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