Jul
11
1987

Perugia, IT (Umbria Jazz Festival)

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SHOW REVIEW

Sting and Gil Evans at Umbria Jazz...

Although Gil Evans performance in the ruins of the beautiful church of Saint Francesco al Prato quickly became the highlight of this year's Umbria Jazz, his concert with Sting was a mammoth media event. It attracted the largest attendance in the 14-year history of Umbria Jazz - 35,000 - and the concert was simultaneously broadcast on Italian prime-time.

The harried festival staff joked about the monumental headaches caused by having what seemed to be two festivals this year - Umbria Jazz and Umbria Sting. But the idea for this concert was the brainstorm of Carlo Pagnotta, the festival's artistic director, who over the ears has integrated more commercial programming into what was initially a straight ahead jazz festival. He proposed the idea to the artists months before the festival, and both immediately agreed.

The program was a more or less typical Evans panorama, a mix of Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus and Tony Williams songs, with Sting out front as a vocalist on Evans' Jimi Hendrix charts. The more familiar Police material also featured a guest appearance by Branford Marsalis. 'Synchronicity', 'Consider Me Gone' and 'Shadows In The Rain' wore a wild new coat of Evans colours and enthralled the crowd.

"It was beautiful," Evans commented afterwards. "Sting is a good musician, a very good musician. He has a lot of know how and is very unpretentious. And, he worked right into what we do completely. It wasn't a problem at all. It was as though we'd always worked together. We recorded a couple of the Jimi Hendrix numbers together last spring, and I think Sting might use them on his next album.

For Sting. The chance to work with Evans was "like winning the World Cup. I first met Gil when he was performing at Ronnie Scotts's in London a few years ago. I've been a fan of his since I was 15. So I had the nerve to introduce myself and he said, 'I've heard of you. I remember 'Walking On The Moon' - it's got a great bassline'. Well, I couldn't believe this great man knew about me.

"I'm not sure how much Gil will get out of this, but for me, it's tremendous. I'm someone who is still learning about music and Gil is one of the geniuses of the 20th century.

"I see music as a whole. And it doesn't really serve music to be labelled as jazz or classical or rock, because it stops musicians from meeting. In this case, we're trying to find common ground. I'm not that interested in jazz, seriously.

"I just think to stretch the boundaries of what a musician can do can only be to the good. You know, I'm in a great position - because I'm a pop star, I can do basically what I like and someone will listen. If I fail it doesn't matter. So I enjoy taking risks, but this really is not a risk, it's been a honour."

© Pulse magazine

Sting & Gil Evans at the Perugia Jazz Festival...

There he was, the suntanned and designer-stubbled Sting standing on stage in front of the mighty Gil Evans jazz orchestra. Before this special concert he'd commented that he didn't whether it would classify as jazz or not, but it would be exciting. And from his opening raunchy lines, "I just wanna talk to you," we knew he wasn't kidding.

Sting first met Gil Evans through the music of Jimi Hendrix, and their numbing versions of Little Wing haunts me to this day. Numbers tonight where from 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles', followed with 'Consider Me Gone' and 'Shadows In The Rain', bubbling and cooking just like mama's minestrone; then Sting's soaring voice tried to crack the full moon above on Billie Holiday's jazz classic 'Strange Fruit'.

'Tea In The Sahara' and Hendrix's 'Up From The Skies' led to a short break, and then they returned, the orchestra driving like a hellbound train on an instrumental version of the Police's 'Synchronicity'. Sting strolled back to give what was perhaps his best ever version of 'Roxanne', which also included tantalising snatches of Gil Evans' favourite Police song 'Walking On The Moon'. Mr Evans, the 75 year old genius jazz arranger, had supervised the proceedings like a quiet yet proud father, but suddenly it seemed all over. Yet there was no need to panic, because the young and talented orchestra returned to smother us in some fiery jazz before Sting returned with a solo version Of 'Message In A Bottle' with 25,000 people helping out with the words. Strange Fruit indeed.

© Record Mirror by David Stansfield

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