Andrei Strizek

Music | Musings

Prayer - Gershwin vis a vis Evans & Davis

My final paper for my Gershwin class is about Gil Evans' arrangement of Porgy and Bess, and the famous Miles Davis album of the same title. As part of the paper - and partly because I find it to be such a moving piece - I transcribed Miles' solo on "Prayer (Oh, Doctor Jesus)".

I made it into a video and uploaded it to YouTube. It was originally blocked because of copyright reasons, but filed a fair use dispute and haven't heard anything about it, so for the time being, at least, the video is available to view.

You can download a PDF of the transcription on my Arrangements page.

The opening segment is pretty true to Gershwin's original writing (as is what Evans wrote in the score). The 12/8 section is an extended solo over the Bb Dorian mode - originally only about 4-8 measures in Gershwin's score, depending on how you analyze it.

Evans increasingly dense orchestration leads to the climax, reached when Miles, never really known as a high-note trumpeter, plays a concert Eb.

It's probably impossible to know how much of the words and scenario that Evans & Davis knew when they arranged and recorded this album (it's assumed they knew a lot), but it's clear here that Miles knows he's playing the role of the preacher leading the prayer.

(Gershwin's original version can be seen here, at the 2:30 mark.)

Please let me know if you have any comments, suggestions or corrections!!

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