LOS ANGELES MUSIC REVIEW: TRIBUTE TO MILES (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Sean Jones at Disney Hall)

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by Jesse David Corti on April 29, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

MILES FURTHER, JAZZ FARTHER

Pianist/keyboardist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, trumpeter Sean Jones, and bassist Marcus Miller settled into Disney Hall to pay tribute to arguably the greatest pioneer of Jazz music after Duke Ellington, Mr. Miles Davis. Hancock greeted the nearly sold-out audience with an emphatic “Los Angeles is in the House!” reminding us that the evening’s program, A Tribute to Miles, was organized by bassist Marcus Miller.

Hancock settled on his piano bench and struck the opening plaintive chords, followed by Colaiuta’s soft gong swells, before Miller’s electric bass and Colaiuta’s drum kit shook up the tender-starting song and made a hard left with vivacious funk. Jones and Shorter joined in on the groove and colored the funk with their brashy splashy brass: “Walkin” had just been rearranged into an electric-tinged jazz-funk fusion that Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch would categorize in a genre apart from true jazz and closer to abstraction. However, for those who align themselves with the likes of Harvey Pekar, and enjoy Davis’ output beyond the modal brilliance of Kind of Blue (valuing his continual experiments and evolution), this was two hours of exquisite, mesmerizing music that respectfully looked back but boldly went forward.

Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of TRIBUTE TO MILES

The evening’s output was rooted to Miles Davis, and the aforementioned quintet played like five acrobats on a trampoline – the trampoline here being the immense, dense, and diverse catalogue of the gentleman who birthed cool, sketched Spain, told us things silently, and paid respects to a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Anglican Bishop of South Africa. Hancock played with the signature fluidity and inventive melodicism that still manages to widen eyes and broaden mouths with wonder and delight. The most colorful instance occurred during the encore when he moved from the keyboard to the keytar and wailed á la Stevie Wonder on clavinet.

Jones shined brightest on “Directions,” in which his trumpet became a flitting and oscillating siren. Shorter’s saxophone was taut and adventurous; he slickly harmonized with Jones and turned in a few jostling solos. Colaiuta showcased his exceptional mastery of percussion and was a most exceptional glue holding all the elements together, whether executing dime-turning dynamics or shifting meter changes; he was the catalyst for evening’s smooth and supple flow. Miller’s bootylicious bass work propelled the music with sleek finesse and jaw-dropping finger work on electric and acoustic. It was by far the best bass playing I have experienced live. His song selections were similarly varied and exciting, veering from “Milestones” to “Dr. Jackle” to “Footprints.”

Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of TRIBUTE TO MILES

The reason I believe Davis himself would be proud of this evening is that beyond the exceptional musicianship and eclectic selections that veered from acoustic to electric to electronic to even a whistle (courtesy of Mr. Shorter) on “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” this was an evening that also honored the tradition of African American performance. Each individual expressed his communal feeling of love and admiration for the late great Davis; they each had emphatic interaction among each other; and each one developed creative responses in the forms of solos and harmonies to the shifting textures and architecture of Davis’ catalog within the ritual space of the concert hall. Marcus Miller called the evening, “The soundtrack to Miles’ dreams.” Fortunately for us, we were allowed to enter a spiritual headspace and let the sound take us away.

Jesse David Corti's Stage and Cinema review of TRIBUTE TO MILES Tribute to Miles:
Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Vinnie Colaiuta, Sean Jones
presented by LA Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall
played April 23, 2013
visit LA Phil for info on this and upcoming shows

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