eye - issue 09.22.05, article appearing in BEAT section
See orginal article at Eye Magazine site

Style for Miles
Concert featuring Brownman Ali, Mark Patterson, Eric Boucher, Dane Wedderburn, Chris Lamont.
Fri, Sep 23, 2005, 9pm. Trane Studio, 964 Bathurst. $20
miles.brownman.com for more info
Click to see full imageBrownman (born Nick Ali) didn't have to stage his hugely ambitious and sprawling Five Weeks for Miles tribute series to prove his adoration for Miles Davis.

You could already hear it in the six different bands the Trinidad-born player fronts. There's Cruzao, the award-winning Latin-jazz-funk quintet; Marron Matizado, his 10-piece salsa squad; Gruvasylum, which brings together jazz and hip-hop; the hard-swinging Brownman Akoustic Quartet; the 15-strong latin-jazz big band Cruzao Grupo Monstruoso; and the Miles influenced Brownman Electryc Trio.

Where he gets the time to play with each outfit is a mystery, but that's beside the point. Just like his creatively restless idol (who passed away in 1991 at age 65, following a 50-year career), Brownman is a prolific and adventurous spirit. Being a Miles aficionado, Brownman jumped at the opportunity to pay tribute to the master when the Trane's Frank Francis approached him with the idea.

"Miles is my greatest influence, as a trumpet player and as an artist," Brownman gushes. "He was about always looking forward."

By the end of this month, Brownman will have led five different five-man groups through the various eras of jazz in which Davis operated. "Young Miles -- The Bird Years" was the theme of the first week; "Birth of the Cool & Kind of Blue -- Post-Bop Miles" was the focus of the second; the third week explored "Plugged Nickel -- The Shorter Years"; this week's theme is "From Bitches Brew to Tutu -- Electric Miles"; and next week's series closer is titled "Doo Bop -- Had He Lived...."

If the response to the first three weeks is any indication -- Brownman calls it "staggering" -- you just may have to battle someone for a spot in the Trane.

"I'm surprised by the magnitude of the embracement," he says. "I haven't seen audiences emoting the way they've been [during the shows] and the cross-section is incredible! Everyone from a 17-year-old to a 65-year-old has come by."

Davis was praised for choosing sidemen who helped him forge new directions in jazz and Brownman wanted to convey that genius side of Davis. Being the perfectionist he is, Brownman handpicked the musicians he felt would do justice to each era of Davis' career. This week, he will be joined by guitarist Mark Patterson (from the Mike Bullard show's house band), Eric Boucher on Rhodes (from David Clayton Thomas' group), Dane Wedderburn (an icon in the R&B community) playing seven-string electric bass and Chris Lamont on drums (just returning from touring with the Wild Strawberries).

"The musicians aren't just showing up because they want to pay homage to Miles Davis," Brownman says, before marvelling at the level of commitment shown by the players who accompanied him at last week's Shorter Years performance. "Ben Riley studied the drum styles of Tony Williams all week and Scott Peterson said he'd been living and breathing Ron Carter's basslines for weeks. Kelly Jefferson said he bought the Wayne Shorter biography [Footprints] and he's been reading it all month, Farrugia knows every note Herbie [Hancock] plays on those recordings and I've been listening to nothing else but the Live at the Plugged Nickel 1964 box set.  How often do you see musicians work so hard for one gig?  It's inspiring."

Brownman's reputation as an innovator is matched by his standing as someone unafraid to court controversy. "I'm an outspoken brother who's made my fair share of enemies saying stuff people don't want to hear" -- including denunciations of jazz conservatives whom he feels frown on anything created later than 1964.

"My calendar doesn't say it's 1964; it says 2005," he says. "I want to be a jazz musician of today. That's what Miles was about."

Email Errol: enazareth@eye.net