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Sketches of Spain (Miles Davis & Gil Evans) – Revisited – Orbert Davis, arranger & trumpet/ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic – 316 Records
Nilson Matta’s Black Orpheus (Music of Jobim, Bonfa & others) – revisited – Motema

Sketches of Spain (Miles Davis & Gil Evans) – Revisited – Orbert Davis, arranger & trumpet/ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic ensemble – 316 Records CD31607 (6/27/14) *****:

Nilson Matta’s Black Orpheus (Music of Jobim, Bonfa & others) – revisited – Motema MTM-103 (2/12/13) *****:

The first of this pair of reconceptualizations of classic works of the past is an orchestral transformation of the 1960 Columbia recording by Miles and Gil Evans which used music of Rodrigo and others.  There have been a number of re-dos of that great album, including one of much of it by Miles himself shortly before his death. The trumpeter, composer and artistic director of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic got involved in the ‘90s when he was asked by Bill Russo to play Miles’ solo trumpet part in a reperformance of the work.

He developed his own version of the classic by studying the original recording, plus Spanish music and culture. Orbert introduced new elements to reflect the Moorish influence on Spanish culture, new jazz grooves, and arrangements to highlight the special talents of individuals in the Jazz Philharmonic. He even replaced some of the original movements with completely new compositions.

The idea of reinterpreting the classic even extended to the artwork for the album. A CD Cover Art competition was held, and the winner (providing the art thruout the multi-fold album) was a 14-year-old girl, who studies sax at the CJP Summer Jazz Academy. Orbert Davis, with Mark Ingram, founded the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic in 2004 as America’s definitive “Third Stream” orchestra, and it also provides music education.

This is quite different from the other reperformances of Sketches of Spain and is full of spectacular sounds and playing. It won’t replace the classic Miles/Evans original, but it is a most worthwhile new interpretation in every way.

TrackList:  Concierto de Aranjuez movement (Rodrigo), Muerte del Matador (Orbert Davis), El Moreno (Orbert Davis), El Albaicin (Albeniz), Solea (Gil Evans)

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The groundbreaking French film Black Orpheus of 1959 introduced an international fascination with Brazilian bossa nova which carries strongly on today. Before that there was a 1956 play, Orfeu da Conceicao, on which the film was based. Brazilian doublebassist Nilson Matta has put together a large all-star ensemble of musicians to re-imagine the music from Black Orpheus in a most entrancing fashion. There are 17 tracks, with tunes by Jobim and Bonfa and one by Matta himself. This closing track, “Hugs and Kisses,” comes from his belief that “no matter what troubles we face, life must contain and be sustained by happiness.”

Many of the tracks come from music for the play rather than the movie. Matta had wanted for years to record Jobim’s Overture, and here he has had a chance at last. A few of the songs which had lyrics written by V. de Moraes are included – sung by Gretchen Parlato, and although Matta did most of the arrangements, three of them were done by Klaus Mueller. The ensemble includes Kenny Barron, Randy Brecker, Anat Cohen, and Gretchen Parlato, among others. Matta himself is a terrific bassist. Again, this may not replace the original Black Orpheus soundtrack, but it is a most worthwhile new interpretation and includes some music many of us may have never heard before.

TrackList:  Overture; Repinique Interlude; Samba de Orfeu; A Felicidade; Cuica Interlude; O Nosso Amor; Manha de Carnaval; Batucada 1; Eu E O Meu Amor/Lamento No Morro; Frevo de Orfeo; Valsa de Euridice; Ascend, My Love; Um Nome de Mulher; Batucada II; Se Todos Fossem Iguais a Voce; Violao Interlude; Hugs and Kisses.

—John Henry

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