Straight-up renditions. As part of Piccolo Spoleto's Jazz at the Hippodrome series, tenor sax player Simon Harding and trumpeter Kevin Hackler lead a local sextet through the late jazz great Miles Davis' iconic, bluesy-cool, five-track 1959 album Kind of Blue. Davis' ensemble featured pianist Bill Evans, drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers, and saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. Harding and Hackler will mirror the instrumentation with a brilliant rhythm section. The lineup features alto sax player Mark Sterbank, pianist Richard White, bassist Ben Wells, and drummer Ron Wiltrout. All five musicians are major players in the Jazz Artists of Charleston collective.
These cats love and respect Miles. The music and spirit of Miles Davis inspires musicians in different ways. For Wiltrout, it's an opportunity to pay homage while expressing his own notions through the tunes. "Kind of Blue was the first jazz album I really got into," he says. "It still sounds fresh today. In fact, there are very few Miles Davis albums that I wouldn't still listen to all the way through and learn something from. He was creative in so many ways that people aren't hip to anymore."
It's a tough gig. For any jazz musician, tackling a well-celebrated standard and putting one's own clever twist to it can be quite challenging. Fortunately, this group has the chops and spirit to handle everything from the snappy opener "So What" to the moody closer "Flamenco Sketches" with ease.
T. Ballard Lesemann