Friday, February 27, 2009

Miles at Antibes

As we approach the fiftieth of Kind of Blue, maybe it's good to return to the roots of this blog: Miles Davis and his magnificent quintets of the fifties and sixties. I got into serious collecting when I discovered the great Prestige recordings Workin', Steamin', Relaxin', and Cookin'. These great platters were spun, legend has it, merely to satisfy contracts. Each of them is a gem.

Miles second great quintet featured George Coleman and later Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. It was Coleman's misfortune that his tenure with Miles was sandwiched between Coltrane and Shorter. Coleman may not have had the same compositional genius as Trane and Wayne, but he played a superb Tenor.

In 1963 he played with the quintet at the "Juan-les-Pins Jazz Festival" in Antibes, France. The recording was original released as Miles at Antibes. I searched for it for a long time until I found out that it had been rereleased as Miles in Europe. I bought my son an iPod Touch for his birthday, and slipped it into the order. I hope my wife doesn't read this.

The Antibes date is worth having for the introduction alone. The announcer announces: Kwnatee du Miles Davees avec le jzun Tonee Weelyums ala battree... I know some French, and I gather batree means drums. Anthony Williams was indeed jeune when he played with Miles at Antibes. He was eighteen. Avec Run Cartayer ala Contrabass... That's Ron Carter. Contrabass, well that's just the bass. Avec Erbee Ancook an piano. Herbie Hancock. Jzhorg-ah Colemahn, an Saxophone Teenor... and, drumroll please... aey Miles Davees. I love different accents and tongues, and that turns me on.

Well, here's Mile, Tonee, Run, Erbee, and Jzhorg. Oh, and the intro, so you can check my transcription.
Miles Davis/Intro/Miles in Europe

Miles Davis/Joshua/Miles in Europe
I am constantly amazed at the perfection of Miles' bands on stage. Enjoy this and get the disc. I got it for the price of a good meal at Chipotles. Coleman's solo is worth the burrito alone.

ps. I am getting lots of traffic, but no comments. I am lonely. If you want to see this blog continue, post a comment.


  1. Love the blog. My CD wish list just keeps growing and growing.

  2. A quote from a book by Christopher Meeder:

    "The success of Kind Of Blue had the effect, unfortunately for Davis, of bringing sufficient attention to John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley that they felt compelled to leave the sextet to start their own bands. Partly due to the lack of a wind section, but also due to Davis's pattern of ennui after success, Davis spent much of the early 1960s searching for a way to rebuild his group and regain his status as the center of attention after Ornette Coleman's radical music stole the
    spotlight in 1959.

    The rebuild took some time. After some more conservative recordings with new, and sometimes old musicians (both John Coltrane and Philly Joe Jones appeared on the best of his transitional albums from this period, 1961's Someday My Prince Will Come), Davis finally had settled on a rhythm section, at least. By the middle of 1963, Davis was working with three young, virtuosic, and daring musicians: Ron Carter, a fleet-fingered bassist with a background in cello; Herbie Hancock, a pianist who combined Bud Powell's fast and inventive lines with Bill Evans's touch and harmony; and, perhaps most remarkably, seventeen-year-old Tony Williams on drums. Williams was a shocking prodigy-- the year before, he made his recording debut with Jackie McLean and was already a driving drummer with an extreme dynamic range and a raging sense of tempo, able to play polyrhythms that seasoned veterans had trouble following.

    Finding a saxophone player to complete the quintet proved difficult. It was a chore to keep up with such a virtuosic and daring rhythm section. George Coleman was the initial choice, and he appears on the first recordings of the new quintet, which make up half of the album Seven Steps To Heaven (the other half is the last recording of a previous quintet, who sound tired and boring in the context of the later recordings). Coleman's playing may have been too similar to John Coltrane's. Regardless, he was out of the group after a year, and after a brief experiment with Sam Rivers on tenor (here, the contrast was too great, and while Rivers is a fantastically creative player, he sounds more at home in free jazz contexts), Davis hired Wayne Shorter away from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers to complete the group. Shorter is another Coltrane disciple (in 1964, it was nearly impossible to find a young tenor player who was not), but also a gifted composer of rhythmically and harmonically tricky tunes that fit the newly conceived group perfectly.

    In the Second Quintet, Davis largely took the lead from his young group. The lightning reflexes of the rhythm section, and the harmonic complexity of Shorter's writing and
    playing gave the group a rhythmic drive that was new to Davis's music, especially after years with a reputation as a ballad specialist. And the risks the group took at times tore at the conventional structural framework--the performances at the Plugged Nickel in Chicago in 1965, recorded and finally released in 1987, feature twenty minute performances of tunes with only a passing glance at the head, before the group bursts forth into complicated improvisation that borders on totally free. On record, the group was more tightly arranged, though no less adventurous. The title track of the 1967 LP Nefertiti, a typically complex Shorter composition, contains not a single from winds or piano solo; instead, the band plays the head repeatedly while Tony Williams chatters away on the drums with astonishing creativity. More typically, the recorded work of the Second Quintet featured
    the same kind of heated group exchanges that they played live, but with stricter adherence to the already complicated heads."

    "Jazz, the Basics", by Christopher Meeder, page 134-136

    By the way, here's my (recently discovered) favorite track of 2008: by Roy Hargrove. Excellent!


  3. Wow! Great responses. Thanks BIL. My Wish List is pretty long too, though I have been building my collection on the basis of the Penguin Guide to Jazz, and I am getting to the point where I have almost all the Core Collection and four star entries for the period I am interested in. At some moral peril I will tell you that in the U.S., one can get CDs through inter-library loan. It's a good way to get to listen to music that is difficult to come by, or prohibitively expensive.

    André: Thanks so much for the passage you quote. Now I have another book to add to my wish list! I found that description of Miles' situation after Kind of Blue to be very thought provoking. In fact, I am about to do my next post on it.

    Thanks to my readers. An occasional comment is all I ask.

  4. More a question? Does anyone know why the penguin jazz on cd tome lists two dates for Miles in Antibes and has an extra bass player also called Davis?