Gil Evans (born May 13, 1912 as Ian Ernest Gilmore Green in Toronto, Ontario, † March 20, 1988 in Cuernavaca, Mexico) was a Canadian jazz musician (arranger, composer, bandleader and pianist); in the 1940s to 1970s he was an important innovator of concert big band music in the styles of cool jazz, modal jazz, free jazz and jazz rock. Evans introduced orchestration as a new quality to jazz; For example, he has expanded the timbre spectrum of this music with changing combinations of unusual or unusually used woodwind and brass instruments such as oboe, French horn and tuba. He became known in the 1940s for his arrangements with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. His work with Miles Davis, beginning with the Birth of the Cool sessions in 1949, culminated in orchestral productions such as Miles Ahead (1957) and Sketches of Spain (1960), which "represented the Miles Davis tone most perfectly transformed into orchestral sound - into sound". His band projects from the 1970s onwards, such as the Monday Night Orchestra with its sessions in the New York club Sweet Basil and numerous European tours, brought him renewed attention.
He was the son of Margaret Julia McConnachy, who was of Irish/Scottish descent, and was born Ian Ernest Gilmore Green. She has been married five times; her fourth husband, a Canadian doctor, was Gil's father, who died before Gil was born. He took the Evans family name from his stepfather, John A. Evans, a miner. During his childhood, the family moved several times, first to Spokane, Washington, then to Saskatchewan, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and finally to California, finally settling in Stockton, where Gil attended high school and college. It was there that he heard jazz music on the radio for the first time. Gil Evans was a highly talented self-taught artist; he took the opportunity to play the piano with a school friend and to listen to the family's record collection. There he discovered his soft spot for jazz, especially for the music of Louis Armstrong. Other influences came from the Casa Loma Orchestra, the bands of Claude Hopkins and Don Redman, and early Duke Ellington records. In 1929 he founded his first band with school friends, playing contemporary dance music and numbers such as China Boy and Limehouse Blues. Gil's first arrangement was based on the then popular hit Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider in the version by Red Nichols and His Five Pennies.
After graduating from high school, Evans went to the College of the Pacific in September 1931 to switch to Modesto Junior College the following year, which opened up new opportunities for the first band formation; This is how the Brigg-Evans Band came about in 1932 with bassist Ned Briggs. After initial experiences with his own bands, membership in the Thornhill Orchestra and the years of the Second World War, which Evans spent in army bands, he lived and worked in New Zealand from the spring of 1946 York, where he married Lillian Grace in 1950. In the early 1950s, Evans lived with his wife, Lillian, at 345 West 45th Street in Midtown Manhattan, where many musicians lived. In the early 1960s, Evans began body-centered therapy with Reichian therapist Carl Tropp (which ended uncompleted after Tropp's death). In 1961 the couple separated; Evans then moved into an apartment on the Upper West Side at 86th Street, near Central Park. Through Bud Powell's friend Francis Paudras, he met the young African American Anita Powell in October 1962, whom he married in spring 1963 and with whom he had sons Noah (* 1964) and Miles (* 1965).
As one of the first tenants, Evans moved with his family in 1970 to the Westbeth Artists Community, a Bell Laboratories factory converted into lofts for low-income artists on the Hudson River in the West Village