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Miles Davis may be one of the only artists towards whom I tend to be a completist. I have all his major releases from the late 1940s to the late 1980s. I don't have the unofficial bootlegs but I've been purchasing the official ones. This thread is sparked by the recent release of the latest of these, Miles at the Fillmore (Columbia Legacy, 2014) -- which I've yet to buy, but I likely will soon:



This has gotten superb reviews from various magazines and newspapers. I read griping here and there on certain jazz websites about the way the recording has been cleaned up, the murk has washed off and there is a new clarity to the sound -- as if to tame its rowdy surface.

What Miles Davis do you enjoy? Favorite records? Tracks? Anecdotes? Quotes?

I must confess that I pretty much enjoy it all, but I do have preferences. A top 10:

1. Kind of Blue (1959) -- The perfect jazz record, as many have noted. Read Ashley Kahn's Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece (DaCapo, 2007).

2. Bitches Brew (1970) -- I still listen to this perhaps once a month and continue to savor its brilliance. I discovered this right when it came out in 1970 and discovered Stravinsky's Rite of Spring at almost the same time -- and the two helped me hear what was going on in each.

3. Sorcerer (1967) -- for me the greatest of the great 2nd Quintet (Miles, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter). For a musicological analysis, read Keith Waters' superb The Studio Recording of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68, Oxford Studies in Recorded Jazz (Oxford University Press, 2011).

4. In a Silent Way (1969). Miles goes fully electric. As revolutionary as when Dylan did it -- except this is pretty mellow, especially given where he will end up.

5. My Funny Valentine (1964). One of the greatest of his live concerts. This is the ballads. The uptempo numbers are on "Four" & More, which includes a brilliant rendition of "Joshua." That said, it's hard to sheer beauty of these.

6. Pangaea (1975). The wildest, darkest of Miles' live recordings. Magnificent. Get the Japanese DSD remaster.

7. Miles Ahead (1957). For me, the best of the Miles-Gil Evans collaborations.

8. Walkin' (1954). My favorite of his earliest records, though the 1954 Bag's Groove is also outstanding.

9. E.S.P. (1965). The first studio recording of the 2nd Quintet.

10. On the Corner (1972). Controversial, I realize, prophetic anticipation of hip-hop and electronic music -- yet it's largely played with acoustic instruments.
 

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Miles In The Sky is the only album I've listened to lately. Not as popular as the other 60s quintet albums, but great music nevertheless.

Miles was right. Tony Williams was the baddest motherf#cker ever to play a set of drums.
 
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I like virtually all of his Columbia output up until the mid-70s hiatus. The only studio albums I'm missing from 56-75 are Get Up With It and Quiet Nights. As for his later work, I'm not that keen, to be honest. I know Miles wanted to renew himself and keep abreast of contemporary trends especially if he felt he could incorporate them into his music but paradoxically the instrumentation and production values on some of his later output has made the material of that time sound far more dated than, say, the bubbling, murky funk of the 70s. Plus I just don't think it's all that good, sadly.
 

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Favorite albums/time periods:

The Prestige Walkin' and Steamin' albums. My first exposure to Miles. I'm a bit sentimental about these recordings.

The Gil Evans collaborations ...Miles Ahead, Porgy & Bess, Sketches Of Spain. This stuff is pure gold.

Seven Steps To Heaven. I have always seen many people quick to jump to Kind Of Blue when asked about favorite Miles albums. Seven Steps is my Kind Of Blue.

On The Corner - Big Fun - Get Up With It ...the box set Complete On The Corner Sessions lays out everything in that time period very nicely.

The "come back" years...Star People is the best of the bunch IMO. A lot of people turn up their nose at his 80s music and I guess they have a point. This was the only period that I was able to see him in concert (approx 8 times) so I tend to give it a pass based on my familiarity with what I heard in a live setting.

Miles Davis & Quincy Jones - Live At Montreux ...Miles goes back to his roots with the Gil Evans material. Not bad for an old man.

