'Footprints', by the Miles Davis Quintet

When I was in Paris last week, I saw a lot of posters announcing a ‘Tribute To Miles' on July 18th, featuring Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Sean Jones (trumpet) and Sean Richman (drums).
Bassist Marcus Miller contrived and produced the tribute, the occasion being the fact that Miles Davis died twenty years ago. Miller was involved with great Davis albums like ‘The Man With the Horn' and 'Tutu’, while Hancock and Shorter had already experienced adventures with the trumpeter in the sixties. 
When I returned home last Saturday, I checked if they would also visit The Netherlands, and found out they will play at the North Sea Jazz Festival on July 10th 2011, in my hometown Rotterdam. I bought a ticket instantly.

Ticket

To get myself in the mood, here is ‘Footprints’, recorded in Sweden on October 31st, 1967.

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Herbie Hancock - Piano
Ron Carter - Bass
Tony Williams - Drums

'The Man I Love' (Take 1), by Miles Davis And The Modern Jazz Giants

When this song came along on my iPod the other day, I noticed something strange about Monk’s solo. It was like he was teasing, bullying even, with strange and slow attacks on the keys.
So I did a little research about what was going on there. 
In ‘Milestones’, Jack Chambers writes about this remarkable recording session on December 24th, 1954 (page 191):

'…During the session led by Davis the two men clashed with such bitterness that the session has become almost as famous as the brilliant music that it produced. It was Christmas eve and Davis had lined up an all-star band that was billed in all the releases as The Modern Jazz Giants. Monk was disgruntled because Davis was insisting that Monk should not play behind Davis's solos. Monk brooded throughout the afternoon, which was spend on rehearsals, and when the recording began he became more uncooperative. He found the idea of laying out during Davis's solos humiliating, and as he grew more disruptive he prompted some unfriendly exchanges with the others, especially Davis…'
'…At the beginning of the first take of 'The Man I Love', during Milt Jackson's introductory bars, Monk suddenly interjects: “When'm I supposed to come in, man?”
The music stops abruptly and the other groan (“Ohhh!”, “Oh no!” and other assorted noises are heard) and one of them says: “Man, the cat’s cutting hisself.” Monk, in kind of a whine, says: “I don’t know when to come in, man. Can’t I start too? Everybody else -…”
But Davis cuts him off and calls to Van Gelder in the control booth: “Hey, Rudy, put this on the record - all of it.” 
It was rumored that Davis ended up punching Monk, but he did not. Monk said later: “Miles’d got killed if he hit me.” 
In spite of the discord, or perhaps because of it, some magnificent music was made, by Monk no less than the others…’ 

Miles Davis And The Modern Jazz Giants

Miles Davis has his own view on the things that happened, written in his autobiography on page 186/187: ‘…Mostly it is bullshit and rumors that people just kept repeating until it has become fact. I told Monk not to play behind me, because Monk never did know how to play behind a horn player (except Coltrane, Rollins and Rouse). Trumpets don’t have that many notes, so you really have to push that rhythm section and that wasn’t Monk’s thing…I wasn’t comfortable with the way he voiced his changes, and I was the only horn on that date. I wanted to hear the rhythm section stroll without a piano sound…’
About the alleged punching he says: ‘Monk could have just picked my little ass up and thrown me through a wall…’  

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Milt Jackson - Vibraphone
Thelonious Monk - Piano
Percy Heath - Bass
Kenny Clarke - Drums 

 
Miles Davis, by de Koenigswarter
Pannonica de Koenigswarter, the muse and patron of the American jazz world (as seen in the rare documentary I posted earlier) was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, evidenced in an enthralling collection of candid Polaroid snapshots.
She also collected wishes. Over the course of a decade, Koenigswarter asked three hundred musicians what their three wishes in life were, jotting them all down in a notebook.
The three wishes of Miles Davis:1. ‘To be white!’
And that was it.

Miles Davis, by de Koenigswarter

Pannonica de Koenigswarter, the muse and patron of the American jazz world (as seen in the rare documentary I posted earlier) was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, evidenced in an enthralling collection of candid Polaroid snapshots.

She also collected wishes. Over the course of a decade, Koenigswarter asked three hundred musicians what their three wishes in life were, jotting them all down in a notebook.

The three wishes of Miles Davis:
1. ‘To be white!’

And that was it.

