Thursday, May 28, 2015

Listening to Prestige Part 114: Miles Davis

The most interesting thing about this session from a listener's standpoint is easy: the music. Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins. Horace Silver, Percy Heath, Kenny Clarke (after the confusion as to who was drumming on the June 4 Art Farmer, date, I triple-checked, and it is Kenny Clarke).  Three originals and a Gershwin standard. Great tunes, great playing. Rollins is back in the studio for a third Prestige session with Miles, and it's always a welcome pairing. And it was a busy month in Rudy Van Gelder's parents' living room. This will have been the third time they've had to have dinner out, or stay in the

From a blogger's standpoint, there are a couple of things of note. First, all three of the originals are Rollins compositions, and they've become jazz standards.

"Airegin" falls into the category of backwards-spelled words as titles, which was becoming nearly as popular as puns on "bop" had been a few years earlier. Miles would record it again with John Coltrane, and it's been waxed by Tito Puente, Stan Getz and Chet Baker, Wes Montgomery, Maynard Ferguson, among others. The jazz greats who've recorded "Oleo" include George Benson, Grant Green and Lee Konitz. Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Shelly Manne, Cal Tjader, Branford Marsalis and John McLaughlin have all done "Doxy." Phil Woods used it as his theme.

Second, this session is of historical interest in that it's the first time Miles recorded with a Harmon mute (on "Oleo"). This isn't as earth-shaking as it might seem. Miles had already found his mature tone, and the Harmon mute may have refined it, but didn't fundamentally change it. If you listened to all five of the cuts from this session (including the two takes of "But Not For Me"), and you were a trumpet player, you'd be able to pick out the Harmon mute instantly. The less sophisticated listener (like me), maybe not.

"But Not For Me" was released as a two-sider on both 78 and 45. Prestige was nearing the end of its 78 RPM days, but not quite ready
to pull the plug yet. The whole session (only one version of "But Not For Me" was on a 10-inch, and all five tunes were on the Bags Groove 7000-series LP.

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