Gil Evans: The Answer to All Musical Problems


Gil Evans photo by Carol Friedman, 1978.

SKF NOTE: This weekend I re-read Gil Evans‘s 5/20/76 interview with Down Beat contributor Arnold Jay Smith, on the cusp of synthesizers’ broad use in jazz and other musics. Evans, creator of unique, acoustic sounds, was an early proponent of synthesizers. He was also a musical adventurer, never stuck in one style.

To my ears, Gil Evans’s records were not always home runs. But that didn’t matter. His were also records I would buy without hearing them first, because I knew I would learn something from them.

“The synthesizer’s like any other instrument. They’re all the same You simply find out their capabilities and use them,” Gil told Arnold Jay Smith.

Mr. Smith, comparing the acoustic musicial instruments in Evans’s bands with the electronic instruments asks, “How do you know when to use the electronic gear?”

Gil Evans has a great deal to learn about what synthesizers can and can’t do, about what works and what doesn’t, he tells Smith.

“That’s the answer, of course, to all musical problems: sit down and do it,” said Evans.

I love Gil’s spirit.

At one point in a conversation about capabilities of synthesizers, Evans mentions wave forms, and in defining “wave form” for Arnold Jay Smith, Evans reinforces Max Roach‘s comments on great jazz musicians Max played with.

“The wave form is the sound that you recognize when you hear something played. Coltrane, Miles, Hawkins, Armstrong – that personal sound they had is their own private wave form,” said Gil Evans.

Great stuff!

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