Gil Evans' Out of the Cool in 45rpm

Acoustic Sounds, Chad Kassem’s Oz of analog wonders, has expanded its line of 45rpm jazz reissues to the Impulse! catalogue. Like the Blue Notes, which Kassem and Mike Hobson’s Classic Records have already covered (at 45, 33-1/3, 180g, 200g, black vinyl, clear vinyl, just about any format you might imagine), the great Impulse! albums were engineered by Rudy Van Gelder and featured the masters of their day—Coltrane, Mingus, Rollins, and, one of the most innovative big-band arrangers in modern jazz, Gil Evans.

Out of the Cool, recorded in 1962, stands as Evans’ grandest achievement, apart from his finest works with Miles Davis fronting the orchestra (Sketches of Spain, Miles Ahead), and it’s one of the first of Kassem’s Impulse! 45 releases.

Evans had been one of New York’s leading, though low-key, experimental jazz composers for over a decade at this point. He had a hand in Miles’ Birth of the Cool sessions. Like John Lewis, Gerry Mulligan, and especially George Russell, he was looking for a way out of bebop’s harmonic maze. A few years before the date, Russell had led Miles to a new “modal” approach, based on ancient church scales, perfected in 1959’s Kind of Blue (Evans, who sat in the control room, may have written the anthemic opening bars of “So What”), and, with Out of the Cool, leading just his big band with no upfront soloist, Evans extended the road to new outposts.

The opening song, “Nevada,” is an audacious thing: there’s practically no chord changes, little melody to speak of; the piece advances entirely through orchestral texture, backed by a bassline and a subtle rhythm of the drums. It becomes almost a trick to see how long Evans can sustain the stasis, yet still make it hum and swing. He does it for 15-1/2 minutes, and the string stays taut, the attention never wavers.

Even without Miles, the band is quite something: Johnny Coles, trumpet; Jimmy Knepper, trombone; Ron Carter, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; to name a few.

To appreciate what they’re doing, you need a stereo system that can reproduce all those tonal colors. Van Gelder did his part with the mikes; and Kassem’s remasterers do theirs with the cutting lathe. Their 45rpm stereo pressing sounds at least as good—in the highs and lows, better—than the original, and that’s saying a lot.

Hiro's picture

Does anyone know when the Impulse series is going to be available on SACD?