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Miles' and Coltrane's "Kind of Blue" and "Giant Steps": a 50th Anniversary at Jazz at Lincoln Center
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Miles' and Coltrane's "Kind of Blue" and "Giant Steps": a 50th Anniversary at Jazz at Lincoln Center

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Jazz at Lincoln Center

Miles and Coltrane:
50th Anniversary of
Kind of Blue and Giant Steps
(Miles Davis Website)
(John Coltrane Website)
Frederick P. Rose Hall
Rose Theater
Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center

The Mulgrew Miller Trio
(Mulgrew Miller Website)
Mulgrew Miller, Piano, Music Director
Ivan Taylor, Bass
Rodney Green, Drums

Special Guest: Jimmy Cobb, Drums
(Jimmy Cobb Website)

Giant Steps:
(Read about Giant Steps)
Ted Nash, Alto Saxophone
Sherman Irby, Alto Saxophone
Walter Blanding, Tenor Saxophone
George Garzone, Tenor Saxophone

Kind of Blue:
(Read about Kind of Blue)
Take 6, Vocals
(Take 6 Website)

Wendell Pierce, Host
Script by Steven Rathe and David Marash
Scott Thompson and Bridget Wilson: Press

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 12, 2009

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of two renowned recordings, John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Jazz at Lincoln Center assembled a first-rate ensemble of artists for the Valentine weekend series. Mulgrew Miller brought his piano trio, adding Ivan Taylor on bass and Rodney Green on drums. Jimmy Cobb, who performed live with Davis and Coltrane, was tonight’s special guest, on drums. To feature the brash saxophone, evocative of Coltrane, Jazz at Lincoln Center presented a rare saxophone quartet, two altos and two tenors: Ted Nash, Sherman Irby, Walter Blanding, and George Garzone. To feature the surreal trumpet, evocative of Davis, Jazz at Lincoln Center presented a vocal sextet, Take 6: Cedric Carl Dent, Joey Kibble, Alvin Chea, Claude V. McNight III, David Thomas, and Mark Winston Kibble.

Wendell Pierce, tonight’s charismatic host, introduced most of the works and the stage artists and gave the audience insights that enhanced the listening. His humor and warmth were contagious. The first set blasted though seven selections from Giant Steps, starting with Ted Nash’s smooth arrangement of “Syeeda’s Song Flute”. With three of the saxophonists introduced on flute, excepting George Garzone, a bouncy, swinging melody warmed the crowd. Mulgrew Miller’s Trio played background with effervescence. Nash arranged “Cousin Mary”, with three echoing notes. George Garzone’s spirited solo was exceptionally enticing. “Countdown”, arranged by Sherman Irby, was introduced by Rodney Green’s drums, and the music turned dissonant. Saxes and drums were busy and rapid, before a frenzied finale.

“Spiral”, arranged by Ted Nash, had a big band sound, and the drum ruffles defined the mood. Next was Victor Goines’ sensuous arrangement of “Naima” (titled for Coltrane’s wife), with Ivan Taylor’s rippling bass. Sherman Irby arranged “Mr. P.C.”, and Jimmy Cobb was now onstage. His energy is still strong and his sound is enthused and detailed. Walter Blanding took a solo, kicking up the momentum. This was propulsive big swing, and Sherman Irby’s solo, as well, was raucous and rambunctious. Jimmy Cobb was a riveting presence, and the audience loved having him there. “Giant Steps”, Walter Blanding’s arrangement of the title track, finally gave Mulgrew Miller an opportunity to shine. His solo was bluesy and billowy, ending in a whisper. Throughout this set, Wendell Pierce kept the interest keen and the music meaningful.

The second set, a tribute to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, one of my personal favorite recordings (I had the fortune to see and hear Davis at Tanglewood years ago), featured Take 6, part vocalize, part sound effects, with a few anecdotes, lots of scat, and nasal-vocal ornamentations. This was fairly disappointing, as I had hoped for true trumpets here. Jazz at Lincoln Center has no shortage of trumpet virtuosos, including, of course, Wynton Marsalis, and the decision behind a casually presented vocal ensemble, re-creating Kind of Blue, was a letdown, especially after the superb saxophonists in the first set. “All Blues”, arranged by Take 6, had one vocalist standing as the bass, one sitting as the trumpet, and so on. Their arms and fingers were poised for the instruments they were vocally creating. Take 6 is not short on vibrancy, and they added pulse and punctuated rhythms.

In “Blue and Green” (This and the following three recreated tracks were arranged by Mark Kibble) one vocalist played the keyboard, and they improvised through the song. For “So What”, Take 6 had a human trumpet, with Mulgrew Miller’s Trio and Jimmy Cobb returning, thankfully, and Miller and Taylor gave us a piano-bass riff of melancholy elegance. “Flamenco Sketches” included a chant, like near Eastern exoticism, reminding me of a trip to Turkey. At this point, Take 6 interrupted the program to present one of their own recordings, “Seven Steps to Heaven”, in vocalize. “Freddie Freeloader”, the final Davis piece, brought the saxophone quartet back onstage, with Take 6 plus Miller’s Trio. This finale was surely a highlight of the event, adding brilliance and panache. Kudos to tonight’s artists and host, and kudos to Miles Davis and John Coltrane for creating such profound music that’s still celebrated after a half century.

George Garzone, Ted Nash, Sherman Irby,
and Walter Blanding on Saxophones,
with the Mulgrew Miller Trio
Courtesy of Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Take 6 on Vocals
with the Mulgrew Miller Trio
and Jimmy Cobb on Drums
Courtesy of Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jimmy Cobb, Special Guest, on Drums
Courtesy of Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

George Garzone, Ted Nash, Sherman Irby,
and Walter Blanding on Saxophones,
with Jimmy Cobb on Drums
Courtesy of Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at