Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread?
Sunday, May 26
Sunday's film No. 4, "The Birth of the Cool and Beyond," highlighting clips of Miles Davis / Gil Evans, Shorty Rogers, Marty Paich and the vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, among others, was followed by the weekend's centerpiece, a brunch and three concerts in the Marquis Ballroom, which had been rearranged so that those who sprang for food were seated at tables in front of the bandstand, others in more conventional seats behind a railing. The combination of music and food drew what was probably the week's largest audience (although the bar had been set rather low). The first of the concerts, "The Real Birth of the Cool: The Music of Claude Thornhill," showcased arrangements by Evans and a barely post-teen Gerry Mulligan, performed by an all-star ensemble conducted by Hollywood composer / arranger Chris Walden. Included were two of Mulligan's compositions ("Five Brothers," "Jeru") and his arrangements of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" and "Donna Lee," Noel Coward's "Poor Little Rich Girl," "Rose of the Rio Grande" and George Wallington's "Godchild." Evans arranged "Robbins' Nest," "Anthropology" and Thornhill's theme, "Snowfall." The over-all impression was one of amazement at how well these charts have stood the test of time. The band was remarkably tidy, while the soloists comprised the usual suspects plus alto Ann Patterson, baritone Bob Efford, pianist Rich Eames and guitarist Doug MacDonald. Trumpeter Saunders was especially mind-blowing on "Donna Lee." Bassist Putter Smith and drummer Paul Kreibich rounded out the first-class rhythm section.
The second concert, "The Music of the Miles Davis Nonet," was performed by a nonet (what else?) led by trumpeter Chuck Findley who sounds nothing like Miles (insert sadness or applause here), playing songs from the "Birth of the Cool" album in the order in which they were recorded (and reprising the original solos note- for-note). While that may seem to be easy, it really isn't, and Findley and his mates deserve high marks for making the effort. The band rested between numbers by swapping "Miles Davis stories," most of which were too indelicate to repeat here. All, however, were humorous in their own way. Two numbers from the Thornhill book, "Jeru" and "Godchild," reappeared here, alongside such paragons as "Move," "Venus de Milo," "Budo," "Israel," "Deception" and "Boplicity." The nonet received a well- deserved standing ovation.