'Nefertiti', by The Miles Davis Quintet

Yesterday, I lay in bed, iPod on, eyes closed and goosebumps all over…
OK, maybe this is a piece for the more ‘trained’ ear, but I suggest you put on your headphones or play it loud and give it an eight minute try, if only for the exquisite Tony Williams.

Michelle Mercer writes in her book ‘Footprints’: “…On June 7th, 1967, the band practiced the melody again and again. With the horns in repetition mode, a foundation was laid upon which the rhythm section could improvise. Tony’s (Williams) playing grew more dynamic and insistent with each repetition of the melody.
When they finished the first run-through, it was time to improvise on the theme. But Miles asked: “Hey man, what if we made the tune by just playin’ the melody?” It was so obvious and yet so radical an idea that the band could only laugh in response. No one was doing that in jazz. “That’s it, right?”, Miles said…”

Jack Chambers writes in ‘Milestones’: “…’Nefertiti' includes no solos in any conventional sense. Instead, Davis and Shorter repeat the mournful theme over and over again throughout the track. Yet both in feeling and in fact, the composition remains rich in spontaneity; improvisation is in a sense constant, not only in the play of the rhythm section but even in the theme statements by the horns, which repeat the same basic scale again and again with different nuances each time. It's a remarkable conception, demanding free interplay and controlled license, and one that could be carried off successfully only by players who are gifted individualists and devoted collectivists…”

Bob Blumenthal wrote in Rolling Stone some years later:
"His (Shorter’s) compositions  were becoming statements in themselves instead of mere frames for solos. All three Shorter tunes on Nefertiti (‘Nefertiti’, ‘Fall' and 'Pinocchio’) use melodic repetition to an unprecedented extent and, as interpreted by the great Davis quintet, became hypnotic messengers of something new”. 

The folksinger Joni Mitchell had this very striking comparison: “It’s a very unusual piece of music, in that it’s like a silk screen. They start off in unison, and then they get more and more individuated, like a silk screen slightly offset.”

Miles Davis - Nefertiti

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone 
Herbie Hancock - Piano
Ron Carter - Bass
Tony Williams - Drums 

The Famous Alto Break

Ross Russel (the founder of Dial Records) wrote in his book ‘Bird Lives!' on page 212:
"…The last side of the session was ‘A Night In Tunisia’. The first time around Charlie played a stunning break. When the master was played back, it was obvious this version could not be used. It was full of mistakes made by others. “I’ll never make that break again,” Charlie said. Nor was he quite able to duplicate the suspenseful line of the first effort. After many false starts and five complete versions of Tunisia, the session ended at nine in the evening…”

The surviving tapes of the session have been available for a long time, on a Spotlite record issued in 1972. There are two full takes of ‘A Night In Tunisia' with the studio matrix numbers D-1013-4 and 1013-5, and the fragment containing the famous break, matrix number D1013-1. It is possible that the first take was unusable because of the other musicians' mistakes, as Russell says, but the existing audio is only 50 seconds long and no evident mistakes can be heard.

If you listen to all three takes with no preconceptions, the most obvious thing is how similar the three breaks are: Parker was basically playing a similar pattern every time. If the average listener was exposed to the three cuts, without being told which one was the supposedly ‘famous’ one, I doubt most people could reliably pick it from the three.

A lot of other myths about these famous 50 seconds circulate on the Internet. The strangest (and, of course, unconfirmed) one is that because Parker played such an unbelievable break from the bridge to the solo section that he ‘completely lost the band’. The next time around, they made Miles Davis stand in the corner, plug his ears, and count the band back in…

This break and other delicious goodies can be found on ‘Charlie Parker: The Complete Dial Sessions’. 

Charlie Parker: The Complete Dial Sessions

Charlie Parker - Alto Saxophone
Miles Davis - Trumpet
Lucky Thompson - Tenor Saxophone
Dodo Marmarosa - Piano
Vic McMillan - Bass
Roy Porter - Drums 

 

The ‘Philly Joe Lick’

Miles (and/or Troupe) wrote in his autobiography, page 199:
Philly Joe was the fire that was making a lot of shit happen. See, he knew everything I was going to do, everything I was going to play; he anticipated me, felt was I was thinking. Sometimes I used to tell him not to do that lick of his with me, but after me. And so that thing that he used to do after I played something, that rim shot, became known as the 'Philly Joe Lick', and it made him famous.
Even after he left I would listen for a little Philly Joe in all the drummers I had later…

So, what exactly is that lick?

