Jazz ensemble celebrates Miles Davis

Freddie Ward, Reporter

Bakersfield College’s Jazz Spring Ensemble played a tribute to Miles Davis on April 25.

“For the last couple of years we’ve been focusing our spring concert on a single composer,” said BC’s Kris Tiner, director of the ensemble.

“Last year, we did one on Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington. It was really successful and the students enjoyed it.”

Tiner also mentioned the timeliness of this concert.

“It was timely because of Miles. He would have celebrated his 90th birthday next month, and there’s this new movie coming out.”

This performance was a challenge to put together, but it was something Tiner wanted to do because Davis contributed so much to the jazz scene.

Even though Davis didn’t write a lot of music, there are a lot of songs he is associated with. For instance, people would hear the song “Joshua,” composed by Victor Feldman and arranged by Mark Taylor, and say it’s a Miles Davis song.

When Tiner was putting this program together, he not only dealt with different styles, he also dealt with arrangements and people’s take on that music.

“I chose those two albums, ‘Birth of the Cool’ and ‘Kind of Blue,’ to focus on, because they tell his legacy and the evolution of jazz,” he said.

“It shows his legacy in jazz and shows how much evolution really happened in a matter of 15 years. I tried capturing some of what he did beyond that, though it’s difficult to do that with a big band with that instrumentation.”

Tiner mentioned that Miles Davis was legendary.

“He was able to stay at the forefront whenever popular music changed. He didn’t follow; he led the way,” Tiner said.

“In the ’60s, he hung out with people like Jimmy Hendrix, and in the ’80s people like Michael Jackson and Prince inspired him. He was always looking for the next thing for his music,” he said.

“For the songs ‘Godchild’ and ‘Jeru,’ we were lucky with that instrumentation, since these songs are rarely performed because of the instruments needed,” Tiner said.

“I picked more advanced players for those songs. We had Tyler Starr who could cover the tuba arrangement, and Michelle Tomboc, who could play the French horn part but on the flugelhorn.”

Tiner was pleased with the turnout.

“It was a busy time of the year, but we had a nice crowd that was really receptive. I had hoped

if we’ve got the word out that Miles’ music was on the program that we’d get a nice crowd,” he said.

“I know people who hate jazz, but know one or two of Miles’ songs.”

Tiner is always welcoming people into the ensemble who are interested in jazz, can do a little improv, and read music.

Even guitar and bass players are welcome to join. If anyone is interested, they can contact him directly or visit www.bcjazz.org for more information.