• Genevieve Zimnox
  • Local sax player Simon Harding fronts a solid sextet at the Hippodrome

Jazz greats Miles Davis and John Coltrane have been celebrated during this years Piccolo Spoleto with several a multimedia performances at the Footlight Players Theatre, but a local troupe of musicians are ready to join in with a tribute of their own this evening (June 4).

As part of Piccolo Spoleto’s Jazz at the Hippodrome series, tenor sax player Simon Harding will lead a six-piece ensemble through a rendition of Davis’ legendary 1959 album Kind of Blue, front to back. The album featured Coltrane alongside pianist Bill Evans, drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers, and saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.

“Some people think it’s odd that a sax player would organize a band to pay tribute to Miles Davis, but Miles has been a huge influence on many sax players,” Harding says. “Look at all the sax players who’ve worked with him over the years, from John Coltrane and Cannonball to Wayne Shorter and George Coleman and others. There’s a wealthy of insanely awesome sax players who’ve played on Miles’ stuff. That’s one reason why I wanted to do this show, not to mention that Kind of Blue is one of the most popular jazz records of all time.”

Harding’s band features trumpeter Kevin Hackler, alto sax player Mark Sterbank, pianist Richard White, bassist Ben Wells, and drummer Ron Wiltrout.

  • provided
  • The legendary Miles Davis album

“I discussed my vision for this with the guys beforehand,” Harding says. “They’ve all checked out the album closely, which is great, but I don’t necessarily want anyone to emulate or transcribe. I want them to be themselves. We’re not going the mess with the heads. We’re going to keep it pretty much straightforward and allow the solos and interplay between the group communicate.”

As the trumpeter, Hackler will play the pivotal role of Davis. Harding will generally the Coltrane role on tenor sax while Sterbank will play most of the Adderley parts on alto sax.

“What’s so beautiful about the album is the interplay between the musicians,” Harding says. “With Coltrane and Adderley, you couldn’t really have two more different sax players. And then there’s Miles, who is completely the opposite of them. He was the king of putting awesome bands together. That’s what my goal is with this show — to have an awesome band hat captures the same spirit of Miles’ band during that session. I want the improvisation and the communication between these amazing Charleston musicians to be the focus of this show. I think that’s what Miles wanted to do.”

Harding has performed with every member of his group in different projects and at various events, but they’ve never collaborated in this configuration before.

“Ron is such a melodic drummer, and he picks up so well on what the soloists are doing and pushes the band to next level,” Harding says. “I’ve played with Richard White and Ben Wells multiple times, and they’re so versatile and talented. Kevin is a great choice for this show. He’s always kind of reminded me of Miles, not only in his approach to playing but also in the way he chooses to improvises. I’ll hear him doing a lot of very chromatic lines, which is something Miles did on his later stuff. All of these guys have recognizable styles. They each have a strong sense of who they are.”

The Salute to Miles Davis is set for Mon. June 4 at 8 p.m. at the Hippodrome (360 Concord St.). Admission is $16. See myspace.com/simonhardingsax and piccolospoleto.com for more.