Miles Davis' late-'60s transition into a hybrid music, combining elements of jazz, rock and funk enriched with a variety of electronic timbres, had a powerful effect on the jazz of the next few decades. And trumpeter-film composer Mark Isham is quick to acknowledge his own affection for, and indebtedness to, Davis' transformative efforts.
For the past year or so, Isham, with a band of similarly oriented players, has been exploring the Davis music of the period, first as a casual effort in joint creativity, later to create a live recording, "Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project." On Thursday night, Isham displayed some of the resulting music in the opening set of a too-brief, two-night run at Catalina Bar & Grill.
Interestingly, the performance cast as much illumination upon the Davis transition as it did upon the specifics of the Isham performance. What became strikingly clear was the fact that, as Isham interpreted tunes such as "All Blue," "Spanish Key" and his own take on the Davis style, "Azael," it was music founded upon texture, trance and repetitive rhythms. Virtually everything played was expressed over repeated ostinato patterns or rhythmic vamps, with Isham's muted trumpet--intensely reminiscent of Davis--soaring above the mix. The effect was gripping, a kind of jazz/rock-based version of Middle Eastern qawwali music.