Thursday, December 8, 2016

Digging into classic Miles

James Suggs
Twenty-five years after he left the planet, Miles Davis's music lives on. His classic jazz material was on full display Wednesday night at the Venice Art Center in a concert by trumpeter James Suggs' quintet. The band dug into material from his cool, modal and hard bop periods from the 1950s and early 1960s.

The band's performance, co-sponsored by the South County Jazz Club, drew a full house of 160 in the center's main gallery. Suggs' band include tenor saxophonist Jeremy Carter, pianist John O'Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman.

"You can't be a trumpet player today without going through Miles in some way," said Suggs, marveling how the innovator bridged the gap between a succession of jazz styles and even turned beautiful show tunes and movie music into instrumental masterpieces. 

Ohio native Suggs, who turns 37 next month, said he has been absorbing the music and playing nuances of Miles Davis since he was 13. He moved to St. Petersburg several years ago after spending eight years as a musician in Argentina.
John O'Leary

Suggs opened the concert with a beautiful solo version of "My Ship" before his band mates joined this musical voyage through nine more Davis-associated classics: "Freddie Freeloader," Wayne Shorter's Miles-inspired "Prince of Darkness," Bill Evans' ballad "Blue in Green," "Green Dolphin Street," "If I Were a Bell," "Someday My Prince Will Come," "Seven Steps to Heaven," "My Funny Valentine" and perhaps Davis's best-known composition, "So What."

Jeremy Carter
All of the players performed the material with swinging reverence for the originals, but also added their own creative enhancements that melded well, thanks to their great chemistry.

While Suggs channeled the spirit of Miles for the night, Carter was busy channeling Trane and Wayne (Davis's prominent tenors of the period, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter). He did it well both in ensemble passages and solos that were logically conceived and passionately delivered all night, but most notably on the closer, "So What."  

This was Carter's first visit to the South County Jazz Club's six-year-old concert series. Let's hope he comes back soon.
O'Leary, Carter, Suggs, Arenas, Feinman

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