IT was like listening to the LP.
And yet, it wasn't. There was no getting up to turn the album over and while Paolo Fresu gave a perfect account of the music, his assertion that he would stay close to the Miles Davis original on the 1957 Miles Ahead suite didn't entirely stand up. Fresu sounded like Fresu, with his Sardinian soul glowing through his playing, and that was cause for celebration in itself.
This wasn't the familiar SNJO line-up. The needs of Gil Evans's settings of the plaintive My Ship, the suitably Iberian Blues for Pablo, the coquettish I Don't Wanna Be Kissed et al found almost the entire saxophone section rested, with director Tommy Smith conducting French horns, tuba, flute, bass clarinets, trumpets, trombones and rhythm section in a fantastically well-tempered backdrop for Fresu's flugelhorn. SNJO's regular audience have become used to high-level consistency in performance, and this emphatically continued the pattern, but perhaps the real triumph for all concerned was that music that's been adored on well-worn vinyl and much-played CD sounded so fresh.
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The second half found another SNJO variation, a nonet including Fresu, making Davis' equally-fabled late 1940s Birth of the Cool sessions flesh and what a pleasure these perfectly poised and quietly swinging pieces were. Fresu was inventive eloquence personified, on both trumpet and flugelhorn, as were the neatly creative alto saxophonist Martin Kershaw, baritone saxophonist Allon Beauvoisin and pianist Steve Hamilton, and when Smith joined them on tenor for a similarly poised So What, the mood of conviviality in the room was almost palpable.