"…This title piece from ‘Milestones’, with a sixteen-bar bridge, is a ‘A-A-B-A’ song form (breakdown: 8-8-16-8). Its rhythmic character encourages the drummer to play, to contribute. It’s one of Philly Joe Jones’s classic performances. One of the first things Davis recorded based on scales, it moves right along in medium/up-tempo incorporating what has become known as the ‘Philly Joe Lick’: a cross-stick accent on the fourth beat of each bar. The rim-shot lick provides rhythmic impetus to a tune that gives the soloists freer rein than in a song based on changing chords. It is being said Blakey play this pattern first, but Jones uses it more frequently and provocatively. Here it becomes part of the structure of the piece and gives rhythmic impetus to the performance it would not otherwise have had…”

Philly Joe Jones 
Philly Joe Jones photographed by Francis Wolff

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Cannonball Adderley - Alto Saxophone
John Coltrane - Tenor Saxophone
Red Garland - Piano
Paul Chambers - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums 

Miles Away
Done. Finished. During my summer holiday (somewhere in July) I started to read ‘Milestones’ by Jack Chambers. Immediately followed (!) by ‘Miles: The Autobiography’ by Quincy Troupe. That’s a grand total of 1286 pages on Miles, finished only yesterday.
I recommend both books: the one from Jack Chambers for it’s meticulousness on facts and the one from Troupe for Miles’ own voice you hear through.
Enter Ben Ratliff’s ‘The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music’. Ratliff, jazz critic for The New York Times and writer of the book ‘Coltrane: The Story Of A Sound’, spent just over two years interviewing jazz greats for a recurring feature at the paper: rather than ask musicians like Wayne Shorter or Sonny Rollins to name their favorite records, Ratliff sat with them as they listened to songs and picked out the qualities they found most artistically compelling.
An inspiring read so far.

Miles Away

Done. Finished. During my summer holiday (somewhere in July) I started to read ‘Milestones’ by Jack Chambers. Immediately followed (!) by ‘Miles: The Autobiography’ by Quincy Troupe. That’s a grand total of 1286 pages on Miles, finished only yesterday.

I recommend both books: the one from Jack Chambers for it’s meticulousness on facts and the one from Troupe for Miles’ own voice you hear through.

Enter Ben Ratliff’s ‘The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music’. Ratliff, jazz critic for The New York Times and writer of the book ‘Coltrane: The Story Of A Sound’, spent just over two years interviewing jazz greats for a recurring feature at the paper: rather than ask musicians like Wayne Shorter or Sonny Rollins to name their favorite records, Ratliff sat with them as they listened to songs and picked out the qualities they found most artistically compelling.

An inspiring read so far.

L’Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud

"…And it was during this trip (to Paris) that I met the French filmmaker Louis Malle through Juliette Greco. He told me he had always loved my music and that he wanted me to write the musical score for his new film, L’Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud (it was called 'Frantic' in America, 'Lift To The Scaffold' in Britain).
I agreed to do it and it was a great learning experience, because I had never written a music score for a film before. I would look at the rushes of the film and get musical ideas to write down.
Since it was about a murder and was supposed to be a suspense movie, I used this old, very gloomy, dark building where I had the musicians play. I thought it would give the music atmosphere, and it did…”

Miles in ‘Miles: The Autobiography’ (page 217)

It sure did.
When I had my job interview, this album was playing in the background. I recognised it, told them how much I liked that album and we got into this pleasant conversation about jazz.
I got the job. 

Why Miles became so…Miles

Sugar Ray Robinson

"… Anyway, I really kicked my habit because of the example of Sugar Ray Robinson (picture above); I figured if he could be as disciplined as he was, then I could do it, too. I always loved boxing, but I really loved and respected Sugar Ray, because he was a great fighter with a lot of class and cleaner than a motherfucker.
He was handsome and a ladies’ man; he had a lot going for him. In fact, Sugar Ray was one of the few idols that I have ever had. Sugar Ray looked like a socialite when you would see him in the papers getting out of limousines with fine women on his arms, sharp as a tack.
But when he was training for a fight, he didn’t have no women around that anybody knew of, and when he got into the ring with someone to fight, he never smiled like he did in those pictures everybody saw of him. When he was in the ring, he was serious, all business.
I decided that that was the way I was going to be, serious about taking care of my business and disciplined…”

Miles Davis about kicking his heroin addiction and why he never was a crowd-pleaser on stage (smiling, announcing songs, acknowledge applause etc.)

In Quincy Troupe’s ’Miles The Autobiography’ (page 174)


Miles in his boxing gear