At first blush, an album dedicated both Pablo Picasso and Miles Davis may appear to be honoring the quintessential odd couple. But after you think about it the combination makes sense. Both men went through quite distinctive periods during their respective lives as they moved toward the culmination of their artistic development. Picasso went through his Blue Period, Cubism, finally arriving at Surrealism, which found greater expression in his poetry than his painting or sculptures. Miles Davis, too, went through several states with which most jazz fans are familiar. There were the early days in Bop with Parker and Gillespie, the cool period, the quintet with Coltrane et. al., the impressionist work he did with Gil Evans and finally his ascent or descent, as you will, into exploring the popular musical formats of the day.
Newcomer Richard Clay has written a series of eleven compositions dedicated to the transformation of these two artists. There is nothing earth shaking about this music, except that it is quite listenable and seems to capture the art souls of the two it pays tribute to. Clay is a major performer on this album as well as its creator. His saxophones and especially his flute, are conspicuous on many of the cuts. But much credit for this achievement has to do with the musicians who gathered to join him in this endeavor. Veteran trombonist Curtis Fuller makes his presence known, particularly with a powerful solo on "Blue Cool" which contrasts with Clay's "cool" flute. But it is the trumpet of Eddie Henderson which makes the album go. Henderson is a practicing psychiatrist as well as an outstanding trumpet player straight out of the Miles Davis mold. I'll leave it to others to decide whether his medical training helps in reading Davis, or Picasso. Whatever, his work on cuts as "View of Bitches Brew", which runs the gamut from avant-garde to lilting waltz, has Henderson's muted trumpet dancing with Clay's flight of fancy fluting. There's also some very creative percussion work on this cut by Ray Mantilla. Henderson's trumpet becomes call of the bull ring which was the impressionist subject of Picasso's Minotauromachy, here reflected in "Minotaur I". The 10 minute plus track, "Blue Period", is a musical expression of what many experts call Picasso's more fertile period. Here we hear the sassiness in Henderson's trumpet plays against some very good ensemble work and Clay's flute. Buster Williams' bass holds matters togther on this long piece.
When I first put this album in the player, I was prepared not to like it probably because I get suspicious of albums with somewhat pretentious titles. But this is reasonably good original music played skillfully by good musicians and is recommended.
Tracks:Pablo; Blue Cool; Love of a Lifetime; Blue Miles; View of Britches Brew; Inspiration; Blue Period; View 2; Minotaur I; For Miles; Les Demoiselles d' AvignonTracks:Eddie Henderson - Trumpet; Curtis Fuller - Trombone; Richard Clay - Saxophone/ Flute/Keyboards; Geri Allen - Piano; Buster Williams - Bass; Ray Mantilla - Percussion/ Congas; Lenny White - Drums; Warren Smith - Percussion