonderful men. 

 My dad didn’t want to force me to play music and then later give it up so I gravitated to the trumpet naturally at about age 11. 
A lot of my inspiration came from Hannibal (Marvin) Peterson, Lew Soloff and Jon Faddis. 
Hannibal was a great trumpet player and an amazing addition to the Gil Evans Orchestra in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. He collaborated a lot with Gil. Being around Lew Soloff was a beautiful and invaluable experience. Hearing him play and spending quality time with him was such a gift and I learned so much. It was also a total blast hanging around Miles Davis, who was such a character. He was a uniquely gifted genius. Jon Faddis was another talented trumpet player that I gained so much from.

I started playing with my dad in March of ’83 when I was 17 years old. 
My father booked a tour with an all English band. Miles Davis wanted me to go with my father so he paid for my ticket and I ended up sitting in with the band all over Great Britain. 

NOAH: My dad encouraged us to learn drums as all music obviously has rhythm but in my self-assessment I realized that bass would be a better choice. I later became an intern at a recording studio, as I loved audio and technology. I had the option to go to college or work at a recording studio so chose to learn audio and went on to do sound for the band on a regular basis. 
It wasn’t an option for Gil for us kids to do nothing. 
He even threatened to send us to the military, as he didn’t want us to be spoiled. He wanted us to know what hard work was even if we were to work as delivery boys. 
As you might know, our mother is black and our father was white. In certain states back then they could have been arrested for being in an interracial marriage. Such a ridiculous Draconian law. In our household it was natural. We never talked about race. People were never referred to as a “ Black guy” or an “Italian person” or whatever the case could have been. My parents tried to raise us in a color-blind fashion and they could do that cause we were raised in the village and surrounded by like-minded people. 

MILES: Regarding the new CD, “Hidden Treasures /Monday Nights Vol. 1,” my brother and I felt that the “Sweet Basil” sessions needed to expressed, remembered and cherished. 
There were a lot of incredible nights at “Sweet Basil.”
 My father first started playing there in April of 1983 on Monday nights and he continued to do that between his touring and film scores. 
He had occasionally performed at the “Village Vanguard” in the 70’s and enjoyed that so when “Sweet Basil” offered him a regular gig, he accepted. After our tour in Japan with the Miles Davis Band in May of ’83 we returned to “Sweet Basil.” Whenever Gil was available, he’d be there. 
My mother Anita, on rare occasion would play percussion with the band. She’d been a child protégé on the piano, was a composer and sang with her own projects. Jaco Pastorius would sit in with the band, often Sting would sing and Miles Davis would stop by to check us out. It was a haven for interesting people and interesting music. After my dad died I kept the Monday nights going into the 1990’s. In 2016, Noah and I got the band together and recorded what was performed on those great Monday nights.
NOAH: The project called “Hidden Treasures” is a trilogy of 3 albums
Hidden Treasures/Monday Nights Vol.1 is a powerful record of compositions picked from the time period of the late 70’s and early 80’s. For example, if you came down to “Sweet Basil” one Monday night to see the band, this is what you might have heard.

The second release is called The Classics and has the full band of 21 pieces. Most of the tunes are a selection of the Gil classics done with a special guest soloist.

The third release is the Album, which Gil recorded in 1983. They’re mostly tunes that Gil and Anita wrote together. 
So, it would only make sense that we would want to continue our father’s legacy in his honor.

For those interested – here’s the link to the Hidden Treasurs/Monday Nights Vol.1 trilogy and we hope you’ll enjoy it! 


An Espresso with Noah and Miles Evans Futorian Reportage Jazzespresso Magazine – copyright 2019

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