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Miles Ahead

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The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
Product ID STS005
Date Added

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra - MILES AHEAD

All Music Arranged By Gil Evans
Conducted By Tommy Smith

The Maids Of Cadiz
The Duke
My Ship
Miles Ahead
Blues For Pablo
New Rhumba
The Meaning Of The Blues
I Dont Want To Be Kissed

Ingrid Jensen - trumpet & flugelhorn
Tommy Smith - conductor
Belinda Gough - flute & alto flute
Mhairi Milne - clarinet
Michael Huntriss, Allon Beauvoisin - bass clarinet
Laura Macdonald - alto saxophone
Eddie Severn, Hedley Benson, Tom MacNiven, Nigel Boddice, Colin Steele - trumpets
Charles Floyd, Paul Klein - french horns
Chris Greive, Mark Boyd, Ronnie MacNiven - trombones
Lorna McDonald - bass trombone
Andy McKreal - tuba
Orlando Le Flemming - bass
John Rae - drums


John Fordham, Friday December 6, 2002

Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen is a fine disciple of the brass lineage of Miles Davis, Art Farmer and Woody Shaw - and shes a selfless group player, so this collaboration with the powerful Scottish National Jazz Orchestra led by Tommy Smith represents plenty of give and take, even though shes handed the Miles Davis role on the famous Miles Ahead music conceived in collaboration with the late Gil Evans.

Jensen exhibits a composer-like awareness of shape and narrative. The tracks appear in the same running order as on the original disc, and the arrangements are Gil Evans originals. You might wonder why anyone other than an arts marketeer looking for a sponsorship-tempting prestigious project would ever need a clone of the same classic without Miles Davis on it. But Jensens take on the music is often fascinating, and not in Daviss shadow at all - listen to her haunted trilling sounds and achingly developed delivery on Maids of Cadiz over the famous Evans chord-clouds, her behind-the-beat feel on the Birth of the Cool-like title track, or her pure, pealing tones on Blues for Pablo, and you know that while this might be jazz-classical music, the interpreters are treating it as a personal creative opportunity, not a repeat performance with better recording technology.


From the LP era onwards, the task of documenting jazz on record has often fallen to so-called independent labels. The grand marques of Blue Note, Verve and Pacific Jazz may be under major-label jurisdiction now, but they started out as indies, and today the bulk of jazz recording is done under the auspices of the hundreds of entrepreneurs who went into the business primarily because they loved the music. Just as impressive in its more tailored way is Miles Ahead, a performance of the Gil Evans score by Smiths SCOTTISH NATIONAL JAZZ ORCHESTRA, with Ingrid Jensen handling the solo trumpet role which was once allotted to Miles Davis. Fears that this might be a callow ghost of the illustrious original are soon dispelled-the SNJO actually handles Evanss score with greater skill than the admittedly under-rehearsed players of the original, and if Jensen scarcely exorcises the cussed spirit of the original soloist, she brings her own insights to the occasion. Its a powerful example of how repertoire playing will have an important role in the next wave of jazz progress, reinstating an important achievement as a living text.


If youve ever wondered how those classic Miles Davis / Gil Evans collaborations from the late 50s might have sounded had Miles laid aside the mute and played open trumpet, heres a proximate likeness from Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, accompanied by the excellent Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.

These are Evans groundbreaking arrangements, performed in concert with only one brief pause, between tracks five and six. Jensen, to her credit, makes no attempt to imitate Miles, but in keeping with his modus operandi is shaky on several of the melodies and spits out a number of clams, especially on "I Dont Want to Be Kissed" and Dave Brubecks "The Duke." Her solos, on the other hand, are consistently strong and assertive, and she and the SNJO quickly warmed my heart with a lively reading of John Carisis "Springville," on which Jensen plays flugelhorn.

Jensen switches to trumpet on the meditative "Maids of Cadiz," which precedes "The Duke," Kurt Weill / Ira Gershwins "My Ship" and perhaps the most memorable of the Davis / Evans collaborations, "Miles Ahead" (again on flugel). After a brief round of applause, the second half of the program begins with Evans placid "Blues for Pablo" and continues with Ahmad Jamals playful "New Rhumba" (on which Jensen does play muted, sounding not a whit like Miles), Bobby Troupes mournful "Meaning of the Blues," J.J. Johnsons poignant "Lament" and one last number from the album Miles Ahead, the coquettish "Dont Wanna Be Kissed." While that track is listed at 3:52, the last 55 seconds or so consist of well-deserved applause for Jensen and the orchestra.

As the arrangements are the same as on the Davis / Evans albums, so is the instrumentation, with the SNJO using five trumpets, three trombones, bass trombone and rhythm (no piano), two French horns and a tuba but only one saxophone (Laura Macdonalds alto) complemented by flute, alto flute, clarinet and two bass clarinets. Tommy Smith conducts with awareness and respect, and the ensemble goes out of its way to make its guest feel secure and comfortable.

While some may question the need to reproduce such exemplary music, that very prominence argues for its exposure to a wider audience, which this new album by Jensen and the SNJO may help bring about. And even those who are quite familiar with the original recordings should find enough stylistic variation between Davis and Jensen to make the newer version a pleasurable listening experience.

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