4 Generations of Miles - Holiday Music for All Ears

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No matter who was soloing, Stern followed closely, comping with chords that suited the direction of the music, and/or defined that direction.

4 Generations of Miles
Iridium Jazz Club
New York, New York

December 24, 2008

Sometimes it's fun to get together with a group of like-minded musicians and just play. More than any other time, the holidays are the best occasion to do just that. Neither the audience nor the musicians are looking for anything other than a rollicking, down home good time. The 4 Generations of Miles collective has been providing that sort of entertainment since its formation. Comprised of musicians who, at various stages of their own and Miles' careers, have played with Miles Davis, these great artists gathered together at the Iridium on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holidays with a blowing session that left everyone in the packed room satisfied.

The quartet included two holdovers from the group's 2002 self-titled live release and two relative newcomers. Guitarist Mike Stern and drummer Jimmy Cobb welcomed saxman Sonny Furtune and bassist Buster Williams to the fold, forming a formidable quartet. The group, while obviously not well-practiced, was professional and quite tasteful in playing standards and originals identified with Davis.

The combo played "There Is No Greater Love" at a quick tempo, and then slowed things down to a groove on "All Blues." Stern included "I Love You" on his album Give and Take (Atlantic, 1997), but gave the tune a longer treatment on this night, with strong solos by each band member. The musicians showed their versatility by changing gears over a ballad, and the rousing set closer "Straight, No Chaser" was shortened a bit due to time constraints but was a great vehicle for the chops and collective identities of the musicians.

Fortune dominated the proceedings, bringing new meaning to the term "blowing session." Even at 70, he was able to summon the chops and raw energy to evoke comparisons to John Coltrane. While he most certainly weaved tales with his solos, those tales came in flurries of notes rising ever higher up the register. His demeanor on the bandstand was pure old-school. When laying out, he was stoic, with both hands around his sax, ever listening. When playing, he let all his feeling out through his horn, contorting his body every which way to achieve maximum effect.

Stern's demeanor was more relaxed, with his simple, blues-based solos always refreshing. Ever the hipster, he was notably the only band member in casual garb, sporting his usual black t-shirt and jeans. In contrast to the dominant Fortune, his solos were more in the pocket and never reached his patented feedback-rich rockish fervor. On this night, it was his rhythm playing that was his greatest asset. No matter who was soloing, Stern followed closely, comping with chords that suited the direction of the music, and/or defined that direction.

Williams was a revelation on bass. His fat fingers make for a beautiful round, wooden tone, allowing him to play notes quicker than most. His styled his solos much like a horn player, with myriad repetition of themes and pauses for breath. He walked his bass for most of the night, providing counterpoint to the soloing of Fortune and Stern, who often played outside the beat.

Cobb was a rock on the drums; he kept time while adding color, driving the direction of each soloist, while adapting his style to suit each one throughout the set. He often used sticks while playing behind Fortune, brushes when playing behind Stern, and tapped the base of the ride cymbal when playing behind Williams. As is his reputation, his solo time was generally short, but always engaging.

These four musicians came to play, and the music was entertaining throughout, if not emotionally stimulating or innovative. It was "jazz done right." If they happen to be playing in your area, it's likely to be a fun family event.

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