We are listening to 10 mins of Miles Davis from each year he was active as a recording artist. Starting in 1947 and ending in 1991.
8:05 – Started listening to Sippin at the Bells and Milestones from off of First Miles. Short tracks, lots of outtakes, sounds like everything was recorded with one microphone. No bass. Parker overpowers Davis on a lot of the track. Max Roach on drums. Some blues with clarinet and a terrible pops singer passing as a tru blusmen.
8:15- Chasin the bird off of Enter the Cool. We got some bebop with parker and miles playing vs eachother. Budo. Youtube says “These hos sound like they were getting dopesick and wanted to hurry the fuck up end it and get to the trap for that Bobby brown”
8:50- We had pizza related troubles, but that is sorted out and now we’re listening to Birth of the Cool. Israel was a pretty good track. Amazing at how much more is written out, with multiple instruments playing the same line in unison. More laid back tempo than mid 40s. Jeru and Rocker were in the same vein, Darn that Dream was too cheese for us. Boplicity was full of friendly harmonies and super tight arrangements.
9:00-Birdland Sessions, this is a live album. Recorded in 1950 but sounds like pre birth of the cool jazz. Bebop that is very fast. We heard Full Nelson, which was an older composition, and Max is Making Wax, a reference to Roach. A bit more harmonically complex than earlier bebop but still very fast.
9:15- “Dig”- Bluing – Brendan says this is pretty aimless. Nick says this is what people generally think of when they think of jazz. Conception is better, faster, interesting chord changes and lots of unison playing. Even some tempo changes. Good track!
9:30- “Four”- Weirdo sounded like a hardbop version of a simple blues, had some unexpected chord changes and a more aggressive feel than earlier cool tunes. Tune Up follows in a similar vein but is faster. Like a more complex version of bebop. Davis retains his more abrasive sound that was lost on birth of the cool.
9:45- “Four”- We also listened to Bag’s Groove but these weren’t that interesting. We get more harmonic complexity than bebop but the melodies were barroom-ish and forgettable mostly.
10:00- “The New Miles Davis Qunitet”- Just Squeeze Me is very very slow. Starts out with a good piano hook that set it apart from some previous work. Coltrane and Paul Chambers is with him here, so we get high level solos from him. Red Garland on Keys. The Quintet does sound significantly stripped down from birth of the cool
10:15- “Round About Midnight”- Ah-Leu-Cha (Nick’s pick for best cool jazz period track) showcases advanced melodic harmonies that only davis and trane could have done at the time. The two instruments weave together to create something that sounds like a solo but is actually the head melody. Ahmad’s Blues is played by Garland and then there is a bowed bass solo.
10:30- “Miles Ahead”- This album sounds like a weird james bond soundtrack. It is fairly well arranged (by Gil Evans) but it isn’t really jazz at all. Miles plays the flugelhorn. There are 5 trumpet players on most of the tracks.
10:45- “Ascenseur”- Nothing memorable it seems in this year. A lot of standards recorded on a few different albums, and some ultra bebop that is fast and without any harmonization. Davis just farts a solo out of his ass for 10 mins.
11:00- “Kind of Blue”- Blue and Green was very slow, a lot of the tracks on this album are quite obvious and boring so we switched to milestones. Dr. Jackie (Nick’s late 50s pick) has an awesome head with long long lines of fast notes and irregular rests that are played in unison. Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley are playing sax together on some tracks on this album. Sketches of Spain, the third album we listened to in 1959, was another Gil Evans arrangement that had more interesting elements than the bland sounds from Miles Ahead. He utilizes some Spainish flamenco scales and middle-eastern percussion to add more texture, but all in all it sounds a bit like a disney cartoon.
11:20- “Live in Stockholm”- There was a Scandinavian tour so he recorded a lot of live albums this year. This one was pretty uninspired. All the albums contain material we have heard before, sometimes on multiple albums.
11:30- Another year with not many interesting studio albums. Some Day My Prince Will Come is disney bullshit. Night at the Blackhawk was mostly repeated tracks but Neo was a bit different, in 3/4 and hard bop.
11:40- Seven Steps to Heaven is the most advanced track of the year. Fairly uptempo hard bop with an interesting head, using a lot of space and dense notes. Recording on the bass is more rich, low notes hit hard. Coltrane is gone, but Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter now get their time with Davis.
11:50- 1964 had a lot of live albums again, but his band now had Wayne Shorter.
12:00- “ESP” Finally some new material. Brendan: “Davis is playing mostly the same style as he always has but Carter and William’s playing is what changes the music. Carter is inches away from playing slap bass”. Carter does take steps back from the bassline in key moments to lean on pedal points and build tension. Williams has some great drum solos. 81 is a loose bossa groove with creative bass lines. Piano harmonies are present. Shorter seems more comfortable to hang on dissonant tones in his solos.
12:10- “Miles Smiles” (Nick’s modal jazz pick) is another good album with all original tracks. I believe Miles Smiles is a bit of an ironic title because these are all deep modal tunes. You can hear some free jazz influence, especially in the tonic-ambiguous harmonies. Excellent bass and drums from Williams and Carter.
