know that by starting this little series of posts with Miles'
collaborations with Gil Evans that I missed a whole chunk of great jazz
that he made with small bands so here are a couple of my absolute
favourites, taken from 1958s Milestones.
Milestones is a great example of the up-tempo hard-bop style that Miles was playing at the point immediately before Kind Of Blue
the following year. The rhythm section on the album is incredible
throughout - Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe
Jones (drums). But what I love about it is how each of the horn players
has such a unique voice - Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane and Miles
Miles Davis - Straight, No Chaser
can really hear it on this version of Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No
Chaser" (which reminds me, I should really do a Monk post sometime...).
Cannonball Adderley sounds like a bloke you'd like to go for a drink
with, ebullient and vivacious, good humoured (from 0:31); Miles Davis is
someone you'd need to watch yourself around, kind of reserved,
stand-offish, urbane and "cool" (from 1:51); John Coltrane is incredibly
intense, already swallowing endless notes, heading towards his
trademark "sheets-of-sound", more abstract and aggressive than the other
soloists (from 3:59). It's really psychologically fascinating! And
besides all of that, I love the weird syncopation and angular phrasing
that Monk has applied to the tune - it makes you forget that it's
basically just a 12-bar blues.
Miles Davis - Milestones
track is why the album is usually referred to as "transitional" (like a
lot of Miles Davis albums!). There are no chords in this piece, the
players just had two scales that they had to play over once the theme
has been stated; scale A, scale B, scale A, repeat! There's no harmonic
motion, so the players have to be inventive melodically - and again you
hear the individual voices coming out when the horn players solo,
probably even more so because they've got no chords to play against.
Genius but simple!
Next time, we enter the heart of darkness with live recordings from The Plugged Nickel, 1965!
Buy - Milestones
Visit - Miles Davis (wikipedia)
Hi Steve. I've much enjoyed reading your Miles posts. Have you got the
Monk/Coltrane Carnegie Hall concert that they uncovered recently? It's
an incredible document of the beginning of the 'sheets of sound' style.
Keep it up!