Friday, 25 April 2008

GIL EVANS AND HIS ORCHESTRA: There Comes A Time


It's 1975, but Joe Gallivan starts a thousand years early, Aztec gold on Mars synth drums pinging around the blue aerosphere like a penguin locked out of the Pyramids, searing seagulls of monotonal high-pitch string synthesiser, growls of guitar feedback, tea being stirred in the cup, bells, bluer slowdives of slower glass, and then the bassline appears, being played on tuned tablas.


A riff! Enter the worship! Forever descending or bowing down, and the tempo isn't quite clear; juddery rock or straight 4/4 cool bop? Clashing scarlet swords of cymbals, bassline now played on Fender bass, fuzzy synth bass, tuba, baritone sax, icicles of icerink string sounds, ramshackle but pinpointingly sharp brass and wind lines, the voice of Hannibal Marvin Peterson erupting from a citadel a thousand moth flights to the sun away - Hendrix, no one can get away from him, Ryo Kawasaki can't stop invoking him on his guitar, crackling, screeching, yelling, bowing - and the lyrics are par for the uh-oh Tony Williams as a lyricist he's a great drummer course but it fits; how could it not? "I love you more than what's happening - I. Love. You. More," he sings among other things as syndrums plummet down and blow up the landscape anew such that from Ellingtonian dignity we are thrust into the Ultravox alien (in 1975, remember) as cold, awesome headlands of lunar sea sweep into chillingly dark and silver view (on the personnel listing of There Comes A Time I count five synth players), cruising, speeding, out to reform all impatient infinities.


Then Billy Harper with his post-Dexter tenor, just about hanging on (not long afterwards he conceded defeat and seceded his place in Evans' reed section to Arthur Blythe) as the universe reshapes itself around his digging in, frequently (as on "General Assembly" from six years earlier) rendering him inaudible, but still he persists to the next thematic statement...then a lull turning into a lullaby, the galaxies transversed in turquoise, and the clouds part to reveal...


Miles 1957, Peterson now on trumpet, against the same silky block chords that Gil used with Thornhill, but there's that triangle on the far right which just won't stop tingling, the bass clarinet which takes up the bassline (how many mouths does Howard Johnson have?), but again the slow agitation of asteroids, clanking its belated milk but not getting in the way as the blast towards a dime of defence razes numbness, makes Hannibal work harder, blow fuller, and again the starsplitting crescendo, one final vocal verse from Peterson, and then everyone's on their united own; melted crunches of electrical interference, guitar as static dust, every so often the skies stretching into clearance so that we can briefly cut back to Evans' deadpan piano comping and Bruce Ditmas' simple swing on the drums - remember where we started - before again flinging out into detuned debris, the aural camera switching restlessly from plugs to plungers and then the final thrust into ninth space (complete with a 2001 fanfare from Lew Soloff just before the waves of gamma devours the orchestra altogether)...and then fading out, a patient, polite lounge bar band, Kawasaki dutifully doing the Joe Pass comping, the everyday lifted into the extraordinary, the Out Of The Cool to Agharta's Miles Ahead!, and who knows where its time is going?
(Toronto!!)