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Essence of Green - A Tribute to Kind of Blue

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Album Review

A fine group of musicians from the Michigan area gather for what appears at first glance to be a song-by-song response to Miles' classic. The album opens with "Six Shades of Green," following the structure and feel of "All Blues" relatively closely. "Crossing Lines" follows the tone of "Freddie Freeloader" similarly. The chord progressions continue to follow the course set by Kind of Blue as the album progresses, with interplay between Ron di Salvio's Bill Evans intentions, trumpeter Derrick Gardner's excellent Miles-like renditions, and some fine tenor sax (which is perhaps somewhat less Coltrane than di Salvio's piano is Evans, but works wonderfully in the mix) courtesy of Diego Rivera. The modal movements continue along for a while in the same casual nonet form (though with only seven players — there's no analog for Gunther Schuller's French horn), interrupted briefly for the vocal title track, which has more in common with the backing vocalists of Nat King Cole's old pop pieces than Miles. Throughout the course of the album, the band is kept on point by some excellent anchoring rhythm work courtesy of Jimmy Cobb himself, who also gets a few minutes in the spotlight in the more bop-oriented "Cobb's Throb." Before the album is over, more tribute is played out directly to Bill Evans and some slight explorations take place diverging from the Kind of Blue blueprint a bit. Even these explorations, though, feel as though they could have easily come from the original album, with a similar mood and playing styles, similar tones and chord progressions. The only lackluster piece here is "Good Morning Santa Cruz," which uses some outstanding playing on the part of the horn section to paint a picture reminiscent of the old West Coast style with a bit of extra pep, but then adds four-part vocal harmonies over the top, which combined with the lyrics give the piece a very strict feel of morning-radio-show theme music. Aside from the one slip in taste there, the album is outstandingly played out. Much more than your average tribute album, this one takes the concepts of its icon and stretches them just enough to make something new.

Essence of Green - A Tribute to Kind of Blue, Ron Di Salvio
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