Kind of Blue
Jeff Lofton blows tribute to Miles Davis
By Jim Caligiuri, 2:43PM, Wed. Sep. 26, 2012
It's hardly news that jazz remains the redheaded stepchild of Austin's music scene. Talking to local trumpeter Jeff Lofton, one harbors hope that might change.
“I think the jazz scene is growing,” he says. “It’s grown a lot since I moved here almost six years ago.
“I’ve seen jazz become more prominent at the Austin Music Awards and South by Southwest. This is the first year jazz was mentioned in a major article about South by Southwest.”
Chalk up Lofton as one reason for that growth. The winner for Best Jazz Band at the 2011 AMAs brings his Fifties Miles Davis Tribute to the Scottish Rite Theater for two shows Saturday night. To jazz purists, that era was an extremely fertile time for Davis, one that culminated in 1959’s Kind of Blue, the best selling jazz album of all time.
A versatile horn man, Lofton often leads his Electric Thang, a jazz-rock fusion band, but the classics – and that particular period – never lose relevance.
“Actually, I felt that era was overlooked just a bit,” offers Lofton. “A lot of people identify Miles with songs like ‘Human Nature’ and ‘Time After Time.’ I wanted to bring the sound of the first Miles out. The sound that developed the standards of jazz, songs like ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘Stella By Starlight,’ standards that became standards because Miles played them.”
The newly refurbished Scottish Rite is perfect for the stylish acoustic moods Lofton hopes to recreate with a quintet composed of Marcus Wilcher on saxophone, Dr. James Polk on piano (Ray Charles' musical director for a decade), Glenn Schuetz on bass, and Steve Schwelling on drums.
Why Kind of Blue continues to resonate with listeners still doesn't have a simple answer, but then according to Lofton, maybe it does.
“A lot of people have wondered about that. I’ve wondered about it too. It conjures up such a mood. No other album can give you that feeling. There’s nothing uptempo on the whole album and the chord structures are extremely simple, whether people know it or not.
“It’s grooving, in the pocket, with long slow tones on the solos, that makes it accessible.”