Saturday, March 03, 2012

Miles at the top

You have noticed, or will now that I mention it, that I have included in the sidebar a section called "Listening." It is of no importance but perhaps minor interest. Just recordings I've listened to lately; not necessarily recommended, although most are, since they come from my collection.


A few words about the most recent addition to the list. Miles's Someday My Prince Will Come is not particularly lauded by the jazz critic industry -- they tend to go into ecstasies for the big band productions orchestrated by Gil Evans (Sketches of Spain, Porgy and Bess), which have splendid moments but for me border on excess; and, of course, the inevitable Kind of Blue, which has been sanctified.

But Someday is Miles at his pure best, with the remnants of the finest combo he ever worked with (two members of that group, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, had already split).


Miles had a few good years to go, but once he got rock and funk on the brain, he devolved into a not-Miles. Some of his stuff beginning with Bitches Brew may be important, may even be great in its way, but not for me. At the time of Someday, he was still master of a style of playing that as far as I know, no horn player had ever achieved previously: he showed the world that trumpet playing can be meltingly sensuous. 

Fortunately for posterity, Coltrane agreed to play on a couple of tracks. He and Miles seem to urge each other to rare heights. "Teo" is named for the producer of many Miles albums, including this, Teo Macero. I've heard the track dozens of times, always with astonishment. Coltrane's solo, dark and surging and mysterious, is for the ages.


I happen to have the Mobile Fidelity CD edition, which brings a more focused and atmospheric sound than the original Columbia release. It must have been one of MoFi's earliest CD releases and the insert contains zero information about the session other than the players (not even who played on which songs), instead devoting three pages to touting the glories of the compact disc. I had to look it up online to see when it was recorded (1961).

MoFi was to go on to many great remastered CDs. Miles produced more great albums, but not that many. Ten years on he had graduated from doing things only Miles could do, to making self-consciously hip albums that any talented trumpet player could do.


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