published Friday, January 27th, 2012

Jazz artists pay tribute to trumpet legend Miles Davis


What: Miles Davis tribute concert.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.

Admission: $12 in advance, $15 at the door.

Phone: 624-5347.


By the time Miles Davis died at age 65, he had released more than 70 albums and had earned an honorary doctorate of music, a French knighthood and six Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Saturday at Barking Legs Theater, Vance Thompson will lead a quartet of jazz musicians in a tribute to the legendary trumpeter.

Thompson, a Knoxville-based trumpeter and director of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, said the decision to focus on Davis was motivated as much by his music's accessibility as his name recognition.

"You don't have to be a jazz aficionado to appreciate when music is powerful in an emotional sense," he said. "That was his [Davis'] genius, really."

Thompson will be joined onstage by Atlanta-based drummer Kinah Boto and two other Knoxvillians, tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy and pianist Keith Brown, the son of three-time Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist Donald Brown.

Tardy, who last performed at Barking Legs in May, said he has long admired Davis for his ability to inject technically challenging pieces with emotion and personality, despite the diversity of styles he explored.

"People could feel what he was doing, regardless of if you're talking about ballads or really abstract stuff like the stuff on 'Miles Smiles' or his more commercial things in the end," he said. "His voice remained singular through all that."

The concert will consist of two sets of 10 to 15 songs drawn from Davis' releases in the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, Davis released his magnum opus, the quadruple platinum-certified "Kind of Blue," and was performing alongside a celebrated quartet of Wayne Shorter (saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums).

Thompson said this performance is a continuation of an ongoing concert series he started two months ago in Knoxville. The Miles tribute is a way of testing the waters in Chattanooga to see whether there is an audience for live jazz, which has a tendency to be pigeonholed.

"One of the things that scares people about jazz is that they think it's an overly cerebral music," Thomspon said. "It can come across that way because there's so much to learn in order to be able to play it that we forget that it has to be beautiful, too.

"I hope people will give this show a chance and come out. I think it's going to be a really strong program."


The set list for Saturday's tribute to Miles Davis will consist primarily of material Davis released in the 1950s-60s. Here are a few highlights from that prolific period:

1950s: "Miles Davis Quartet," "'Round About Midnight," "Birth of Cool," "Bags' Groove,"

"Milestones" and "Kind of Blue."

1960s: "Seven Steps to Heaven," "Four & More," "E.S.P.," "Miles Smiles," "Filles de Kilimanjaro" and "In a Silent Way."

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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