March 25, 2017
Whenever I start thinking about jazz, one of the first things that pop into my mind is the movie Love Jones. Darius putting his desire for Nina to rhyme with that cool as hell jazzy accompaniment on “Brother To The Night” (A Blues For Nina), and the masterful featured song, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane’s “In A Sentimental Mood.” John Coltrane’s impact on music has reached legendary levels having contributed to one of jazz’s greatest albums, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. This month in Charlotte, you can learn more about what made cats like Miles and John tick at OnQ Performing Arts’ production of Miles & Coltrane: Blue (.).
Miles & Coltrane: Blue (.) features a stellar jazz quintet playing center stage including Eleazar Shafer on trumpet, Harvey Cummings on piano, Tim Singh on bass, Jesse Williams on drums and Adrian Crutchfield on sax. Shafer breaks from the group for an amazing solo that brings to mind the late great Miles Davis followed by Crutchfield bearing testimony for John Coltrane. Former Winston-Salem State University poet laureate and local actor Mason Parker takes the stage as the griot (storyteller), setting the scene for the faithful meeting between the Midwestern Davis and Southerner Coltrane to create a whole new kind of feeling.
Sultan Omar El-Amin is a BFA graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and has featured in several OnQ productions including Seven Guitars and Rhyme Deferred. El-Amin completely inhabits the gravelly-voiced gravitas that was that “uppity” Juilliard dropout known as Miles Dewey Davis III. We meet Miles as he’s relating his journey through life, music, dope, and women. A simple slip when the narrator tries to suggest that Miles’ influence is past tense, Davis is quick to reprimand him with “I’m still here! Just play the tapes.”
Our introduction to the humble Southerner who found a way to soulfully express praise for his God when he picked up the saxophone is wholly different. When John William Coltrane from High Point, NC was asked about his 10-year plan, his answer was “I would like to be a saint.” However, the life of a musician can be fraught with temptation. Enough to even topple the foundations of the most devout among us. As John Coltrane, Quentin Talley is mesmerizing! He gives an inspired performance, giving all of John’s speeches the passion and charisma of a preacher. Sadly, by the time it was all said and done, Coltrane, too, succumbed to that same smack that caught a lot of musicians in its tracks.
If you’re a fan of the music and the stories behind them, you need to be in Duke Energy Theater to see Miles & Coltrane: Blue (.). Get in the feel with the band’s opening set and experience the kind of theater that’s nuanced and powerful. The music sets your mind on a course and the words captivate the audience. Catch the show while you can through April 1 at Spirit Square.