New Shoes: Kind of Blue at 60
As you all know, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue remains the top selling jazz album of all time and people are still buying it more than 60 years later. In that time, we’ve heard tributes, arrangements of many of the tunes, especially “So What” and “All Blues.” But until now, we have not heard a big band treatment. Composer/conductor/arranger Jon Schapiro becomes a kind of modern day Gil Evans by breathing new life into these classic songs with a distinctly co-ed 17-piece orchestra and weaving in his own compositions with “So What,” “Blue in Green,” “All Blues,” “Flamenco Sketches” and “Freddie Freeloader,” all tunes from the original classic and all reimagined here, some to almost an unrecognizable extent, along with Schapiro’s originals across two discs.
Schapiro contributed seven originals, (more originals than covers) utilizing the name of “Boiled Funk” or, in one case “Foiled Bunk.” The unusual song titles were picked because they utilize the same letters as “Kind of Blue.”
The opening “Boiled Funk,” with its tempo changes, strong solos (from tenor-saxophonist Paul Carlon and trombonist Deborah Weisz) sets the stage for the unpredictability that follows. Pianist Roberta Piket is showcased on her “Foiled Bunk,” playing freely yet thoughtfully while leading to “So What.” After the melody emerges, “So What” has cooking solos from trombonist Alex Jeun and Rob Wilkerson on soprano with bassist Evan Gregor and drummer Jon Wikan driving the ensembles. “Boiled Funk 2: Dark of Night” features Wilkerson’s soprano floating over the brooding ensemble while “Blue in Green” evolves from the unaccompanied alto of Ben Kono to several horns soloing together over the rhythm section, becoming a medium-tempo swinger for Rob Middleton on tenor before finally ending as a ballad.
Trumpeter Andy Gravish is heard in spectacular form on the up-tempo “Boiled Funk 3: Worth Your While,” “All Blues” briefly retains its theme but, rather than being a blues waltz, becomes an up-tempo romp with Carlon, trombonist Alex Jeun and trumpeter Eddie Allen as soloists. The rhythmic “Boiled Funk 4: Old Feet, New Shoes” features altoist Candace DeBartolo, “Flamenco Sketches” becomes a showcase for guitarist Sebastian Noelle, and “Boiled Funk 5: A Smile” is an encore for Roberta Piket. “Freddie Freeloader” (which is taken through several different tempos and features trombonist Walter Harris and baritonist Matt Hong) and the “Boiled Funk Theme” (quoting from Miles Davis’ closing theme and including a spot for trombonist Nick Grinder) conclude the intriguing set.
Jon Schapiro graduated from Brown University, earning a Master’s from the Manhattan School of Music and studying at NYU with Jim McNeely and Dinu Ghezzo, while developing into a masterful jazz composer and arranger. A member of the BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop and a longtime professor at Yeshiva University, he formed Schapiro17 in the fall of 2012. Schapiro17’s appearances in New York (including at the Shape Shifter) are always major events.
Yet, this is recording debut for Schapiro 17. They’ve certainly set a high bar as attested to by this excerpt from Paul Grimstad’s liners that appears on the back cover as he writes about the transformation of the tunes –“…Schaprio17 does this, most obviously, by translating the lean sound of the sextet …into the wide-screen colors of a jazz ensemble in the ration of the Ellington and Basie bands…The whole record is in a fundamental way true to the spirit of Miles’ restless and mercurial inventiveness as he was. In addition to so many other things, a powerful and original interpreter of other people’s tunes.” Recently I heard a famous musician say, “the best singers are interpreters.” We can likely say that about arrangers too, as Schapiro proves to be a prime example.
1- Boiled Funk (J. Schapiro) 11:54
2- Foiled Bunk (R. Piket) 3:05
3- So What (M. Davis) 14:03
4- Boiled Funk 2: Dark of Night (J. Schapiro) 3:55
5- Blue in Green (M. Davis) 10:02
1- Boiled Funk 3: Worth Your While (J. Schapiro) 2:26
2- All Blues (M. Davis) 12:08
3- Boiled Funk 3: Old Feet, New Shoes (J. Schapiro) 5:14
4- Flamenco Sketches (M. Davis) 9:52
5- Boiled Funk 5: A Smile (J. Schapiro) 5:41
6- Freddie Freeloader (M. Davis) 12:25
7- Boiled Funk/Theme (J. Schapiro) 4:28
Musicians: Jon Schapiro-composer/conductor/arranger, Bryan Davis – trumpet, Andy Gravish – trumpet, Eddie Allen – trumpet, Noyes Bartholomew – trumpet, Deborah Weisz – trombone, Alex Jeun – trombone, Nick Grinder – trombone, Walter Harris – bass trombone, Rob Wilkerson – alto saxophone (tracks 1-4), Ben Kono – alto saxophone (tracks 5-12), Candace DeBartolo – alto saxophone, Paul Carlon – tenor saxophone, Rob Middleton – tenor saxophone, Matt Hong – baritone saxophone, Roberta Piket – piano, Sebastian Noelle – guitar, Evan Gregor – bass, Jon Wikan – drums
- Jim Hynes