Jazz: Live - Imitate to innovate


YOU KNOW that moment when you hear something on the radio that's so compelling, so perfect, you have to drop whatever you're doing and listen hard? That's how I first heard Miles Davis. And that's how I felt when I heard Mark Isham's Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project, while doing the washing-up the other day. The track clearly wasn't Miles but it wasn't not Miles; it had the late trumpeter's spirit running through it like the lettering in a stick of Blackpool rock. And Isham's band, playing at Ronnie Scott's all this week, sounds as good in person as it does on the new CD.

One of the endearing features of the club is that you can hear the most sublime creative music in what is both a jazz cathedral, its walls packed with devout David Redfern photographs; and a restaurant, a busy Soho joint complete with bustling, noiseless waitresses and swinging kitchen doors. For jazz musicians it's a great venue, because people come to listen and relax. There are two long sets that allow time to experiment and stretch out, to extend the fleeting moment in front of a largely knowledgeable and sympathetic audience. With music like this, a skilful integration of tradition and modernity, it's a place for the "long now" (to use Stewart Brand's useful term).

The night kicked off with "Right Off", Davis's 1970 theme from Jack Johnson, its shuffle groove expertly steered by drummer Michael Barsimanto. Isham directed the band with occasional hand signals for key and feel changes, and played dazzling trumpet breaks that would have surprised anyone who knew only his "new age" albums or his melodic movie scores. The trumpet was superbly amplified by a little microphone wired to the bell. Late- Nineties electronics mean that they can realise some of Davis's record- producer Teo Macero's studio techniques live. After a 20-minute jam or so, the band moved into "Internet", not a Davis track but a convincing pastiche of his late- Sixties style. Then we heard a moving hybrid of Joe Zawinul's "In a Silent Way" and Davis's "Milestones", followed by "Great Expectations", with its monster riff impressively wrangled by Doug Lunn on five-string bass.

The hard-driving "Ife" featured complex dual improvisations by the guitarists Peter Maunu and Steve Cardenas. At its best, the band followed the "we never solo, we always solo" ethic of early Weather Report, a dense but loose electric backdrop to the leader. Isham followed the tune's seven- note trumpet melody with rapid flurries of Miles-like squiggles and splatches. For this project Isham has transformed a Miles-influenced personal sound into direct imitation but the conceit works triumphantly.

At a recent conference about "play", the Canadian graphic designer Bruce Mau gave a heartfelt thumbs-up to imitation as a creative practice. "Don't be shy about it," he said. "Try to get as close as you can. You'll never get all the way and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look at Richard Hamilton's version of Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass to see how rich, discredited and underused imitation is as a technique."

This is what Mark Isham and his band have done, to turn imitation, a "tribute band" of all things, into Art. And the "separation", the parts that are genuinely new, may be the most personal, and perfectly realised, work Isham has done to date.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing