Monday, February 23, 2015

Listening to Prestige Records Part 86: Miles Davis

A ballad session with Miles Davis and a group of great musicians. What more is there to say? There's a quote from Miles somewhere, which I can't find, to the effect that what he loved most was playing ballads, and he would have been happy to spend his whole life playing them. Which, of course, is why he couldn't. Miles had a restless, searching genius which was never about being happy or comfortable. 

When I lived in New York in the late 70s, WKCR, the Columbia Univeraity station, did a week-long Miles Davis marathon, in which they played everything that Miles had ever recorded, in chronological order. I made it my business to stay home and listen to all of it, so you can see that this blog isn't the first crazy jazz-related thing I've ever done. I didn't totally succeed -- I'm not that crazy -- but my girl friend at the time, who'd been out of town, came back in the middle of the week and called me, and I told her she could come over if she wanted to, but that I was preoccupied.

So...I didn't listen to all of it, but I listened to enough that I got a real sense of Miles's progression. I felt like I could understand how bebop with Bird led to the Nonet sessions to the quintet to Kind of Blue to Filles de Kilimanjaro to On the Corner to Big Fun, and I could understand how he had to do all of it, even if I wasn't going to listen to Big Fun as often as I listened to Dig or Relaxin'.

And I could listen to this session many times, which of course I have, because that's how I'm doing this blog, immersing myself in each session, but I could listen to it many times more. Miles playing ballads, a Benny Carter tune and three originals, with a group of great musicians. "Tune Up" is credited to Miles, "Miles Ahead" to Miles and Gil Evans, "Smooch" to Miles and Charles Mingus. Mingus appears on "Smooch," replacing John Lewis on piano rather than Percy Heath on bass. Lewis is on the first three cuts, Heath and Max Roach on all four.

Bob Weinstock, in an interview, talked about those early Miles sessions: 
 So, our basic idea was just to make records with different people, to record with the best people around. That's what we did until the end, when he had the quintet with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. But everything up to that point developed from where we would sit down and talk about it. Miles would mention who was in town, who he would like to record with. I'd say who I'd like to hear him record with. 

Yes, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for those cpnversations. Fly on the wall? Hell, I would have loved to be a part of the,. "Hey, Miles and Bob, why don't we get..."
These were released on singles, on an EP, and as part of a 10-inch LP. And of course, in many reissue packages.

The LP cover is by David X. Young. 

No comments: