“A New York City A-Team”—that’s how bandleader and keyboardist Pete Levin described the ensemble he put together this past Saturday at the Cutting Room. That ensemble featured eight members of the Gil Evans Orchestra as it existed in the mid to late 1970s, most all of whom are now regulars in the New York jazz circuit and stars of late-night TV bands. Levin’s description is more than adequate given the extraordinary talent these veterans displayed.
The band consisted of trumpeter Lew Soloff, saxophonist Alex Flaster, trombonist/saxophonist Tom “Bones” Malone, French hornist John Clark, guitarist Dave Stryker, bassist Mark Egan, drummer Danny Gottlieb along with his wife, percussionist Beth Gottlieb, and Levin himself. The performance soared from exciting highs to mellow lows, consisting of tunes that highlighted the fiery excitement and originality of the group’s musicianship, all while paying tribute to their original bandleader, Gil Evans, and some other late musical greats as well. Such tributes included covers of Jaco Pastorius’ “Teen Town,” Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Tony Williams’ “There Comes a Time” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Freedom.”
While these musicians had not all been on stage together in 30-plus years, a sense of companionship and fellowship was at the heart of their presence on stage, as everyone made jokes, laughed, hooted, hollered and whispered spontaneous horn arrangements to play during each other’s solos. Beth Gottlieb even wrapped her arms around her husband’s torso and shared a drum solo with him. Overall, this sensational performance brought back the intensity and the beauty of the music produced by this class of the Gil Evans Orchestra.
– Charley Raiff