Mark Isham gets a lot of work scoring Hollywood films (everything from "Quiz Show" and "A River Runs Through It" to the more recent "October Sky" and "Kiss the Girls"), and his soundtracks are definitely a cut above the average. But the trumpeter saves his most personal, most exciting music for his non-movie projects, and his new release, "Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project," is the most heartfelt, stimulating album of his career.
Like many artists before him, Isham recharged his batteries by going back to the sources that made him become a musician in the first place. For him, that meant the groundbreaking electronic jazz that Miles Davis recorded in 1968-72. Instead of hiring some big names for a slapdash recording session, Isham got together with some of his longtime, little-known L.A. pals and started playing a North Hollywood club one weekend a month for two years.
The consistent hard work allowed the quintet to avoid the pat formats of fusion and achieve the democratic give-and-take of real jazz. Though the album takes its title from Davis's 1968 LP, "In a Silent Way," Isham's band tackles eight pieces from seven different Davis albums plus two Isham originals, all recorded live on stage. No effort is made to duplicate Davis's originals; rather the same compositional themes are approached in the same spirit, even though they inevitably lead down very different paths. Most revealing of all is "All Blues," the Davis acoustic classic which Isham has rearranged in Davis's electric style.
Appearing Monday at Blues Alley.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Mark Isham, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8124. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)
CAPTION: Marc Isham outdoes himself with his homage to Miles Davis.