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John Worley and Stanford Jazz Orchestra celebrate Miles Davis

John Worley
John Worley

John Worley is ready for more Miles.
I spoke with the veteran Bay Area trumpeter in 2012 as he was preparing a Miles Davis tribute performance as part of SFJAZZ’s Hotplate series. If you missed that performance, you can catch Worley on Wednesday when he joins the Stanford Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Fredrick Berry for an evening of Davis compositions.
He will follow that with "Let's Get Lost: A Tribute to Chet Baker,” which is set for March 2 at Dana Street Roasting Co. in Mountain View. It features Worley and the Mo-Chi Sextet with special guests Amy Dabalos and Dave Deneau.
Here’s what the trumpeter had to say regarding preparing and performing Miles’ best.

Question: Although you’re a veteran player and educator, do you experience anxiety in preparing a Miles-themed performance?
Worley: Of course, who wouldn't … it’s Miles Davis. When I perform music outside my repertoire, it's fun but you always want to be sure to pay respect to the composer by doing a good job.

Question: A large question to ask but what influence has Davis' work and legacy had on jazz and your own creative development?
Worley: Miles Davis changed the sound of the jazz trumpet from the bright, scintillating tones brought forth from Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldrige, Dizzy Gillespie and Fats Navarro to a sound that was darker in timbre and at times he used a Harmon mute, which changed it even further. He played slower and with more introspection than most players. And not because he didn't have the same level of technique or range as the other cats like Diz, Fats, etc. If you listen to the album "The Miles Davis/Tadd Dameron Quintet in Paris,” his playing was fleet and his range was similar to that of Diz and Fats.
Miles came from St. Louis. He studied with the same teacher that Freddie Webster and Clark Terry had named Gustav Heim. Gustav played in the St. Louis Symphony. Gustav used a mouthpiece that had a slightly deeper V-shaped cup, which produced a mellow, fuller sound than the various mouthpieces used by players of that time. His music teacher Elwood Buchanan played cornet and his tone and the type of sound one gets on the cornet helped influence Miles’ sound.
Miles’ sound helped change my tone conception along with trumpet great Tom Harrell. I can play bright, have my sound carry to the back of a room like most trumpet players but I prefer not to play that way. It's not my voice. I love a dark, deeper richer sound and that's why I play the flugelhorn primarily on my gigs. Miles influenced me in so many ways.

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