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Porgy and Bess

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Album Review

Tomes are available annotating the importance of this recording. The musical and social impact of Miles Davis, his collaborative efforts with Gil Evans, and in particular their reinvention of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess are indeed profound. However, the most efficient method of extricating the rhetoric and opining is to experience the recording. Few other musical teams would have had the ability to remain true to the undiluted spirit and multifaceted nuance of this epic work. However, no other musical teams were Miles Davis and Gil Evans. It was Evans' intimate knowledge of the composition as well as the performer that allowed him to so definitively capture the essence of both. The four dates needed to complete work on Porgy and Bess include contributions from several members of his most recent musical aggregate: Julian "Cannonball" Adderley (alto sax), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). Although the focus and emphasis is squarely on Davis throughout, the contributions of the quartet on "Prayer (Oh Doctor Jesus)," "I Loves You, Porgy," and "There's a Boat That's Leaving Soon for New York" are immeasurable. They provide a delicate balance in style and, under the direction of Evans, incorporate much of the same energy and intonation here as they did to their post-bop recordings. There is infinitely more happening on Porgy and Bess, however, with much of the evidence existing in the subtle significance of the hauntingly lyrical passages from Danny Banks' (alto flute) solos, which commence on "Fishermen, Strawberry and Devil Crab." Or the emotive bass and tuba duet that runs throughout "Buzzard Song." The impeccable digital remastering and subsequent reissue — which likewise applies to the Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings box set — only magnifies the refulgence of Porgy and Bess. Likewise, two previously unissued performances have been appended to the original baker's dozen. No observation or collection of American jazz can be deemed complete without this recording.

Customer Reviews



A Overwrought Milestone

A milestone, in the continuing collaboration of Miles Davis and Gil Evans. However, the fusion of "classical" composition with jazz is of course nothing new. Duke Ellington, for example, as a master of combining the forms.

However, despite all the accolades, I find most of the Davis/Evans collaborations unlistenable, and probably my least favorite era of Davis' work. The beautiful lyrical passages are all too frequently overwhelmed by bombastic and shrill horn sections crescendi and blasts. The result, like much Romantic-era classical music, sounds like the work of someone rather emotionally unhinged, as you never know whether that someone is going to give you a kiss or sucker-punch you. Bipolar music.

However, if you feel your life is too even and dull, then perhaps this sort of emotional rollercoaster would feel refreshing to you. It just gives me a headache.

One of Miles' Best

After having listened to Miles for the better part of four decades, I have come to the conclusion that "Porgy and Bess" is one of Miles' two greatest recordings, the other, of course, being "Kind of Blue." For anyone wanting an introduction to Miles Davis, you will not go wrong with "Porgy and Bess."


Born: May 26, 1926 in Alton, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Throughout a professional career lasting 50 years, Miles Davis played the trumpet in a lyrical, introspective, and melodic style, often employing a stemless Harmon mute to make his sound more personal and intimate. But if his approach to his instrument was constant, his approach to jazz was dazzlingly protean. To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-'40s to the early '90s, since he was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the...
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