Gil Evans (born 13 May 1912 in Toronto, Canada, died 20 March 1988 in Cuernavaca, Mexico) was a jazz pianist, arranger, composer and bandleader, active in the United States. He played an important role in the development of cool jazz, modal jazz, free jazz and jazz fusion, and collaborated extensively with Miles Davis.
Born Ian Ernest Gilmore Green, his name was changed early on to Evans, the name of his stepfather. His family moved to Stockton, California where he spent most of his youth. After 1946, he lived and worked primarily in New York City, living for many years at Westbeth Artists Community.
Between 1941 and 1948, he worked as an arranger for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. Evans' modest basement apartment behind a New York City Chinese laundry soon became a meeting place for musicians looking to develop new musical styles outside of the dominant bebop style of the day. Those present included the leading bebop performer Charlie Parker himself. In 1948, Evans, with Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, and others, collaborated on a band book for a nonet. The group was booked for a week at the "Royal Roost" as an intermission group on the bill with the Count Basie Orchestra. Capitol Records recorded 12 numbers by the nonet at three sessions in 1949 and 1950. These recordings were reissued on a 1957 Miles Davis LP titled Birth of the Cool.
Later, while Davis was under contract to Columbia Records, producer George Avakian suggested that Davis work with any of several arrangers. Davis immediately chose Evans. The three albums that resulted from the resulting collaboration are 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, who broke with his then-producer Teo Macero for a time as a result. Although these four records were marketed primarily under Davis's name (and credited to Miles Davis with Orchestra Under the Direction of Gil Evans), Evans's contribution was as important as Davis's. Their work coupled Evans's classic big band jazz stylings and arrangements with Davis's solo playing. Evans also contributed behind the scenes to Davis' classic quintet albums of the 1960s.
From 1957 onwards Evans recorded albums under his own name. Among the featured soloists on these records were Lee Konitz, Steve Lacy, Johnny Coles and Cannonball Adderley. In 1965 he arranged the big band tracks on Kenny Burrell's Guitar Forms album. Evans was very influenced by Latin and Brazilian music. 1966 he recorded an album with Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto, Look To The Rainbow.
In the 1970s, following Davis and many other jazz musicians, Evans worked in the free jazz and jazz-rock idioms, gaining a new generation of admirers. Evans had a particular interest in the work of rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix's 1970 death made impossible a scheduled meeting with Evans to discuss having Hendrix front a big band led by Evans. In 1974, he released an album of his arrangements of music by Hendrix.
In 1986, Evans produced and arranged the soundtrack to the film of the Colin MacInnes book Absolute Beginners, thereby working with such contemporary artists as Sade Adu, Patsy Kensit's Eight Wonder, The Style Council, Jerry Dammers, Smiley Culture, Edward Tudor-Pole, and, notably, David Bowie. In 1987, Evans recorded a live CD with Sting, featuring big band arrangements of songs by and with The Police.
In April 1983, the Gil Evans Orchestra was booked into the Sweet Basil jazz club (Greenwich Village, New York) by jazz producer and Sweet Basil owner Horst Liepolt. This turned out to be a regular Monday night engagement for Evans for nearly five years and also resulted in the release of a number of successful albums by Gil Evans and the Monday Night Orchestra (produced by Horst Liepolt). One of these albums, Bud and Bird, won the Grammy award for Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band in 1989.
In 1986, Evans was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.
Evans died in the same Mexican city as Charles Mingus, Cuernavaca.
Gil Evans (13 de mayo de 1912 en Toronto Canadá – 20 de marzo de 1988 en Cuernavaca, México) fue un pianista de jazz, arreglista, compositor, y líder de banda, activo en los Estados Unidos. Tuvo un papel destacado en el desarrollo de cool, modal jazz, free jazz y jazz-rock, y colaboró muchísimo con Miles Davis.