Opening a month-long tribute to a jazz legend


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Much attention will be paid throughout May to the musical legacy of trumpeter Miles Davis, who would have turned 90 this May 26. His musical legacy remains so strong today that it sometimes is hard to fathom that he left us a quarter-century ago—on September 28, 1991.

Trumpeter James Suggs assembled a fine quintet to honor Davis' imprint on mainstream jazz and shared music from the horn legend at a Sunday, May 1 concert co-sponsored by the Tampa (FL) Jazz Club, WUSF's “All Night Jazz" program and Hillsborough Community College's Visual and Performing Arts Series.

The band included tenor saxophonist Kenny Anderson and pianist Phil Magallanes, both alumni of Arturo Sandoval's band, bassist Billy Pillucere and drummer Ric Craig. This is a band that had never worked together before- but you never would have known it from their synergy.

Anderson moved to the Tampa Bay area a couple of weeks ago from Nashville, and Craig returned to the region recently to teach at the University of South Florida after two decades in Los Angeles. Suggs has been in Florida for two years, after spending eight years playing jazz trumpet in Argentina.

Together, at HCC's Mainstage Theater on the Ybor City campus, they channeled the Miles Davis spirit to put their own imprint on classic music Davis wrote or recorded between the late 1940s to the late1960s, before he veered into his fusion and pop phases.

The program touched on bebop (John Lewis's “Milestones," the Miles arrangement of Monk's “Round Midnight," If I Were a Bell"), cool jazz/modal ("So What," “Blue in Green," “Bye Bye Blackbird," “Some Day My Prince Will Come" and “My Funny Valentine") and his early experimental phase with his second great quintet featuring Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock ( Shorter's “Nefertiti and E.S.P.").

“Miles' real talent was in picking his bands. He had a different lineup on virtually every record," said Suggs, who has been studying Davis's music since his early teens

WUSF in Tampa, 89.7 FM, will continue the Davis celebration with a Miles-a-Palooza programming series that will run throughout May on “All Night Jazz." They've got a lot of fertile ground to cover.

Full disclosure: in addition to covering the concert, I was invited to talk a bit about Miles and sign copies of my book, Jazz in the Key of Light.

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
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