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(Belatedly) Miles Behind – Bebop Club, Dec 21

December 27, 2018

A bit late for a note on this, Xmas week having intruded, but the 30th anniversary (approx) of Bristol’s Bebop club deserves some words, even so.

It also marked 20 years since Robin settled in to taking the money on the door – the kind of long service that keeps jazz clubs going – and this Miles Davis tribute, put together by club co-ordinator Andy Hague with a characteristically self-deprecating title, was at his request.

I said the other day that it’s been a winter of tributes to old masters, and this was another good one – a homage to late, electric Miles. That’s less daunting than, say, tipping the hat to the the 1960s quintet, in some ways. The music was generally simpler. And, after his return from a long late 1970s layoff, Miles’ chops were never in great shape, though his note choices never wavered. That, and some dodgy signings of touring bandmates, made much of the music we have from those last years forgettable.

But judicious choice, and some excellent playing on the night on the often quite exposed material, made this a properly festive evening. They began with the unmistakeable guitar intro to Zawinul’s In A Silent Way,  the earliest of Davis’ electric albums, with the remnants of the second great quintet joined by McLaughlin and Holland. It establishes an atmosphere that immediately transports me back to the early ’70s, when it was the first jazz record I remember buying  for myself – so long ago!


And so cool.

Even allowing for that nostalgic glow, this was a great realisation, and segued satisfyingly into It’s About That Time, as on the original release.

Then they leapt forward to We Want Miles, the live set from the early 1980s that sold mainly because we were all grateful Davis was back in action, for Fast Track. More guitar now, from the brilliant Matt Hopkins, and a bit more for Scott Hammond to do on the drums, though Riaan Vosloo‘s bass part remained as simple as could be. Another tune from that set was a slight cheat, as Miles revisited Porgy and Bess. But we also get an authentically sleazy chunk of the earlier Bitches Brew, the once radical-sounding set that time has shown contained the seeds of innumerable later rock and soul and funk-oriented jazz ventures.

A couple of other tunes rounded out a splendid evening. Jim Blomfield had fun on a brace of electric keyboards – managing to sound like Zawinul, Hancock, Corea and, at one point, Jan Hammer. Greg Sterland put in some fervent sax soloing. And the crucial trumpet parts were handled with aplomb by Hague, open or muted, with some well-weighted Milesian phrasing opening out into solos of real substance.

All great to hear in the packed back room of the Bear, and a credit to all concerned after one rehearsal that afternoon. Andy allowed as how they might do this again. They should  . Meanwhile, here’s a selection from the evening, and here’s to the next 30 years…





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