Did Gil Evans arrange Dear Old Stockholm for Miles Davis?

Did Gil Evans arrange Dear Old Stockholm for Miles Davis? Questions like this become more and more fascinating as we begin to dig deeper into them.

The traditional viewpoint was that Miles and Evans met in the 1940s, when Evans’ small basement apartment became a “crash pad” for the beboppers when they needed a nap or place to rest from the hectic pace of the nearby 52nd Street jazz scene. (Wikipedia lists this as the blocks of 52nd Street between 5th and 7th Avenues, but the stretch between 5th and 6th was where Gerry Mulligan showed me the locations of The Three Deuces, etc.)

According to this view, Miles and Evans collaborated in brief but intense periods, notably for the 1940s Birth Of The Cool sessions and then again for their three brilliant 1950s albums: Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and Sketches Of Spain. (If you don’t yet know these recordings, spend the next year listening to then daily – you’re in for a treat!). After these, recordings, the story goes, the two musicians remained friends but only worked together on rare occasions, producing nothing of “value.”

But lately, we’re beginning to see the true picture. In one of Evan’s biographies, saxophonist Wayne Shorter recounts how Evans attended every one of Miles’ recording sessions. Often, when a musical problem arose, Miles and Evans would step out into the hallway. When they returned, Miles would have the solution to the problem (presumably from Evan’s suggestions).

It’s also been recognized that Evans was uncredited for having done the groundbreaking quintet arrangement of Round Midnight, as well as the famous written-out intro for So What. (He possibly wrote the now-commonly played 4th voicings for that tune as well.)

In short, the picture that’s now emerging is that Miles and Evans remained best friends for their entire lives, and that Miles looked to Evans for musical direction, inspiration, and more than the occasional composition and arrangement. Evans wasn’t interested in fame or fortune so he rarely asked for public credit regarding his efforts.

Now, with this understanding, let’s look at the Miles Davis recording of Dear Old Stockholm. First, have a listen:

Miles Davis Quintet: Dear Old Stockholm

In light of all we’ve come to learn about Evans true role in Miles’ recordings, I pretty certain that Evans did this arrangement for Miles. (Or at least that Miles himself arranged the tune in the style of Evans.)

Here are 4 of reasons why I think Gil Evans arranged the traditional Swedish song Dear Old Stockholm for Miles Davis:

1. Miles and Evans shared an interest in folk songs, which they later developed much further on Sketches of Spain.
2. The striking, impressionistic chord voicing prominently featured in the piano part sounds very similar to many of Evans’ big band orchestrations.
3. The arrangement contains a modal section (Miles said that Evans was the one who introduced him to the concept of improvising modally.)
4. It is now commonly acknowledged that Evans arranged the tune Round About Midnight for the same album, so we know that he was actively involved in the recording session.

Dear Old Stockholm was recorded in September, 1956, two and a half years before the extensive modal excursions of Kind Of Blue. In the hindsight of history, this masterful recording can be thoroughly enjoyed as a product unto itself, and also as a transition between Miles Davis the bebopper and Miles Davis the master of modality.

Here’s my video of the tune, where I demonstrate these concepts at the piano:

Dear Old Stockholm: Journey Through The Real Book #84

Let these concepts and recordings help you dig deeper into both this wonderful tune to play as well as the musically rich relationship between Miles Davis and Gil Evans.

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