Canadian pianist, arranger, composer, bandleader, Gil Evans was the first call arranger time and time again with Miles Davis and later developed an obsession with Jimi Hendrix. Born in Toronto but moving around mining towns until the family settled in California, he saw Duke Ellington play in '27 and got the orchestration bug. He also took influence from Kurt Weill and Spanish & Brazilian music.
He moved to NYC in the '40s with a gig arranging for Claude Thornhill. In the late '40s his apartment hosted incubator sessions with Miles, Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, George Russell and others to develop a new kind of music. Eventually this project became Birth Of The Cool, with Evans, Miles and Mulligan putting the whole thing together.
He collaborated with Miles on his Columbia albums Miles Ahead, Sketches Of Spain, Porgy & Bess and Quiet Nights. He started releasing albums under his own name in the late '50s and in the '60s was recording for Verve and worked with Kenny Burrell and Astrud Gilberto. He fell out with Verve over creative differences and started adding electronic instruments into his music around '69. It was around this time that he was profoundly influenced by Hendrix. In fact, he was supposed to make an album in collaboration with the guitarist but Jimi died. Still, Evans carried on with the spirit, putting together free-jazz and rock inspired large ensembles with collective improvisation, electric guitars and lots of arrangements of Hendrix tunes. He has even cut entire albums of Hendrix tunes.
A 1980s residency at Sweet Basil yielded several albums and he also worked with Sting, Steve Lacy, Lee Konitz, as well as on some films (including Martin Scorsese's The Color Of Money). He died at 75 in Mexico.