Jul 13

Miles Davis: “Summertime”

Miles Davis -- Porgy and Bess

Doesn’t take a lot for a photo to be suggestive, does it…

“Summertime, and the bloggin’ ain’t easy…” At least that’s how I’ve been feeling, lately. It always feels like there should be more time to do what you want in the summer, but it doesn’t always exactly work out that way. So that’s my way of saying sorry for the dismal frequency of posts you’ve been seeing here. I hope you will find things picking up here in the near future.

In the meantime, it seemed like what with the heat wave that we here in the Seattle region are just beginning to come out of, it was the perfect time for “Summertime.” The song comes from Porgy and Bess, the classic George Gershwin “folk opera” (as he conceived it), one of the great American musical masterworks of the twentieth century. Miles Davis took a selection of the songs from the musical and fashioned them into yet another masterwork, his collaboration with arranger Gil Evans unsurprisingly titled Porgy and Bess. It was released in 1959, mere months prior to Davis’s magnum opus, Kind of Blue. It was clearly a very good year for Davis.

Davis’s version of “Summertime” practically radiates the heat of a city street in the middle of summer; you can feel the sweat dripping down Davis’ back. It’s slow and sultry, perfecting the already great song in a way that few other vocalists were ever able to match. The repeating horn motif in the background is what makes it for me, really — a hint of what was to come on Kind of Blue, subtle yet spectacular.

“Summertime” — in all (or at least many) of its incarnations, but especially this one — is one of the reasons I’m proud to have had my last name mistakenly said as “Gershwin” — repeatedly — throughout my life. (But once again, just for the record, it’s “Gershman.” It’s like some people can’t read past the first syllable!) 

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