Gil Evans Arrangement of “My Ship” w/ Transcription

Gil Evans was way ahead of his time when he hooked up and did a number of albums with Miles Davis. His arranging style was like no other arranger around. Miles had an uncanny ability for choosing the best people to extend his sound and vocabulary, and Gil Evans might have done more to contribute to that legacy than anyone.

The following video is a recording and transcription of Gil’s arrangement on the old standard My Ship. There are a few things that I would like to point out in this arrangement…

1) This is a studio recording, so its performance would be much more difficult “live” than in a studio where the the guy at the mixing board has the control in the end.

Why? Because, for example, Gil uses a fairly high trumpet section for “pads” behind the soloist, and even though they are muted, it is not so easy to play soft in that range and not cover up the delicate clarinet and flute sounds. Always keep in mind the setting you are writing for. In this instance, Gil knew that he could “mix” the wide variety of instrumental sounds the way he wanted in the end. Playing this in a club is certainly doable, but takes ALOT of control in the brass section,and mics are certainly needed for woodwinds.

2) Notice how well Gil uses chromatic lines (in the bass) to create not only new harmony for the tune, but also how the smooth chromatic lines of the inner voices lend themselves to altered upper extensions of chords. This arrangement at times reminds me of Bob Brookmeyer’s original ballad called “First Love Song”. Brookmeyer was influenced by Gil for sure (as were thousands of others of course!)

3) Gil manipulates span, weight, and density beautifully in the chart. A dense few measures may be followed by a simple line at the octave.

4) An awesome example of using Pedal Point is found at the beginning. Notice how the dissonance finally resolves to a simple C chord just before the melody of the tune begins. Tension and release.

5) French horn is used to state the first part of the melody. Granted, most big band at your local club don’t carry around french horn player, but it can be a terrific sound in the right register, and especially when woodwinds are involved. Remember: A french horn is the only brass instrument included in the standard woodwind quintet.

6) Notice how great cup mute trumpet and flute sound doubled together!

You will definitely want to expand this to full screen, and study it over and over. Play it on the piano, and let this thing soak into your psyche. Enjoy!

UPDATE: A class member, Fredo Vollmer, took the time to input this excerpt into Finale and make it available to everyone. Download the transcription in PDF below. Thanks Fredo!

Download Gil Evans My Ship PDF Analysis Here

15 Replies to “Gil Evans Arrangement of “My Ship” w/ Transcription”

  1. George Millsap

    I purchased the original Gil Evans and Miles Davis score and wrote the parts out in Finale and then to PDF. I would be glad to make those items available to you. I was assigned by my mentor Ed Nuccilli to write it from score for his orch. thanks for posting this video. one thing to note Ed had me cue the French horn parts in the alto sax and trombones as neccesary

  2. Balbino de Jesus

    Jim Martin, muitíssimo obrigado pela dica do vídeo.
    Eu não estou conseguindo entrar mais em teu site. Já tentei de tudo mas não deu certo.
    Por favor, me ajude.
    Grande abraço.

  3. Anthony Casamassima

    Impressive use of such blocky chord structures – great example of how planing can create an eerie effect! Thanks for posting!

  4. Jim Martin

    George, I would love to post more examples like this for class members. What would really be cool is to take some of those scores and pull things from them to make arranging exercises out of. So not only would one study the scores, but they would have a chance to mimic what Gil did in another context, or another tune.

    When I did my Master’s at DePaul, I studied with Manny Mendohlson, Eastman grad and very busy Chicago jingle writer. His course was 10 weeks, and we had to write a piece every week in a different style, starting with Ragtime, all the way up to the present. It was a great course because it forced you to learn the style by “doing” rather than just listening.

    It would be really cool to construct an entire course called something like “The Arranging Style of Gil Evans” based on the stuff you have. Who knows, maybe someone has already done that sort of thing.

  5. Buddy Hirsch

    Dear Jim:

    When I finish an arrangements I frequently get into a heated discussion that “the arrangement should be in 4/4 or cut-time. What is the difference?

    Best wishes, Buddy

  6. Sergey Sorokin

    Hello!A beautiful painting of a summer night!Great!I relax when I listen to such music.Valuable material!!!


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