In September of 1991, following a long and incomparable run in which he released close to 50 studio albums (and more than 70 compilations and live records combined), launched the careers of an untold number of iconic musicians, and continually pushed modern music to new and astounding places that defied both genre and convention, Miles Davis died. The following year, Jay Anderson was born. Though the Foreign Goods saxophonist wasn’t alive to experience Davis’ talent firsthand, Anderson eventually found the legendary trumpeter’s catalog and—like so many musicians both before him and since—was deeply influenced by what he heard. Friday night, Anderson will pay tribute to Davis during Company Brewing’s Supper Club Jazz performance.
Anderson will be joined by four other accomplished jazz musicians he handpicked for the occasion, a grouping that runs the gamut of age, style, and background. The cast includes drummer Mitch Shiner, upright bass player Ethan Bender, Wisconsin Conservatory Of Music jazz pianist Mark Davis, and Russ Johnson—whom Anderson calls “one of the best trumpet players in the Midwest”—serving as the centerpiece.
“All five of us grew up with a really strong Miles Davis influence,” Anderson says. “The other three even more than me and Mitch because they had 20 or 30 years on us.”
Like Anderson, Shiner happened upon Davis’ material posthumously, but harbors an immense respect for the seminal jazz and all he accomplished.
“A common thread through so much of American music is Miles Davis,” Shiner says. “Miles Davis’ career spanned pretty much every single genre of music. He anticipated every major change in American music by at least five years, if you go back and look at his discography.”
Though Anderson stresses Friday’s affair is “in no way a comprehensive catalog of Miles’ music,” the quintet will strive to touch on material from all eras and stylistic iterations of Davis’ repertoire. It’s safe to assume there will be stops on Miles Ahead and Nefertiti, as well as samples from Bitches Brew and any number of songs from Davis’ many Blue periods. While the musicians have a good idea of which standards will be played, it’s unknown exactly how those songs will sound. Only Anderson has played with everyone else before this show was booked, and the unfamiliar collaborators will take the stage with just one rehearsal to their credit, making Friday’s event a true pick-up gig.
“I think anybody that has studied his music has such a profound respect for his music, so we all know it and know how it should go,” Shiner says. “But we’re bringing a certain energy to it. Russ has the outer side. Mark has the more traditional thing going. Ethan Bender has the crossover, studio, rock, and contemporary thing. I try to be very versatile, and Jay is an awesome powerhouse who’s in the moment.”
With just a small percentage of Davis’ greatest hits being reprised and re-interpreteted on stage, Company Brewing will serve a special one-night menu created by chef Rosalin Rodriguez, replete with beer pairings. Together, Jay Anderson, his varied cast of hand-selected collaborators, and Company Brewing will come together Friday night to honor a musician whose influence is still heard today by dressing up timeless music and a classic concept in an entirely new way.
“It’s supper club. It’s old school,” Anderson says. “When Miles was playing this kind of music in supper clubs for people who got all dressed up and who would come in to have dinner and cocktails matched up with that dinner, that’s what this is.”
Company Brewing will host Supper Club Jazz: A Miles Davis Tribute on Friday, April 15. The show is $10 at the door or $5 with a dinner reservation. The special three-course meal costs $38 ($46 with beer pairing).