Personnel: Miles Davis (trumpet, flugelhorn); Jerome Richardson, Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque (flute, alto flute, clarinet); Danny Bank (alto flute, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone); Cannonball Adderley (saxophone, alto saxophone); Danny Banks (saxophone); Louis Mucci, Ernie Royal, Johnny Coles, Bernie Glow (trumpet); Gunther Schuller (French horn, horns); Julius Watkins, Willie Ruff (French horn); Dick Hixon, Frank Rehak, Joseph Bennett, Jimmy Cleveland (trombone); John Barber , Billy Barber (tuba); Jimmy Cobb , Philly Joe Jones (drums).
Audio Remasterers: Mark Wilder; Phil Schaap.
Liner Note Authors: Charles Edward Smith; Phil Schaap; Bill Kirchner.
Recording information: 30th Street Studio, New York, NY (07/22/1958-08/18/1958).
Editors: Mark Wilder; Phil Schaap.
Photographers: Don Hunstein; Roy de Carava.
Unknown Contributor Role: Phil Boduet.
Arranger: Gil Evans.
Of all Gil Evans' orchestral scores for soulmate Miles Davis, PORGY AND BESS is his richest and most ambitious--a watershed of modern jazz harmony which served to secure Davis' pop star stature and define his brooding mystique. Inevitably, even non-jazz listeners own a copy of PORGY AND BESS or SKETCHES OF SPAIN.
Like MILES AHEAD, Evans' band on PORGY AND BESS de-emphasized the traditional reed section in favor of a tuba, three French horns, two flutes and two saxophones. The resulting chords and overtones are dark, alluring and mysterious. Thus the opening brass-cymbal bluster of "The Buzzard Song" gives way to a mid-eastern carpet of flutes and deep brass as Davis' poignant trumpet speaks in split tones and yearning cadences, bursting with blues feeling; a tuba soon picks up the theme as muted trumpets are followed by tolling trombone/French horn chords.
Each of the thirteen sections contrast lush instrumental details with intimate trumpet arias (which suggest the profound influence of Billie Holiday, particularly over the eerie textures of "I Loves You Porgy"). Evans' ability to orchestrate hypnotic call and response patterns with Davis, and his ability to layer multiple textures at contrasting tempos makes for several memorable moments: Philly Joe's dancing breaks and exchanges with Miles on "Gone," the church-like amens of "Gone, Gone, Gone," the counter-melodies on a lightly swinging "Summertime," Miles' sustained lyricism (and Evans' tart blue chordal rejoinders) on "Prayer," the brash after-hours swagger of "It Ain't Necessarily So," and the contrasting folkish themes of "Here Come De Honey Man." Timeless music.
JazzTimes (8/97, p.106) - "...PORGY AND BESS is possibly the best of the collaborations between Miles and Gil Evans....Evans is justly regarded as the master of modern orchestration and PORGY AND BESS shows him at his best. There are two alternates to savor here, `I Loves You, Porgy,' and `More'..."