Over the years there have been a very select group of producers whose contributions have been so important as to render them stars in their own right. Sir George Martin’s status as “the fifth Beatle” comes to mind, as does Rick Rubin’s with many artists, especially Johnny Cash with the American Recordings series. Arguably, Gil Evans’ (1912-1988) work with Miles Davis was the first such instance. The three albums that Evans produced with Miles are classics one and all, Miles Ahead (1957), Porgy and Bess (1958), and Sketches of Spain (1960). Another collaboration from this period, Quiet Nights (1962), was issued later, against the wishes of Davis. Quiet Nights may have been considered inferior by Davis, but there is some wonderful music on it regardless.
Gil Evans began recording under his own name in 1957, and released his own undeniable classic Out of the Cool in 1960. There would be plenty more great music from Gil Evans in the years to come. But one scheduled meeting that held huge potential was sadly not to be, for Jimi Hendrix died before the two were able to get together. In a small way though, just knowing that Gil Evans was interested in working with Hendrix is indicative of why Evans is held in such high esteem by so many. Gil Evans was a man whose musical interests were broad indeed. The legacy he left is both varied and vast, and offers what could be considered a “master class” in music for those of such a mind.
Producer Ryan Truesdell is considered one of the foremost Gil Evans scholars, and was the first person outside the Evans family to be granted full access to Evans’ musical archives. What he discovered was astounding: nearly 50 never-before-heard works. His description of his feelings at the time say it all: “Imagine you buy an old house and discover a box of lost Beethoven manuscripts in the attic – scores that have never been heard before.”