Friday, May 1, 2015

Miles and Miles of Newport

Miles Davis
Last August, the storied Newport Jazz Festival, granddaddy of the outdoor music festival format, celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding. This summer, producer George Wein will use the festival weekend to pay homage to the 60th anniversary of trumpeter Miles Davis’s breakthrough performance at Newport. 

That July 17, 1955 all-star jam-session teamed Davis with saxophonists Gerry Mulligan and Zoot Sims, pianist Thelonious Monk, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Connie Kay. Together, they explored “Hackensack,” “'Round Midnight” and “Now's The Time.” Columbia Records’ A&R man George Avakian signed the trumpeter to a recording contract shortly after that appearance.

 The lineup for the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival, scheduled this July 31, August 1 and 2, includes bands led by trumpeters Ambrose Akinmusire, Chris Botti, Peter Evans, Jon Faddis, Tom Harrell, Arturo Sandoval and Bria Skonberg. As part of the weekend tribute, each of those players will perform a Miles Davis tune during their respective sets. The festival is also scheduling several panel discussions that will focus on Davis, his music and his Newport connection. 

On July 17, Columbia/Legacy Recordings will release MILES DAVIS AT NEWPORT 1955-1975: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 4. The boxed set consists of live performances by Miles-led bands in 1955, 1958, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1973, and 1975, in Newport and at festivals carrying the Newport Jazz Festival brand in, New York City, Berlin, and Switzerland. Most of the material contained in this four-CD set is previously unreleased. 

A joint news release from the festival and Columbia/Legacy touts Davis’ “20-year association as an artist at impresario George Wein's renowned Newport Jazz Festival.” It actually was a 35-year association. But the set does not include any material from Davis late-career performances at Newport in 1984, 1986 or 1990, or at other Newport-related festivals during that later time frame. Seems odd, doesn’t it ?

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