Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Listening to Prestige 191: Miles Davis

This is the last round of the Contractual Marathon: twelve tunes, one afternoon, and Miles is out the door. And what more is there to say about what was...well, one can't say one of the most fruitful periods of Miles's career, because they were all fruitful, but probably one of the most beloved?

What's not to love? Miles with one of jazz's storied quintets, playing timeless tunes. "I'll play it and tell you what is after," Miles says at the beginning of the session, but there's scarcely any need. We always know what it is. Classic tunes from the Great American Songbook. Jazz standards from Monk and Rollins and Miles himself.

So rather than think a lot about it, I just listened to them. A lot. In the car, in the house. In a box, with a fox. And I did like them, Sam-I-Am.

Music that has been orchestrated into the sound track of your life, that you first heard when jazz was becoming as necessary to you as a pulse, can become one with that pulse over time and resolve itself into background music, but not in a bad way. It's never going to be elevator music. But it has the warm familiarity of a thirty year marriage. And then, suddenly, it will surprise you in a new, unexpected and challenging way, like...well, like a thirty year marriage.

So goodbye, Prince of Darkness. Like Tristano, and Getz, and Monk, and the MJQ, you're moving on from Prestige, although your bandmates will still be here for a while, Kind of Blue lies ahead of you, and Sketches of Spain, and In a Silent Way, and Bitches Brew, and Big Fun, and Jack Johnson, and the Fillmore. Thanks for the memories and the music.

After the last of the Contractual Marathon sessions had been recorded, Miles was free to pursue his career with Columbia. Her didn't have to wait for the records to be released, and in fact, their release dates were spread out.

"My Funny Valentine," "Blues by Five" (by Red Garland), "Airegin" (by Sonny Rollins, first
recorded by Miles in 1954 and already on its way to becoming a jazz standard), "Tune Up/When Lights Are Low" (presented as a medley, the first a Miles original and the second by Benny Carter and Spencer Williams) made up Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, released in July 1957 as the first album in this series. The cover art was by Phil Hays, who, like Miles, would move on to Columbia, where he became noted for his album cover portraits of Bessie Smith and others.

Standards "If I Were a Bell," "You're My Everything" and "I Could Write a Book," along with Rollins's "Oleo," were on the second album, Relaxin', released in February, 1958. "Half Nelson" saw daylight two years later, on Workin', February, 1960. "Well, You Needn't" was on Steamin', not released until August, 1961.

Prestige also got several 45 RPM releases from this session: "If I Were A Bell," Part 1&2, "Airegin / 'Round Midnight," "Tune Up / Oleo," and "My Funny Valentine / Smooch," the last one perhaps a Valentine's Day special.

Order Listening to Prestige Vol 1 here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tad--Look again at paragraph four of this posting. I think you've got the germ of a poem here. Bob B.