The Miles Davis Experience
Oct. 21, 2011
Samueli Theater, Costa Mesa
Writing about jazz, to me, is just about the dumbest thing anyone could do. I mean, in a literal sense, the genre says nothing because much of the music (including the Miles Davis Experience show that took place Friday night at the Samueli Theater) is instrumental. However, the music itself speaks volumes about damn near everything, so people of my ilk are left wondering just how we're supposed to justify or explain music that's already saying a hell of a lot more than some measly words ever could.
So I'm left with two options: First, I could give you a technical review of the show. Something like this:
"The Miles Davis Experience was a multi-media show featuring the Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet. The group (trumpeter Akinmusire, tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, drummer Justin Brown, bassist Marcus Shelby and an emcee whose name I didn't catch) performed a hour-long set of bop, bebop and cool jazz inspired by Miles Davis. Behind the quintet were three large screens displaying photos of Davis and other jazz legends such as Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Philly Joe Jones and Charlie Parker. Between songs, the emcee (sorry dude but you can't say your name when the crowd is giving you a standing ovation) introduced soundbites of quotes from Davis, John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie and also recited poetry by Langston Hughes."
But that doesn't say anything and if there's one thing I walked away from last night's show with, it's that you don't just hear live jazz. You don't just see it either. You live it. You breathe it. You are it. Which leads me to option numero dos:
"'Keep going. Keep playing. Keep. Keep Keep Keep. Blow by Blow by Blow by Blow. I never want this to end...
But wait. Now it's time. Stop. End Now. End. Now. You've got me and you've made me realize that I'm no good -- I'm great. I'm alive and I'm thinking and I'm living and I'm breathing and I'm part of something more than just being an audience member. I can't play a horn or pluck an upright bass but I've got something to contribute to this world and that something is my words. You set up the pins and now I've got to knock them down. Let me go home to my stage, my venerable and vulnerable world of words, where all I can do is hope to say something half as relevant as the music the permeates my ears, shatters my expectations and sparks my desire. The words start to flow once the trumpet starts to blow. And now, it's time for me to go."
You see, either way, you have no idea what happened Friday night. Or maybe you do. Maybe the beauty of jazz is that whatever happened Friday night at the early show is somehow totally unique to that performance while sharing everything in common with the magic I saw during the late show. And maybe that's the best review I can come up with because there really is no way to tell you about the Miles Davis Experience other than to say it was an experience, one I'm glad I witnessed firsthand.
The Crowd: Couples of white people in their mid 50s, me (in my early 30s thank you very much) and a teenage kid with his dad sitting right in front of me.
Critical Bias: I got some potentially bad news yesterday, so I was in the mood for something uplifting and inspiring.
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Overheard in the Crowd: "I guess they don't serve drinks during the show."
Random Notebook Dump: The Samueli Theater is a really good room for a jazz show.