With apologies to Miles Davis: a playlist


We’ve created a playlist to support the contentions we’ve made in our four-part post, “With apologies to Miles Davis“. As with all of our listening suggestions, you can click on the song title and you’ll be taken to an Amazon.com page where you can either listen to a sample, buy the individual song as an MP3 fileĀ  or buy the whole album.

After leaving Julliard in 1945, Miles began his association with saxophonist Charlie Parker. Almost immediately, Davis becameĀ  part of the inner circle that included Dizzy Gillespie and his band members, as well as Bird and the circle of players he nurtured after leaving Dizzy’s band. While Davis wasn’t a regular band member until late 1947, there is recorded evidence of their association as early as 1945.

Davis’ bebop chops came together quickly in this period, and this blazing Savoy recording of “Bird Gets the Worm” shows just how facile Miles’ playing already was when Bird recorded this in December, 1947.

From the “Birth of the Cool” studio sessions comes this Gerry Mulligan piece from April, 1949, “Venus De Milo”. It contains all of the elements that Mulligan used later on in his small groups, and is typical of these sessions.

From a Stars of Modern Jazz concert at Carnegie Hall later that year comes “Hot House” which features Davis in full bebop mode again, along with pianist Bud Powell, saxophonist Sonny Stitt and others.

From 1951, and a session for Prestige that included Sonny Rollins, comes “Blue Room”, a tune often cited by those who contend Miles was fully immersed in “cool” jazz by this time. Even this tune, a ballad with some of the stripped-down sensibilities of cool, features Miles displaying a fatter sound, with real live vibrato, than anything any so-called “cool” trumpeter ever played.

From 1953, here’s “Miles Ahead”, with Miles deeply into an unexpectedly Fats Navarro-esque period of improvisation. By contrast, a few months later, here he is with a version of Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars, augmented by Max Roach’s drums on “Infinity Promenade”, showing as much of a “cool” ethos as you’ll ever hear from him. From 1954, and a famous Prestige session with Sonny Rollins on tenor, here’s “Oleo”.

From 1955, and the first recordings by the famous “original” quintet with John Coltrane, here’s “Little Melonae”. Here’s essentially the same group, with the addition of Cannonball Adderley, from a 1958 live version of “Fran-Dance”, recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival. This band, augmented by Bill Evans on piano, recorded the seminal Kind of Blue album in 1959. From those sessions, here is “So What”.

From the wildly popular but uneven Sketches of Spain, here’s Gil Evans’ brilliant “Song Of Our Country”, featuring Miles at his most idiosyncratic. Before putting together his last, great quintet, Miles led a variety of aggregations with saxophonists like Sonny Stitt and Hank Mobley, and a rhythm section of Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers. From a particularly fruitful 1961 stint at San Francisco’s Blackhawk, here’s a live recording of “Someday My Prince Will Come”.

The last, great quintet we mentioned had a steady rhythm section of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, but the saxophonists varied for a couple of years. First, George Coleman—famously heard with Miles here on “Seven Steps To Heaven”—and then Sam Rivers preceded the most famous of the members, Wayne Shorter. Here he is on “E.S.P.”, from 1965. If we had to pick one record to define the mainstream style of jazz playing that ultimately emerged from that era—and that still defines jazz improvisation for the typical, academically-inclined players of today—it’s this one.

Finally, and in what is ultimately a quick skimming of 25 years of a brilliant career, we present “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down” from the 1969 Bitches Brew album. Miles had been easing into electric music for a couple of years, but this album saw him make a complete break with jazz sensibilities he had been so much a part of developing. For an opening salvo, it’s a brave, ambitious attempt to craft a completely new musical persona, and his playing is often amazingly fresh and vital here.

Miles certainly had more tricks up his sleeve, but as we explained in our earlier discussion of Miles and his music, as the 1970’s dawned, he increasingly became a tool of his bands, and his chops began the slow decline that is inevitable for all trumpeters. Our point in collecting this small sampling is to give you a sense of what Miles was capable of as a soloist and straight-up improviser. We think it was remarkable.

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