Dec 27, 2016

It's About That Time: Wayne Shorter's Last Gig With Miles, March 7, 1970

Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time is an album that was finally released in 2001.

This particular concert was also the final concert that Wayne Shorter performed with Miles Davis. Soon after, Wayne would join Joe Zawinul to form Weather Report.

This concert is very raw and on edge, Chick Corea has a sound on electric piano that is unlike anything I can ever remember.

 Hearing heavy distortion either mars or enhances the music, depending on your tolerance for rough around the edges recordings.

One thing about this recording that surprises me, it sounds like Corea and Holland may have finally gotten to Miles, I don't think I can recall any of his music ever quite getting this avant-garde?

I am telling you this, you have some real over the top cacophony in spots. Some will snicker at this of course, man I wish more of these concerts would be released.

 Just to hear something like "It's About That Time" that challenges your sensibilities for what you thought Miles was all about during this time period has been a real joy to absorb.

Compare this recording to the band with Keith Jarrett: Those Cellar Door sessions sound all together different than this March 1970 recording, Did Miles know this was Wayne's last gig?

Reportedly a March 6th show was also taped that has not been released, it was available at Wolfgang's Vault, much of this live music is heard on Bitches Brew,  which hadn't been released at the time of these recordings..

I don't want to overstate it, but It's About That Time might be a tough listen for those newly initiated. If you like being challenged, you must give this a shot. All of Miles Electric period is well worth hearing if you have open ears.

Dec 19, 2016

The Best Classic Modern Jazz Compositions For the New Listener

Modern jazz is a music that can have so many diverse meanings.

Amazingly the music almost mirrors the musical personality of Miles Davis himself.

It is incredible when you think about it, if you only listened to the music of Miles Davis alone, you would be exposed to nearly every form of the music since World War II.

 Bop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, large band orchestrated jazz, post bop, free bop, jazz rock, jazz funk, and even a few music forms that barely even resemble jazz that have gone on to influence so many diverse musicians of different styles, you can't hope to name them all.

I make no apologies for including 4 Davis tunes within this list of my favorite 10, the surprise might be the fact tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter has two of his own compositions on my list, one with Davis, and one as a leader.

This list is really just a personal list, not meant to slight any artist or genre. I have been seriously into jazz for about 20 years now, and these tunes were the ones that affected me early on in the infancy of my love for jazz.

These 10 compositions are drawn from absolute classic albums that must be heard in their entirety. I guarantee you this, if you're just getting into modern jazz, you would have a great ten albums to start with. Don't worry, no free jazz or avant-garde to wade through here, those sub-genres may very well peak your interest down the line though. So let us begin...

Miles Davis: "Footprints"

Footprints, a Wayne Shorter composition that was recorded both on Miles Smiles as well as Shorter's own Adam's Apple. Shorter sure could make a simple melody seem mysterious and complex.

It has been said that Miles created at least one "perfect" album within every style he was a part of: Birth of the Cool and Cookin' from the early 50's, and Kind of Blue, and Porgy & Bess from the late 50's. Miles Smiles is the perfect album from the second great quintet in my opinion.

Lee Morgan: "The Sidewinder"

The Sidewinder is the quintessential Blue Note Records recording. A danceable Bogaloo, with the fiery hot trumpet work of Lee Morgan.

Hard to find fault with the entire vibe. Morgan captures the Blue Note sound perfectly, the entire album is stellar. If you can find an original mono vinyl copy, your mind will be blown at the sound of this record.

Buddy Rich "Channel 1 Suite"

"Channel 1 Suite" from the album Mercy Mercy is a Bill Reddie composition that is a tour de force of big band power. Buddy Rich delivers a powerful performance as usual, his solo on Chanel 1 suite is worth the price of the album.

Outside of Tony Williams, If there ever was a better technical drummer than Buddy Rich I haven't found them. Any of Buddy's 60's albums are killer and have the same in your face style as Chanel 1 Suite.

Thelonious Monk: "Round Midnight" via Miles Davis

This Thelonious Monk tune is an all time classic. This version from the album billed as 'Round about Midnight, Is one of the greatest themes in Jazz history. Miles Davis is able to play this romantic theme in a way they strips it bare. Every last ounce of pretentiousness is gone.

