Selection: It Ain’t Necessarily So
Selection 2: Summertime
Selection 3: Gone
Artists: Miles Davis With Gil Evans Orchestra
Johnny Coles, Bernie Glow, Louis Mucci, Ernie Royal (trumpet) Miles Davis (flugelhorn, trumpet) Joe Bennett, Jimmy Cleveland, Frank Rehak (trombone) Dick Hixson (bass trombone) Willie Ruff, Gunther Schuller, Julius Watkins (French horn) Bill Barber (tuba) Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque (flute) Danny Bank (bass clarinet) Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone) Paul Chambers (bass) Philly Joe Jones (drums) Gil Evans (arranger, conductor)
One for uninterrupted listening, Miles Davis and Gil Evans weave dark magic in this reworking of Gershwin’s operatic oddity. The work consists of separate songs but they frequently flow into one another without pause. The mood evoked has a melancholy heart and minor keys predominate. Evans’ brass-dominated orchestrations are the antithesis of smooth and restful: they are often jarring, discordant, disturbing, and work perfectly in setting the tone. Miles trumpet coolly paints abstract brush strokes all over Evan’s canvas, as though a work of art.
One Amazon reviewer captures the change in musical interpretation of familiar songs:
This is ‘Porgy and Bess’ as film noir, full of menace, anxiety, dark colour – the ‘Buzzard song’ is an appropriately unsettling opening. Songs which are upbeat in their familiar form like ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, become expansive, ruminative; while tragic, deeply sorrowful songs, like the lament ‘Gone’, in Evans’ hands become a propulsive, rhythmic monster.
The music is dense, difficult in places, and often symphonic character, a world apart from Miles small combo’s, though some pieces like Ain’t Necessarily So could segue seamlessly into the album’s successor, Kind of Blue. Unlike conventional chord changes, the arrangements are based on scale patterns which allows Miles greater scope for improvisation, a form beloved of the DJ-tendancy, modal jazz. Davis and Evans set out to combine disparate styles into a distinctly American music: folk tale, jazz, operatic, symphonic. The album is not to everyone’s taste, as these Amazonians openly state:
“I guess that this CD was a mite bit too much of Miles for me. I enjoyed “Kind of Blue” but not this one”….”Nice to listen to, but it would not be my first choice for this opera”
Porgy and Bess ranks as one of the greatest works ever in the history of jazz. It reinforces the conviction, if any were needed, that 20th century music would not have been the same without Miles Davis. Umm…it would have been slightly different.
Vinyl: Columbia CL1274 original US release on the superlative six-eye label. The stereo would have been nicer still, but wasn’t on offer. American six-eyes are so vastly superior to the CBS “European” editions, it is a case of the US six-eye mono being a vastly superior experience to a European CBS stereo. No place for Chauvinism in music quality, though I have to ask our American friends (leans forward, narrows eyebrows) How come, Buster, Eh?
An outer West London record store I visit only occasionally, and watch with interest, like stop-motion photography, the influence of London’s changing population, in this part of London, from Poland, Lithuania and Russia.
Here I can stock up with delicious Polish sweets, Sliwka – plum in chocolate – and Krówki – literally, “little cows” – Polish fudge (right). When trudging across town in search of vinyl, the jazz collector can draw sustenance from London’s many different local delicacies, adding to the waistline as well as the record collection. It’s probably as well not to go too often, or before long, it’ll be “Porky and Bess”.