Steve Jordan has written a beautiful review of this gig. All I can add is they had SO MUCH FUN up there.
On Wednesday last, pianist Terry Seabrook brought his band, Milestones, to Fleece Jazz to pay tribute to arguably the most innovative and creative musician in modern jazz, Miles Davis, and his most famous and eminently listenable album, Kind of Blue. A classic of the new wave of modal jazz which Miles pioneered with others in the 1950s, it has been described as “one of the most important, as well as sublimely beautiful albums in the history of jazz”.
On trumpet and flugel horn, we had Martin Shaw in the role of Miles; on tenor sax, Andy Panayi, taking the role of John Coltrane; Alan Barnes on alto saxophone, a slimmed-down version of Cannonball Adderley; Paul Whitten on double bass and Spike Jones on drums taking the roles of Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb respectively.
The anticipation and expectation from our sizeable audience was great and the band did not disappoint. The highly recognisable vamp of Milestones, formerly known just as Miles on the original LP release, washed over the room and felt like an old friend who had been away too long. The hoots of approval and cheers from the audience said it all. Next up, a tune composed (but never recorded) by Miles, being most associated with the pianist Bill Evans: Nardis. A blistering horn chorus, as in Cannonball Adderley’s interpretation, rather than the lyrical piano of Bill Evans, segues into an interlude from the rhythm section where we get the first opportunity to enjoy their collective playing.
Terry Seabrook introduces his Sketches of Miles suite which builds on modal themes from Miles’ music. At one point, I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to a big band orchestra and on opening them discovered that only Alan Barnes and the rhythm section were playing. A great sound, not least due to Dave Lyons on the sound desk.
The first set concludes with Side One of the original LP and once again we are transported back sixty plus years by the piano and bass introduction of So What, with its complex rhythmic style. A special mention here should go to Paul Whitten, the “quiet man at the back”, who availed himself superbly throughout and set the pulse racing each time a familiar bass line was heard. A special mention too to Andy Panayi for his Coltranesque solo which visibly moved both Martin Shaw and Alan Barnes to close their eyes and sway in a dreamy state. It is so good to see band members enjoying the music so much and makes all the difference to the performance. Without any pause apart from the rapturous applause and hoots of appreciation from our audience, we are into Freddie Freeloader, a blues with a melodic and rhythmic simplicity, with the opportunity for Martin “Miles” Shaw and Alan “Cannonball” Barnes to showcase their talents on trumpet and alto sax respectively. The pace calms a little with the ballad, Blue In Green, with its circular form and highly modal melody and again Martin Shaw delivers perfectly.
We could have stopped there and gone home happy and content, but we had a whole second set as a special bonus. Side Two of Kind of Blue began with All Blues, a blues form with just a few modal changes, had highlights from every single band member. Flamenco Sketches takes the idea of modal jazz even further as Terry Seabrook explained: the improviser is given a scale or series of scales (modes) as material to improvise from, rather than a sequence of chords or harmonies. With this last number from Kind of Blue, the series of scales is played as long as the soloist wishes until he has completed the series. This happened a number of times, most notably with Andy Panayi and Spike Wells giving no quarter.
Terry Seabrook’s Sketches of Miles Suite sandwiches another composition of his, Bopping for M.D., paying tribute to Miles’ later funk-influenced period. A number that Miles performed on his album of the same name, Seven Steps To Heaven, would have been the last but we couldn’t let them go without an encore which was Monk’s Straight, No Chaser, also from Miles’ Milestones album.
You can probably guess I’d given up trying to analyse the music by the interval and sat back and enjoyed the moment. Wonderful, marvellous, glorious music. Terry Seabrook recommended that we go home and dig out our old albums and see how Miles and his guys measured up to them. I’ve done that and the jury is still out!
- Milestones (Miles Davis
- Nardis (Miles Davis)
- Sketches of Miles Suite Pt. I: (a) That’s What (Terry Seabrook)
(b) Three Miles High (Terry Seabrook)
- So What (Miles Davis)
- Freddie Freeloader (Miles Davis)
- Blue In Green (Miles Davis/Bill Evans)
* * * * * * *
- All Blues (Miles Davis)
- Flamenco Sketches (Miles Davis)
- Sketches of Miles Suite Pt. 2: Sideways (Terry Seabrook)
- 10.Bopping for M.D. (Terry Seabrook)
- 11.Sketches of Miles Suite Pt. 3: Devil’s Own (Terry Seabrook)
- 12.Seven Steps To Heaven (Victor Feldman/Miles Davis)
Encore: Straight, No Chaser (Thelonious Monk)