The Magic of Miles Davis at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa
For the second half of the set the quintet was augmented by Ian Babb on alto, performing material from the late '50s including "All Blues," "Flamenco Sketches," "Milestones" and "Teo." Babb added another strong solo voice to the mix, with a tone less bold and brash than Cannonball Adderley's, but impressive nevertheless. Doxas, shifted cleanly into Jimmy Cobb mode, but never so much so that he lost his own voice. His more playful and sometimes less straightforward approach might have rankled purists, but the fact is that this is living, breathing music, and the best interpreters of archival material are those that remain reverent while, at the same time, breathing new life and bringing a sense of modernity to it. Again, Roney and Magner were compelling soloists, both clearly understanding the essence of the late-'50s sextet.
After a short intermission, the sextet came back on with Magner on alto and Babb on Baritone this time augmented by Nicholas Atkinson on tuba, Mark Ferguson on trombone and Elizabeth Simpson on French horn. Working their way through the complete The Birth of the Cool programme, Cho's diligence at transcribing the music from the original recording and putting together the charts for the nonet was impressive. Also remarkable was how, with a group this size and minimal miking, the instrumental mix in the house was as close to perfect as one could expect.
The textures were rich, with Cho and Doxas providing the necessary swing element. Trudel seemed better suited to this material than that of the first set. Clearly, with this set being more heavily structured and less about group interplay, Trudel was more firmly in the position of featured soloist and, consequently, was able to follow his muse in a more form-based environment. As good as Babb was on alto in the first set, he seemed to shine even more on baritone. Magner's alto tone is as attractive as his tenor, and Ferguson contributed a couple of solos that demonstrated a broader melodic sense that equalled that of Roney.
The group closed with a reading of "So What," with everyone including Simpson and Atkinson taking a turn at soloing. A fine ending to an overall enjoyable evening. And, with a sell-out crowd, it's strong encouragement for Cho to continue on with the next Impressions in Jazz show, titled Suite Freedom , intended to celebrate music inspired by the Civil Rights Movement of the '50s and '60s. Cho will be bringing an even larger ensemble to the stage to perform music including Coltrane's Africa/Brass , along with smaller group interpretations of music by Miles, Mingus and Joe Henderson's Power to the People suite. Cho is nothing if not ambitious, and the clear appreciation of the audience for The Magic of Miles Davis shows how his instinct that there is an audience for this kind of venture in Ottawa is more than just a dream, it's a fact. And that's a good thing.
For information on Adrian Cho's Impressions in Jazz series, visit www.diadic.com on the web.