Monk's own original, and the live at the Five Spot version with Johnny Griffin should also be heard, but Miles' Round About Midnight is stunningly perfect to my ears.

Don Ellis: "Indian Lady"

This Don Ellis Orchestra recording from the album Electric Bath is a fine example of Indian poly-rhythms on top of unorthodox time signatures.

Ellis has always been underrated, he composed the Oscar nominated film score for The French Connection. His early death in 1978 is probably why you never hear him mentioned in most people all time lists.

No body had a better big band in the late 60's and early 70's than Don Ellis.

Miles Davis: "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down"

Miles Runs the Voodoo Down is one of the signature songs from Miles Davis During his Electric Period, a classic funk bass line, with some of Miles' most muscular trumpet Dais ever recorded.

Miles jabs like a prize fighter, Bending notes, trills and punctuation. The track sort of runs out of steam at the 11 minute mark, But as a whole, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down is spectacular. Why is it, the elitist jazz critic of the period could never come to understand this jazz rock classic?

Wayne Shorter: "Witch Hunt"

Witch Hunt from the Wayne Shorter album Speak No Evil Is a very important composition and album. Practically every modern jazz album released since has been influenced by Speak No Evil.

Certainly every saxophonist has had to deal with Wayne Shorter and his music. The composition has such a smooth simple melody, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard is also on top of his game throughout Speak No Evil.

Charles Mingus: "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"

"Good Bye Pork Pie Hat", a tribute to the then recently departed Tenor Saxophonist Lester Young, a beautiful mournful ballad, that does manage to capture the essence of Lester Young.

Mingus Ah Um is a riotous album at times, but this ballad provides the perfect relief from the hard edges of Mingus' madness. You really can sense the presence of Lester Young within the composition.

John Coltrane: "Acknowledgement"

For some reason when I listen to Acknowledgement, I envision a beautiful sunset, oranges and yellows come into my head? Acknowledgement comes from the John Coltrane masterpiece A Love Supreme.

The solo is incredible, and the unusual Chanting at the end a - love-su-preme, a- love-su-preme, closes the track out in style. A Love Supreme is the second best selling modern jazz record of all-time.

Miles Davis "So What"

"So What" from Kind of Blue may be the best composition of any form of music, I love the bass Intro with the orchestrated touches. Then the Bass setting up the theme, the track just flows so naturally.

The Bill Evans Piano, and the Saxophone solos By Coltrane and Adderley are some of their best on record. The entire album Kind of Blue just sounds like a walk down 52nd Street In New York City 1959.

Don't let jazz, or instrumental music intimidate you

If you're are new to this type of instrumental modern jazz, and have a hard time following music without lyrics, try this: Listen to the rhythm section of bass, drums, and piano, or sometimes Guitar with, or instead of piano.

Anyway, let the rhythm section be the foundation for your ears, feel the rhythm, sense its presence without focusing on the individual instruments.

You can of course focus individually if you want, but I have always felt that feeling the beat, or the vibe of the bass, drums, and piano will allow you to focus on the picture painters, the trumpet, saxophone, or when the rhythm instruments solo.

In fact, down the road if you grasp this concept, a band like The Bill Evans piano trio will blow you're mind, where anything can happen, and usually does in regards to time keeping and soloing. Who's doing what, shifts so much, that rhythm and improvisation are almost interchangeable...

If you are new to jazz below are several fantastic box sets you may find well worth your time if you have an interest in becoming familiar with Post WWII jazz in particular.

Dec 18, 2016

Miles Davis Big Fun: Double Slabs of Droning Jazz Rock

 Big Fun indeed: Miles was so ahead of the curve, these outtakes were from sessions released from 1969 and 1972, and not released until 1974.

Big Fun was barely noticed at the time, 26 years later the digital remaster was released on CD.
Finally I think enough time has passed to give this music the needed space to catch up with the rest of the world's recorded music.

So many things of note within the Electric music of Miles Davis: Producer Teo Macero's Production techniques were way ahead of their time.