PBS did a wonderful documentary for Great Performances, I think it was called The Music Of Miles Davis. I just watched it recently on youtube and recommend it for anyone who hasn't seen it.
 
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The "come back" years...Star People is the best of the bunch IMO. A lot of people turn up their nose at his 80s music and I guess they have a point. This was the only period that I was able to see him in concert (approx 8 times) so I tend to give it a pass based on my familiarity with what I heard in a live setting.
I speant a weekend a couple of years ago playing all the later Miles albums from Man With The Horn on, and the one that really stood out was...Tutu. Many listeners wouldn't have been able / won't be able to get past the Marcus Miller production that situates the album as very 1986, but unlike the rest of the later albums where Miles is content to add just a splash of colour here and there on Tutu he's playing and playing with an energy and stamina exceptional in those later years. I had a sentimental attachment to the album before, but after the marathon also a new respect.

The Penguin Guide raved about the Aura album, but I always had mixed feelings, considering it promising but a missed opportunity. I was happy to see that view seconded by the extensive criticism of it in Richard Cook's indispensable book on the Miles discography "It's About That Time".
 

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I speant a weekend a couple of years ago playing all the later Miles albums from Man With The Horn on, and the one that really stood out was...Tutu. Many listeners wouldn't have been able / won't be able to get past the Marcus Miller production that situates the album as very 1986, but unlike the rest of the later albums where Miles is content to add just a splash of colour here and there on Tutu he's playing and playing with an energy and stamina exceptional in those later years. I had a sentimental attachment to the album before, but after the marathon also a new respect.

The Penguin Guide raved about the Aura album, but I always had mixed feelings, considering it promising but a missed opportunity. I was happy to see that view seconded by the extensive criticism of it in Richard Cook's indispensable book on the Miles discography "It's About That Time".
I may have to revisit that Aura album. For whatever reason, I've hardly listened to it at all; the few times I have it didn't do anything for me.

Re: Tutu ...my choice of the Marcus Miller/Jason Miles stuff would be Amandla. The studio performances during this time seem sterile. The live performances I attended and have heard from audience recordings certainly bring it to life a bit more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
There is, for me, one great record from Miles in those final years:



The chemistry between him and Kenny Garrett is excellent. And in a live setting that 80s style keyboards actually works reasonably well.

Norman Bates mentioned in an earlier post how much enjoys the 2nd Quintet. While I very much enjoy the Bitches Brew period, that 2nd Quintet is the one I return to most often. I mentioned in the opening post Keith Waters' book, The Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68 in Oxford University Press' new "Oxford Studies in Recorded Jazz." Packed with insights about what they were doing musically. I strongly recommend diving into it.

 

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There is, for me, one great record from Miles in those final years:



The chemistry between him and Kenny Garrett is excellent. And in a live setting that 80s style keyboards actually works reasonably well.

Norman Bates mentioned in an earlier post how much enjoys the 2nd Quintet. While I very much enjoy the Bitches Brew period, that 2nd Quintet is the one I return to most often. I mentioned in the opening post Keith Waters' book, The Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68 in Oxford University Press' new "Oxford Studies in Recorded Jazz." Packed with insights about what they were doing musically. I strongly recommend diving into it.

It seems definitely an interesting reading, thank you. Actually the track I like more on Bitches brew is the last Shorter wrote for the group (Sanctuary) that is one of his masterpieces imho. Hancock and Tony Williams are great musicians, but I think that when Shorter abandoned the band was the greatest loss for Davis. I think that with him and especially with his compositions the level of the albums after BB would have been much higher.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
I don't get his later stuff like Bitches Brew. Anyone care to explain the appeal?
Because I found Bitches Brew immediately accessible, I might not be a good one to explain the appeal. Having grown up listening to the electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Allman Brothers, and Eric Clapton's Cream, the electric sound of the record made a certain immediate sense. And as I noted above, I discovered Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring at almost the same time. Both Bitches Brew and Rite of Spring are organized rhythmically in very complex ways, made up of small, often repeated melodic cells. Stravinsky did it on a written score, Teo Macero did it by splicing together materials from the studio. The result is similarly riotous -- both in the sound and in the audience response. If one comes at it from what came before -- whether one comes at Stravinsky's music from the vantage point of late romanticism and whether one comes at Miles Davis from the vantage point of bebop and West Coast cool -- then one can be disoriented. The old landmarks are gone. When Stravinsky's dancers expressed confusion about keeping the count in performing the Rite of Spring, he instructed them to listen, to feel it, to let it in. I would give the same advice about Bitches Brew.

