Friday, August 8, 2008
Yesterday, I wrote that we do not necessarily have to take a diachronic approach to listening to John Coltrane to acquire a "working familiarity" with the language of both his improvised solos and his original compositions but that the music of Miles Davis is more challenging because of its "polyglot" nature. From this point of view, I would supplement my recommendation of the compilation of his "second quintet" sessions as an "absolute 'must'" with an equally strong recommendation for the compilation by the British label Prosper Records called Young Miles. These are the earliest known recordings of Miles, initially as a sideman for Charlie Parker in November of 1945 and later as the leader of his own group in September 1948. The May 8, 1947 Parker session includes Miles' first recorded composition, "Donna Lee" (mistakenly attributed to Parker); so this is the best opportunity for exposure to the development of his first (of what would be many) languages for his own improvisations and compositions. The diachronic arrangement of the sessions also allows us to compare Parker's influence with that of other leaders for whom Miles played, including Billy Eckstine, Illinois Jacquet, Coleman Hawkins, and Tadd Dameron. Chronologically, the collection runs from November 26, 1945 through June 30, 1950, thus covering much of the creative spirit that was surveyed so well in Ira Gitler's Jazz Masters of the 40's. It also covers his work for Capitol but stops before the beginning of his long and fruitful relationship with Prestige. This was an exciting time to be listening to jazz; and Young Miles provides a necessary context for listening to Miles when he would later begin exploring other "linguistic perspectives."