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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Four Classic Albums

Avid Jazz AMSC 1081



Miles Ahead
1. Springville
2. The Maids Of Cadiz
3. The Duke
4. My Ship
5. Miles Ahead
6. Blues For Pablo
7. New Rhumba
8. The Meaning Of The Blues
9. Lament
10. I Don't Want To Be Kissed (By Anyone But You)
Miles Davis - Flugelhorn
Gil Evans - Arranger, composer, conductor
Taft Jordan, Ernie Royal, Bernie Glow, John Carisi, Louis Mucci - Trumpets
Jimmy Cleveland, Frank Rehak, Joe Barnett - Trombones
Tom Mitchell - Bass trombone
Willie Ruff, Tony Miranda, Jimmy Buffington - French horns
Bill Barber - Tuba
Romeo Penque - Flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe
Sid Cooper, Eddie Caine - Flute, clarinet
Danny Bank - Bass clarinet
Lee Konitz - Alto sax
Wynton Kelly - Piano
Paul Chambers - Bass
Art Taylor, Philly Joe Jones - Drums
Sketches Of Spain
11. Concierto De Aranjuez (Adagio)
12. Will O' The Wisp
13. The Pan Piper
14. Saeta
15. Solea
Miles Davis - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Gil Evans - Arranger, composer, conductor
Taft Jordan, Johnny Coles, Ernie Royal, Bernie Glow, Louis Mucci - Trumpets
Dick Hixon, Frank Rehak, Earl Chapin - Trombones
Joe Singer, John Barrows, Tony Miranda, Jimmy Buffington - French horns
Bill Barber - Tuba
Harold Feldman - Flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe
Al Block, Eddie Caine - Flute
Danny Bank - Alto flute, bass clarinet
Romeo Penque - Oboe
Jack Knitzer - Bassoon
Janet Putman - Harp
Paul Chambers - Bass
Jimmy Cobb, Elvin Jones - Drums
José Mangual - Percussion
Porgy And Bess
1. Buzzard Song
2. Bess, You Is My Woman Now
3. Gone
4. Gone, Gone, Gone
5. Summertime
6. Oh Bess, Where's My Bess
7. Prayer (Oh Doctor Jesus)
8. Fisherman, Strawberry And Devil Crab
9. My Man's Gone Now
10. It Ain't Necessarily So
11. Here Come De Honey Man
12. I Loves You, Porgy
13. There's A Boat That's Leaving Soon For New York
Miles Davis - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Gil Evans - Arranger, composer, conductor
Ernie Royal, Bernie Glow, Johnny Coles, Louis Mucci - Trumpets
Jimmy Cleveland, Dick Hixon, Frank Rehak, Joe Bennett - Trombones
Willie Ruff, Gunther Schiller, Julius Watkins - French horns
Bill Barber - Tuba
Jerome Richardson, Romeo Penque, Phil Bodner - Flutes, alto flutes, clarinets
Danny Bank - Alto flute, bass clarinet
Julian (Cannonball) Adderley - Alto sax
Paul Chambers - Bass
Jimmy Cobb, Philly Joe Jones - Drums
Ascenseur Pour l'Echafaud (Elevator To The Gallows)
14. Générique
15. L’Assassinat De Carla
16. Sur L’Autoroute
17. Julien Dans L’Ascenseur
18. Florence Sur Les Champs-Elysées
19. Diner Au Motel
20. Evasion De Julien
21. Visite Du Vigile
22. Au Bar Du Petit Bac
23. Chez Le Photographe Du Motel

Miles Davis – Trumpet, composer
Barney Wilen – Tenor sax
René Urtreger – Piano
Pierre Michelot – Bass
Kenny Clarke - Drums
“Few musicians of our time have had such an important and influential impact on jazz as Miles Davis”. So writes Bob Belden in his essay on Miles Davis for The Oxford Companion To Jazz edited by Bill Kirchner. We must thank Avid Jazz which has reissued four of the most influential albums that Miles Davis recorded in the late 50s and early 60s, especially the Gil Evans collaborations which validated Davis’ reputation as an extraordinary interpreter in jazz.
Miles Ahead is a single suite of music with one track fully integrated into the next with musical bridge passages and made all the more interesting with the advent of the CD since it does not require stopping and turning over the album. Miles is on flugelhorn throughout the album and the lyrical beauty of his playing is astounding. There is not an out-of-place note, phrase or run. While Davis plays mostly in the middle register, he still commands attention. Evans' orchestrations using French horns, woodwinds and other reeds, which buttress Davis’ solos, set a new standard for jazz interpretation. Another unusual feature of the album is that all ten compositions are by different individuals, which added to the complexity of bringing all these voices together in a cogent whole. To single out any specific track for special attention would be redundant since the album was conceived to have an inner homogeneity.
Sketches Of Spain was the final major pairing between Davis and Evans and it took over five sessions to complete between the fall of 1959 and the spring of 1960. The cornerstone of this session was the adagio from Rodrigo’s Concierto De Aranjuez. Evans again created a striking chart that featured woodwinds, brass and percussion over which Davis soloed with intensity and probing fluency. The other lengthy track in the session is Evans' own composition Solea. Evans set out to craft a background that offered new sounds and an orchestral harmony which allowed Davis to integrate his playing within the body of the work.
Porgy And Bess seemed well suited to bring Davis and Evans back together, as the Gershwin opera had all the elements to test both individuals’ creative powers. Perhaps it is not quite as adventurous as Miles Ahead, however there is more grandeur and understanding in this album due to its Gershwin origins. Furthermore, Miles used a Harmon mute on some tracks (Summertime, Here Comes De Honey Man, I Loves You, Porgy) and this gave a different texture and intimacy to the tracks. He used an open flugelhorn on all the others.
Evans was at his majestically best with the scoring, especially with the woodwinds, as they have a depth and rhapsodic quality comparable to any classical composer. Davis’ playing was a model of simplicity and understatement using a less-is-more approach favoured by one of his favourite pianists Ahmad Jamal. Again this album is all of a piece and should be regarded in totality and not track by track.
Ascenseur Pour l’Echafaud (Elevator To The Gallows) was a film noir directed by the Frenchman Louis Malle, who needed a score to complete the project. Miles was asked to take this on using a quintet, which in addition to him, was composed of three well-known French jazz musicians and one of the early masters of bop drumming, Kenny Clarke, who was living in Paris at the time. Over two days in early December 1957, Davis and the band improvised the soundtrack without any pre-conceived theme and this became the first film to bring jazz in this way to the screen. The tracks are short vignettes designed to move the action along on the screen, and for the most part, and not unexpectedly, are entirely Miles on either muted or open trumpet. Davis was spare in his approach, using oblique phrases to convey meaning. A couple of notable tracks are Sur l’Autoroute where Davis prances along with Clarke’s brushwork tap dancing behind him and tenor-man Wilen delivers a Coltrane-style solo. Another is Diner au Motel which is filled with triplets with only Michelot’s bass and Clarke’s drums providing support.
The three Davis/Evans sessions are essential in any jazz collection and the movie soundtrack is simply icing on the cake.
Pierre Giroux

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