The concert that I was listening to was a collection of Miles Davis’ compositions played by the Lincoln Center Orchestra, with Wynton Marsalis in the role of one of the key instrumentalists (Jazz at Lincoln Center 2020). I was a rather attentive listener because jazz is one of my favorite genres, and I managed to pay attention to the concert for almost two hours. Miles Davis’ legacy is a perfect representation of why jazz is one of the best music genres, so it would be irrational to not listen closely to yet another rendition of his immortal jazz classics. The main reason why I was an observant listener was also the willingness to point out the essential music-related elements displayed by the Lincoln Center Orchestra.
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The overall “tracklist” of the concert included a total of 12 songs that were originally written and performed by Miles Davis. Gil Evans is the arranger that had a hand in almost every rendition. The most famous pieces covered by the Lincoln Center Orchestra were Seven Steps to Heaven, Half Nelson, Tout de Suite, and Something Else. The conductor’s approach to Davis’ bebop styling was unique, as Marsalis offered the listeners a completely new experience with the sounds of electric jazz. Tout de Suite became the central expansion during the concert at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
There were no different movements within one work until the Tout de Suite piece, where the Orchestra had to switch multiple times to play their part properly. It was a nice concert that ran rather smoothly and did not cause any dissonance in terms of how it was presented or played. With the conductor stopping after every piece to tell the audience a little story about the next song, the concert became even more important, as Marsalis explained each of his approaches to a new rendition to classic Miles Davis’ hits.
The majority of pieces performed during the Miles Davis concert played by the Lincoln Center Orchestra were in the style of electric jazz. It was an amazing performance by the orchestra because every instrument showed how Miles was channeling the music of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, creating a unique fusion sound for his very own jazz music (Etinde-Crompton and Crompton 2019). This was a rather symbolic idea because it was Davis’ creativity that moved his music forward, and the conductor decided to do the same to bring classic hits in a modern covering.
In terms of the instrumentation, four key sections brought Davis’ iconic jazz back to life at the stage of Lincoln Center. The first was reeds, with three alto saxophones, two tenor saxophones, a bass clarinet, and one baritone saxophone. The trumpet section contained four trumpeters, with one of them being Wynton Marsalis himself. Three trombones and a rhythm section consisting of one drummer, one bass player, and one pianist supported the trumpets. Overall, this was a stacked performance where every instrument played its part in revisiting the most iconic Miles Davis’ tunes.
There were solo performances almost in every piece, but the orchestra displayed perfect unity and never failed to deliver harmonies and triads that were invented and popularized by Miles Davis (Vedres 2017). In terms of variety, the Lincoln Center Orchestra did not show any crucial differences from a usual jazz lineup, rhythm, and progressions. Yet, the concert also features the Milestones composition, which does not follow the usual complex chord progressions and exploits just two simple harmonies that have to be perceived, though, on a seven-note scale. The whole concert turned out to be rather homogeneous, allowing the musicians to protect the invisible structure of Davis’ compositions and only little to no improvisation to them playing. The purpose of the music played by the Lincoln Center Orchestra was to pay homage to Miles Davis’ timeless hits while also helping the audience to get themselves acquainted with his unique musical style that could be recognized at any time.
The concert consisted of uptempo jazz compositions that the orchestra perfectly combined into a flowing set where every member of the concert team being on stage contributed to a respectful rendition of Miles Davis’ essential hits. At some points, the volume went from loud to very loud and back to discreet, with the majority of compositions being flashy and articulate. The loudest of all pieces was the Tout de Suite, with the whole concert group increasing their pressure on the instruments to create a mood similar to the one that Miles Davis usually created during his live performances (Etinde-Crompton and Crompton 2019). This was done to highlight Davis’ ostentatious approach to music and set the tone for the whole concert. The rhythm section portrayed a perfect jazz cadence that could be easily mistaken for original Miles Davis’ compositions. The melodies played by the orchestra during the concert were smooth and only stepped away from the original Miles Davis’ compositions several times throughout the performance.
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The concert turned out to be so successful because the orchestra employed the famous Davis’ forbidden triads that eventually made the jazzman so famous back in the day (Vedres 2017). In terms of the form employed by the concert team, the performance at Lincoln Center could be labeled a combination of a medley and theme and variation. While some of the pieces remained untouched, there were instances of solo performances and altered outros that could help one establish the concert as a theme and variation and not a medley. The historical period covered by the orchestra accounts for the songs that were composed by Miles Davis from 1947 to 1965.
Etinde-Crompton, Charlotte, and Samuel Willard Crompton. 2019. Miles Davis. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishing.
Jazz at Lincoln Center. 2020. “From the Vault: The Music of Miles Davis.” Web.
Vedres, Balazs. 2017. “Forbidden Triads and Creative Success in Jazz: The Miles Davis Factor.” Applied Network Science 2(1): 1-25. Web.