Filles de Kilimanjaro was a key album for trumpeter Miles Davis. Released in 1968, it was a transition between his mainstream quartet albums of the previous decade and the fusion style which dominated much of his further work.
It's also one of Ottawa pianist Adam Saikaley's favourite jazz albums, and he's always regretted the fact it's not better known. So he decided to remedy this by playing it live with his own quintet.
Not straight note-for-note, though: Saikaley wasn't going to pretend that he was Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock. And while the rhythm section (Saikaley on electric piano, Mike Essoudry on drums, and Marc Decho on electric bass) were playing the same instruments as on the album, the other two weren't. Linsey Wellman played alto sax and Alex Moxon played electric guitar, instead of the tenor sax and trumpet that were on the album.
Saikaley's group has played the album twice so far: a shortened version as part of a multi-group show at Pressed on February 8, and then the full version at the Manx on March 9. The Manx show attracted a standing-room-only crowd, almost all of whom were focused on the stage. They loudly applauded during and at the end of the show.
One advantage of choosing this album, Saikaley pointed out, was that listeners wouldn't have as many preconceptions of the music as they would, for example, with Kind of Blue, and could listen to it with open ears.
He said the members of the quintet all contributed to rearranging the five pieces on the record for the new instrumentation. Throughout the show you could see the musicians checking the extensive scores for the new arrangements. They ended up slightly extending the music: 65 minutes for the Manx live version, compared to 56 minutes on the Miles Davis recording.
Their rendition was compelling: multi-layered, with expressive solos from all and strong interactions. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I think it would have worked even better in a larger space where the instruments could have sung out more clearly and the cramped acoustics not fought with the required volume.
The quintet would like to play the music again, Saikaley said, but they don't have anything booked yet. And they might trying arranging another, later-period, Miles Davis album: maybe even something as controversial as his 1972 groove-Stockhausen offering, On the Corner.
– Alayne McGregor