Now let me reverse the challenge. Can you explain why it doesn't appeal? Given the widespread acceptance of its genius, I believe that those who dislike Bitches Brew now have the burden of explaining why it doesn't appeal to them. Have they allowed themselves to hear it in their bones? I can appreciate that one might say that all modernist music is aesthetically displeasing. So be it. But it seems to me at this point historically that one cannot dispute the genius of Bitches Brew anymore than one can dispute the genius of Rite of Spring.

I should add that the best analyses of the construction of Bitches Brew that I have seen are the essays by Bob Belden and Michael Cuscuna (sp.?) in the massive book that accompanied the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions which came out in a metallic-spine case in 2004 and was reissued in a bookshelf style a bit later. I have not seen the later 40th anniversary edition, whether it keeps the book and thus those valuable analyses. (Carlos Santana also had an interesting essay in the same volume -- he is unusually articulate about how he as a musician heard Miles' electric turn in the late 1960s).

 

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Miles Smiles is my favorite, and just about my favorite thing ever (including food, people, etc.).

Kind of Blue and Filles de Kilimanjaro are right up there, as is Relaxin' with Miles and the rest of the first quintet.

I tend not to like his late stuff quite as much, but I don't dislike it. I even think Time After Time is great.
 

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After much head-scratching I came up with this list of my top ten (in bold)Miles studio albums for a desert island / replace first after burglary:

Birth of the Cool - Conception - Blue Period - Dig - Miles Davis and Horns - Miles Davis Volume 1 - Miles Davis Volume 2 - Blue Haze - Walkin' - Collectors' Items - Bags' Groove - Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants - Musings of Miles - Blue Moods - Quintet / Sextet - Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet - Cookin' - Relaxin' - Workin' - Steamin' - 'Round About Midnight - Miles Ahead - Ascenseur pour l'échafaud - Milestones - Somethin' Else - Porgy and Bess - 1958 Miles - Kind of Blue - Sketches of Spain - Someday My Prince Will Come - Quiet Nights - Seven Steps to Heaven - E.S.P - Miles Smiles - Sorcerer - Nefertiti - Miles in the Sky - Water Babies - Filles de Kilimanjaro - In a Silent Way - Bitches Brew - Jack Johnson - - On the Corner - Big Fun - Get Up with It - Circle Inthe Round - Directions - The Man with the Horn - Star People - Decoy - You're Under Arrest - Tutu - Music from Siesta - Amandla - Aura - Dingo - Doo-Bop

Directions and Dingo are the only two from that list I don't own, in fact I've never seen a physical copy of Directions either for sale or in the collection of a friend.

What might raise an eyebrow at my choices is the preference for the early Prestige albums over those with the First Quintet, but thats how it is.
 

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I like Birth of the Cool, and find it amusing that it sounds nothing like the idea of cool jazz I've had my entire life, with its dense polyphonic bits and big orchestral sound. Some of his other albums are OK. Some are bad. Some are just blowing sessions that aren't really good or bad.
 

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I like Birth of the Cool, and find it amusing that it sounds nothing like the idea of cool jazz I've had my entire life, with its dense polyphonic bits and big orchestral sound. Some of his other albums are OK. Some are bad. Some are just blowing sessions that aren't really good or bad.
You might want to check out the gerry mulligan sexter

Gerry Mulligan Sextet 1956 - Ain't It The Truth:
 
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