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Filling Some Classic, Jazzy Shoes : Concert: Art Farmer, Mark Masters' Orchestra will play Miles Davis and Gil Evans 'records' at the Hyatt Newporter.

July 30, 1993|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Between 1949 and 1960, trumpeter Miles Davis and arranger/orchestrator Gil Evans collaborated on four projects featuring large ensembles that have proven to be as enduring in the jazz realm as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony has been in the sphere of classical music.

These works are 1949-50's "Birth of the Cool" (available on Capitol Records), 1957's "Miles Ahead," 1959's "Porgy and Bess" and 1959-60's "Sketches of Spain"--the last three all available on Columbia Records.

"The stuff that Gil did with Miles was par excellence. You couldn't get any better than that," said saxophonist Phil Woods, who recorded with Evans in the '60s.

Tonight, Orange County fans will get a rare chance to hear selections from these classic recordings performed live when trumpet maestro Art Farmer, flying in from Germany for the occasion, and Mark Masters' Jazz Orchestra perform at the Hyatt Newporter in Newport Beach. The concert, co-produced by Long Beach radio station KLON-FM (88.1) and the Newporter, will be broadcast on KLON on Thursday at 8-9 p.m.

Evans' original arrangements, leased from a publishing company in New York, will be used, Masters said.

"I hope people don't think we're trying to sound like those albums," Masters, 35, said by phone from his Los Angeles home.

"This is just a chance for a great jazz player like Art to play on these charts and for a band based on the West Coast to play some of Gil's arrangements," he said. "People will say how can this not be a re-creation if we're using the same arrangements, but we're just going to play and make music and hope people enjoy it."

It will also provide the participants with a chance to pay tribute to Evans, a one-of-a-kind orchestrator who usually employed instruments not often found in the jazz band, among them tuba, French horn, oboe and bass clarinet. He used these instruments, as well as the standard saxophones, trumpets and trombones, to create arrangements that offered unique, Impressionistic clusters of tonal colors.

"Gil is our Ravel, our Debussy," said John Clayton, co-leader of the Hamilton-Clayton Jazz Orchestra, and an Evans disciple.

Tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, who played and recorded with Evans from 1967 to 1976, said, "His writing could take an emotional feeling, and cluster the notes so that the feeling came out. It was something magical."

Masters said the Davis-Evans arrangements he has chosen will be "the things that everybody wants to hear," among them "Miles Ahead," "The Duke," "Solea," "Summertime" and "Boplicity."

Farmer, the crack trumpeter and fluegelhornist known for his work with the Jazztet and his own bands, was selected by Masters and Ken Poston, who's producing the concert.

"We wanted someone who was simpatico with Miles' style, plus someone who had a name for the draw, and Art was willing," Masters said. "He played some of the 'Birth of the Cool' material last summer in Hollywood and sounded great."

Trombonist Jimmy Cleveland, who played with Farmer in the '50s in bands led by Lionel Hampton and Quincy Jones, recalled the making of "Miles Ahead," which was done on four separate sessions in a downtown New York City studio in May, 1957.

"The session was unlike any other that I have done," said Cleveland. "There was no tension, nothing to be uptight about, just the high flavor of jazz, and the highest caliber of musicianship. And the writing--well, I don't think anyone has come close to that, even now."

* Art Farmer and Mark Masters Jazz Orchestra perform tonight at 7:30 at the Hyatt Newporter, 1107 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach. $15. Gates open 6:30 p.m. (714) 729-1234.

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