 The overall combination of Indian instruments with rock and funk, must have seemed bizarre even for jazz rock? There is no point denying how imperfect Big Fun is, at times it does feel thrown together like some cosmic stew of international sounds.

Big Fun has an interesting production technique from producer Teo Macero, who seems completely thrilled with just trying out every new gizmo and gadget Columbia Records could dream up in the studio.

Oh how fun this time period must have been, how exciting to create and break new ground on the fly like Miles did during the 70's.

The most overtly funky track from Big Fun is "Ife", a repetitive bass drone track that sounds like could have been on the On the Corner album. The rest of the album to my ears sounds like Bitches Brew Outtakes. especially "Go Ahead John".

The first time I heard "Go Ahead John", it nearly drove me crazy. Teo Macero's channel switcher on Jack Dejohnette's drums all most ruined it for me. Years later I happened to give the track another shot, but this time without head phones.

The isolation of the headphones made the effect almost tortuous to me. "Go Ahead John" turns out to be a fantastic 27 minute long dirge. It also features only 5 musicians, Davis on trumpet, John McLaughlin on guitar, Steve Grossman on sax, Dave Holland on Bass, and Jack Dejohnette on drums.

Also it is worth noting that "Go Ahead John" has no keyboard of any kind, it also comes from the Jack Johnson recording sessions. It's hard for me to convey exact musical terminology, as I am not a formally trained musician, but I hear a lot of late 60's funky James Brown groovin' on this track.

It's obvious to me Miles Digs JB. When you listen to the Complete Jack Johnson sessions box you will be amazed at the hard funk and Hendrix style hard rock grooves being worked out.

By the time Miles found Guitarist Pete Cosey near the end of 1973, Miles had settled into voodoo funk groove based style that reminds me of this style a bit. Well, at least I can hear Miles' process here. It is a matter of personal interpretation though.

I have been dissecting this music for over 15 years, and I am still completely amazed how many new things I hear and how the discovery of new stuff seems to never end. Many Times I will put Big Fun on as back ground music, much of this music is good like that as well.

Dec 16, 2016

Miles Davis "Call it Anything" From the Isle of Wight 1970

Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea playing piano in the same band?

 Then you throw in Dave Holland on bass, and Jack De Johnette on drums, pretty hot band huh?

For me, this music documented on vinyl "pictured" as well as the DVD video performance available now as:
"Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue"

 It's one of the best live documents out there of electric Miles.

The Aug. 29th 1970 show at the Isle of Wight Festival is a cookin' show, everything seems to run on all cylinders. Jarrett and Corea are both inventive, and somehow are making real music come out of these newly discovered toys.

As a long time Miles Electric music fan, I do endorse this Isle of Wight show on DVD. I like having it in audio form too, but the atmosphere is so good and the extra interviews are very nice, as well as the thick liner notes inside the DVD case.

Dec 1, 2016

Miles Davis and Gil Evans Sketches of Spain on Vinyl

Released in July of 1960, Sketches of Spain was a wildly successful album, that garnered Evans and Davis Grammy Awards for their efforts.

My thoughts about the album are a bit mixed, Sketches is easily the least jazzy of the collaborations; also I feel that Miles' own playing is not quite "just a bit" up to the standard of the previously recorded Evans collaboration Porgy & Bess. Miles really put himself out on a limb on Sketches, his vulnerable stark sound was made for this music.

It is well known Miles had trouble on this session, the strange new material, and the tough Evan's arrangements physically exhausted Miles, he did not record again for over a year after the session. 

Sketches of Spain is an album that will grow on you after repeated listens, the brooding mood of the piece is hard to ignore. Personally my favorite track is "Solea," I love the bass groove on this track, really puts you in the ring with the bull fighter.

Sketches of Spain on vinyl like most Miles Columbia releases are readily available at reasonable prices. You could get a near mint 60's Columbia 6 eye copy for around 15 dollars.

A 66 year old record like that is certainly a piece of history worth having. The reissue may sound as good or better, but they can't mimic the feel of that aged thick cardboard. Them old Columbia records hold up well to surface wear too. You could get a VG to VG+ copy for under 10 bucks, maybe better than that in a local record shop.

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