Great Jazz Standards, was recorded when Evans was red-hot after two successes with Miles Davis, Miles Ahead and Porgy And Bess.
Evans’ signature brass choir is in place—creatively voiced, spaciously arranged, a supple, multi-coloured, sonically surprising counterpoint to a succession of superb soloists. The added bonus, for Evans’ projects, is the foregrounding of saxophone and clarinet soloists Steve Lacy and Budd Johnson.
Lacy and the original swing-to-bop missing link, Johnson, are the ones who will make the hair on your neck curl.
Lacy’s solos on Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” and John Lewis’ “Django” must be some of the finest pre-free improvisations he recorded, already heading from quirky to out-there. Johnson’s clarinet solo on Don Redman’s spooky, swing-meets-whole tone classic, “Chant Of The Weed,” and slow-burning, stirring tenor solo on Evans’ “La Nevada” are some of the finest the all-but-forgotten genius ever recorded. Trumpeter Johnny Coles, has the inevitable misfortune of being compared to Miles Davis and being found to be… different. Sunny, open and extroverted, he may not be a stylist of Davis’ proportions, but he’s an enjoyable alternative foil for Evans’ arrangements.
A magnificent but neglected album, and still coming up fresh as daisies.
Chris May/All About Jazz