Miles Davis Stirs Up New Sounds
THE FOURTH annual UC Jazz Festival’s first concert, last night, began with an hour of Miles Davis stirring up an electronic and experimental brew of new sounds and ended with Charles Mingus playing Charlie Parker’s ‘Ko Ko’.
Sandwiched in between was an entertaining, if chilly, four hours which included considerable contributions by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet and Miss Robert Flack, a mellow and saucy soul-sister who sings, plays great piano and gets into some pretty heavy stuff.
The Hearst Greek Theater was packed solid. A tribute to the spirit of “black and blues,” the festival’s theme, and also to the known quality of the performers. Eleven thousand tickets were sold.
The incredible and indescribable sounds that now identify Miles Davis’ group rolled out over the blanketed crowd in waves, with Miles’ trumpet creations matched in imaginative artistry especially by electric pianist Chick Corea, an absolutely astounding performer.
Miles Davis in the last decade hasn’t changed his own trumpet sound very much but because the musicians who surround him have changed over the years, Miles seems to be, now, a wholly fresh stylist. And his tone, power and lift have never been better.
Last night, as at the Fillmore recently, Miles and Corea led the huge audience along an often surrealistic audio path highlighted and decorated by elegant solo work.
Corea uses switches and controls, pedals, and an oscillator to bring out electric tones from the piano that defy description. With Miles blowing open and muted, fading in and out, and Airto Moreria flying around on Brazilian percussion sounds there is more than one can absorb much of the time.
The duets within the Davis sextet — Corea and bassist Dave Holland; Davis and Corea; Corea and saxophonist Steve Grossman, etc., are among the more wonderful tidbits of the group’s overall presentation.
The Charles Mingus set, short, late, and sometimes pretty rough, included an interesting and typically complex Mingus composition which began and ended with a narration dedicated to freedom.
Mingus’ bass’ lines were muddied and distorted by poor miking (the evening’s only amplification problem) but Mingus still sounded fine, as he has for a quarter century.
He plays so much bass, drives his band, honors others in his music (people like Parker and Ellington) respects his heritage and has an uncompromised pride at being a jazz musician.
Trumpeter Bill Hardman sounded fine with Mingus and alto sax Jimmy Vass managed to incorporate both Johnny Hodges sounds and Charlie Parker styles in his solo on ‘Sentimental Mood’, a portion of an Ellington medley.
Miss Roberta Flack, strong on vocal soul stuff like ‘Compared to What’, was an intelligent inclusion on the program. She looks great, has a warm congeniality in her singing and comments, plays fine piano and featured a bassist named Terry Plumeri who got into some wild virtuoso displays.
Cannonball Adderley, artist in residence for the weekend festival, is a master at charming his soul-jazz audiences. His seminars on Afro-American music history, are neatly put together and his quintet’s playing is as competent and valid as any on the jazz scene.
I particularly enjoy their experimental things because they are such good musicians but the crowd digs Cannon and his band for “Country Preacher,” Mercy, Mercy,” and the like.
© Philip Elwood, The San Francisco Examiner, 25 April 1970