This year marks the 45th anniversary of the release of "Kind of Blue" and Gary Guthrie has plied his "what if" curiosity by producing one of the more intriguing jazz records of 2004 - "A New Kind of Blue," a fresh version of Miles Davis' classic. Featuring recent Grammy winner Randy Brecker channeling the spirit of Davis, Guthrie's studio group - dubbed "g.org" (pronounced "g - dot - org") - stretches the "New Blue" well past the 45-minute limits of the vinyl LP heyday, brings its production values into the digital realm, plus captures several of the missing ingredients critics have been scratching their head about for years.
"A New Kind of Blue" was recorded on a single day (just like they recorded Jazz albums back in the 50s and 60s) at New York's Sony Studios on April 8, 2004 and features Randy Brecker on trumpet, David Finck on bass, Victor Lewis on drums, Chuck Loeb on guitar, Mike Ricchiuti on piano and Andy Snitzer on alto saxophone.
Guthrie's instructions to the band were simple: give the set an authentic, passionate reading with some intense color; solo within the scales; let things stretch out a bit; and give the listener a chance to experience the sonic differences of that 1959 moment if it were to happen today. "It became evident very early on that if I consciously made room for serendipity, there would be more of a chance to take advantage of it. Just like Miles' approach, the first ideas were usually the best ideas."
Part of Guthrie's approach was to go before Kind of Blue and see what Miles' inspiration was for creative material. One of the elements that showed up was the role of guitar in Fifties jazz and how Miles was picking up on Ahmad Jamal's experiments including the instrument in his combo. Davis even asked Philly Joe Jones to replicate guitar licks as drum hits to give passages some exclamation marks.
Guthrie thought, "Can you imagine what a guitarist would've brought to the original 'Blue'?" And, with that, he brought in one of contemporary jazz's format aces, Chuck Loeb. "With Chuck, I not only got a fellow Baby Boomer who cut his teeth on 'Blue' but one who learned his Wes-like licks as a student of Jim Hall and Pat Metheny."
Loeb, in turn, became the session leader and lined up the other players to form Guthrie's newest version of his g.org. The collective experiences of the lineup range from Stan Getz to Portishead to the Rolling Stones to winning three Jazz Grammys.
The CD features the original sequence of 'Blue' tracks, plus Evans' "Peace Piece" - the Evans' tune used as a basis for "Flamenco Sketches" - reverently included as the prelude to "Sketches" in a close-your-eyes moment from Mike Ricchiuti. Three other elements that make this project interesting are:
*Loeb quoting the original arrangement for Chet Baker's "Alone Together" that Evans used for the structure of "Blue in Green"
*An extended, jam-like version (22 minutes) of "All Blues"
*Mastering by Mark Wilder, the man who has worked with the original "Kind of Blue" more than any man on the planet through his remastering role at Sony
The initial release of the CD is a limited, signed and numbered edition (under 2000 copies) that contains an alternate version of "All Blues" that will not be available on future releases.