Miles Davis: Bess, You Is My Woman Now


Bess, You Is My Woman Now


Miles Davis (flugelhorn)


Porgy and Bess (Columbia/Legacy 712764)

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Miles Davis (flugelhorn), Bill Barber (tuba), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums),

Johnny Coles, Bernie Glow, Ernie Royal, Louis Mucci (trumpets), Joe Bennett, Frank Rehak, Jimmy Cleveland Dick Hixson (trombones), Willie Ruff, Julius Watkins, Gunther Schuller (French horns), Cannonball Adderley (alto sax), Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque (flutes), Danny Bank (bass clarinet)


Composed by George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward & Ira Gershwin. Arranged by Gil Evans


Recorded: New York, July 29, 1958


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Of the numerous jazz adaptations of Porgy and Bess in the mid-to-late 1950s many motivated by the production of a Hollywood film version of Gershwin's opera only one had the benefit of Gil Evans's orchestrations coupled with the lead voice of Miles Davis. Evans and Davis managed to be, at one and the same time, artistically uncompromising and popularly accessible. Ironically, the 1959 Porgy and Bess movie itself was a flop. In 1972, Ira Gershwin recalled the film rights and halted its distribution, having disliked this "Hollywoodization" of his late brother George's work. He, and subsequently his estate, proceeded to destroy every copy they could lay their hands on.

On "Bess, You Is My Woman Now," Miles's mellow flugelhorn hints at the melody in his brief intro prior to a sudden brass fanfare. Miles then delves into the theme wholeheartedly, this time answered by Bill Barber's profound tuba commentary. As Miles continues, the reeds and brass respond vigorously and sympathetically. Miles's solo is simply an exquisite melodic embellishment of the theme, his lovely and poignant flugelhorn tone carrying the day (and actually sounding more like muted trumpet). Davis is in arresting call-and-response mode with the orchestra as the piece winds down, and then in scintillating harmony with Evans's sonorous voicings at the very end.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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