12:25- “Nefertiti”- Miles gets deeper into modal jazz. A lot of the bass and piano riffs get chromatic. However, there are still long passages played in unison by Shorter and Davis. Sorcerer sounds more groove based and was recorded a few months before Nefertiti.
12:40 “Filles de Kilimanjaro” Our first guitar of the night!!! First bass guitar too. On Miles in the Sky we hear the first guitar. Most of these tracks are distanced from the bebop form of playing the head and then doing solos, they are written more like a classical piece. Little Stuff has an 11/4 time signature.
1:00 “In A Silent Way (Complete Sessions)- Through way of our actions we have learned that IASW was only shitty easy listening because of the editing. In listening to the complete sessions, Directions was an excellent example of the raw jazz rock that was about to come from the early 1970s. Dave Holland plays bass guitar, and has a good part on The Ghetto Walk. On the complete sessions from bitches brew there are some slow tracks such as Yaphet that would have been very relaxing compared to other tracks on BB, but it retains the spirit of BB through the spacey electric organ and long strung out trumpet tones. Also strange asian instruments like er-hu.
1:20 “Live Evil”- Brenday “Sideshow John McLaughlin is all over this one”. Long guitar solos at the beginning of tracks. Jack Johnson has some really strange outtakes worth checking out if you like everything to be distorted and sent through a wah wah pedal.
1:30- “What I Say” volume 1 and 2- More Wah and rock
1:40- “Complete On the Corner Sessions”- We get more solid groove here but we’re way far away from jazz. Maiysha starts smooth and continues to be smooth for longer than we expected. Really top notch groove shit here.
1:50- “Black Satin”- This was a big jam session in Shinjuku. Brendan: “It progressed more like a (…)fungal growth than a musical composition”
2:00- “Get Up With it” Rated X (Nick’s Fusion Pick) is an amazing track with an organ blasting out the same few notes for minutes at a time. The percussion is a jumbled mess of amazingness with a frantic driving bassline. Brendan “Charlie Parker: ‘I taught you well Miles'” Highlight of the mid 70s so far. “Dark Magus” is pretty out there.
2:15- “Another Unity” sounded like everyone was fumbling around on their instruments. On Pangaea there is more of a controlled groove held together with guitar and flute.
2:25- “Lost Sessions” Like Chic and not very good. Brendan: ” This is Fucking Horrible” Really sounds devoid of any influence from Davis, generic and cheesy disco pop.
For the next 5 1/2 years (’75-’81) there are no official recordings
2:36- “We Want Miles- This is a lightweight version of what he was doing in ’74. On The Man With the Horn we are treated to some awful tinny slap bass and a drum that sounds like it was programmed on a 50 dollar yamaha keyboard.
2:45- “Star People” Starts with really spacy synths and then, in a baffling move, switches into some painfully slow blues. The awful percussion and poor choice in bass continue.
2:50- “Decoy” (Worst album of the night) is very 80s fusion with some songs that sound like they were programmed by a 5 year old. Robot 415 was rock bottom for Brendan and possibly equal to his (Brendan’s) best musical productions. The sounds from the electronic instruments are not only boring but also played in an unskillful way. Miles Davis sounds equally bad. Truly some of the worst music from a professional musician I have ever heard.
3:00- “You’re Under Arrest”- Some parts of the album are listenable, but it just sounds like a worse version of mahavishnu orchestra from a decade ago. The digital instruments and recording methods make it sound very thin and compact. We get some acceptable slap bass. Miles reads out some police related things over the first track, and it sounds ridiculous.
3:10-“tutu” Again some of the instruments have a unique 80s quality and it is well-produced, but it is still pretty bland. His playing is better on this album and he is more involved in the performances.
3:20-” Isle of Wight” There is a cover of Bitches Brew, he at least uses similar instrumentation to the original and doesn’t use digital instruments. But the players are not as creative or skilled as the original members. Music from Siesta is a soundtrack that sounds like sketches of spain was shit out of an apple II.
3:30-” Aura” Fairly competent but plodding jazz rock. There are some interesting stabs from some of the synths.
3:45- “The Hot Spot” Soundtrack to the B movie the hot spot. The track harry and dolly is absurdly slow with what sounds like a baby ukelele pumping out some tinny tones every so often, and John Lee Hooker randomly moaning every so often. Those themes run throughout the album.
3:55-“Dingo” (Most boring music of the night) Some alright songwriting but by this time most of the trumpet lines were played by other trumpet players. We were trying to guess who on the album was actually Miles and who was the decoy. “Doo-Bop” was his last studio album. He hated this album so much he died to avoid finishing it. Just generic hiphop loops with a meandering trumpet played over it, probably in one take. Some terrible rap which ironically includes the line “Let me tell you about my man called Miles, He’s gonna be around for a long while”.
Doo Bop was Davis’ last album. Happy 87th birthday Miles and here’s to 87 more!!!