Saturday, June 28, 2008

Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall 1961

I first discovered Stanley Crouch back when I was in graduate school in the late eighties. Crouch was one of those jazz critics that the music demands: he cut through all the nonsense to show you what you should be looking for. I recently purchased a collection of his writings on jazz: Considering Genius. It is a treasure trove of reflections on jazz composition. When I opened it, in the bookstore, I chanced upon these words:

So much was behind him on that Manhattan night of May 19 when he walked out onto that world famous stage in 1961 and heard the applause of a full house.

That was enough to sell the book, and more than enough to sell the CD. A lot of Mile Davis live is documented. Live at the Blackhawk is marvelous, as is the more challenging Live at the Plugged Nickel. My Funny Valentine will play in my car tomorrow as I start up the engine. But the Carnegie Hall recording is special. Miles showed up with his quintet de jour: Hank Mobley on Sax, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. Behind them was Gil Evans with a 21 piece orchestra. The recording alternates between Miles and the quintet, and Miles and the orchestra. Perhaps in no other recording did Miles show how thoroughly he had mastered the dimensions of the music that he had nurtured into being.

Here is the only cut where both the quintet and the orchestra are playing. Fans will recognize the number from Kind of Blue.
Mils Davis/Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall/So What?/1961

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