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Davis and Evans rework Gershwin's operatic oddity to weave dark magic,
This review is from: Porgy And Bess (Audio CD)
In one of the short essays printed in the CD booklet-insert, Bill Kirchner writes: "In 20th century American music, three partnerships have been most influential: Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn, Frank Sinatra/Nelson Riddle, and Miles Davis/Gil Evans."
It's no exaggeration to state that Miles Davis was in many ways the 20th century's musical equivalent of Picasso: always the innovator, pushing the boundaries of hitherto unexplored landscapes to expand what we accept as art, disregarding convention and rewriting the rules. The musical marriage with Gil Evans' structured but often radical orchestral arrangements provided the near-perfect canvas for Miles' trumpet to paint its expressive, minimalist, striking colors with bold but often melancholy brush strokes. Chalk and cheese they may have been, but together cooked up something magical. In addition they were close lifelong friends.
From first to last, the result of their collaboration in reworking Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" has a serious core. The mood evoked is on the whole not joyous; it 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.
Highlights would be the downbeat opener "Buzzard Song" employing a sparse duet of tuba and trumpet; a mellow and rhythmic rendition of "Summertime" (a contrast with Trane's treatment of the same base material on his "Favorite Things" album is instructive); and the sublime "It ain't necessarily so" - each one a fine example of Evans' radical, attention-grabbing orchestration overlaid with Miles' intelligent exploration of the basic melody with a trumpet sound so clean and vital it's like a refreshing shower on the skin on a hot day.
This album may not be to everyone's taste, and does not suit every mood. However, its best moments rank as some of the greatest ever in jazz and reinforce the conviction, if any were needed, that 20th century music would not have been the same without Miles Davis.