Kind of Blue – Orchestrated
Thursday 30 May, 8pm, National Concert Hall
RTÉ Concert Orchestra
Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue still heads up lists not just as one of the greatest ever jazz albums but one of the most extraordinary recordings of the 20th century. Now, 60 years on from its release, for the first time in Ireland this Miles Davis masterpiece gets the full orchestral treatment. Top jazz trumpeter Guy Barker has arranged the entire album, including orchestrating solos not only by Davis but by John Coltrane and Bill Evans. Who better to perform it than the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, an orchestra that has jazz in its DNA, with Barker himself conducting.
Along with the re-creation of a classic, the world premiere of concerto for soprano sax and orchestra by Dave Heath. Ray of Light has a contemporary feel with Celtic roots, and the soloist for that and companion piece Illumination is star sax player from Derry Gerard McChrystal.
Guy Barker, one of the most inventive jazz composers/arrangers around, has worked with an incredible roll-call of names, among them Sinatra, Mel Tormé and Sting. But when the BBC approached him about orchestrating Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, he wasn’t sure it would work.
What gave him his way in was an experience he had playing trumpet with Gil Evans, longtime arranger for Davis. One night for an encore, Evans distributed the score for So What and Barker discovered that what he’d always assumed to be an improvised introduction by pianist Bill Evans had actually been composed by Gil. ‘Suddenly that intro, played on 15 instruments, took on a whole other dimension. It became very noble-sounding and quite beautiful.’ Barker began to wonder what would happen if he orchestrated solos like Bill Evans’ on Flamenco Sketches and John Coltrane’s tenor sax on Blue in Green ‘and it seemed to work. I realised I could do it.’
It certainly worked. As London Jazz News wrote of the first performance:
Guy Barker has unlocked this tight small-combo music and expanded it into a considerable treasure trove of playing and experimentation…Barker’s achievement here is considerable, remaining true to the sparse aesthetic of the original small group sessions while making valid use of the combined forces of a jazz orchestra and a classical chamber orchestra. What could have been cumbersome and overblown is fleet, ecstatic, enthralling.
Barker conducts the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in Kind of Blue – Orchestrated, Thursday 30 May, National Concert Hall.
Booking: 01 417 0000 / www.nch.ie