miles davis
I played trumpet as a kid. I wanted to grow up to play as well as Miles Davis did (but that didn’t happen). Miles Davis evolved over his long career. His music changed and morphed with highs and lows. This new box set of Miles Davis Newport Jazz Festival recordings, most unreleased until now, will give a much fuller account of the development of Miles Davis’s music. If you’re a Miles Davis fan, this is a must-buy. If you’re a casual jazz fan, there’s plenty here for you to enjoy. GRADE: A

Here’s a summary of what’s on each disc. My thanks to Stuart Jefferson on AMAZON for his opinions. I agree with everything he says.
Disc 1 begins with tracks 1-4 from 1955 with Davis playing with Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan, Monk, Percy Heath, and Connie Kay. Tracks 5-11 are from 1958 and feature Cannonball Adderley, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb. Most of this music has been issued previously, but it’s nice to hear this music in it’s proper context with Davis’ other Newport sets. This is obviously Davis’ more straight ahead jazz period which was very popular with both fans and critics alike. The music has a time-locked feel to it but has that underlying swing like the best jazz from this era.

Disc 2--tracks 1-6 are from 1966, tracks 7-13 are from 1967. The band for both sets had players like Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. This is one of Davis’ best groups who had a large hand in changing the sound of jazz. You can hear how his band is pushing against the older style of jazz, and while in the present it’s hard to understand how “new” this music sounded, some fans wondered even then if Davis had gone off the rails a bit.

Disc 3 has tracks 1-3 from the 1969 gig (there’s a fade-in on track 1 “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down”), tracks 4-9 from 1973 (from Berlin under the Newport banner), and track 10 from 1975 from N.Y. Musicians on the ’69 set include Dave Holland, Chick Corea, and Jack DeJohnette, wihile the ’73 sets include Dave Liebman, Pete Cosey, Reggie Lucas, Michael Henderson, Al Foster, and Mtume. In ’75 the band was Sam Morrison in for Liebman, and the rest of the band from the ’69-’73 bands. This is where Davis took a look around (especially at performers like Sly Stone) and funked up his music. Henderson’s deep throbbing electric bass really changed the sound of Davis’ music. Out were any recognizable melodies and in came some electro-cosmic music.

Disc 4 tracks 1-7 are from a 1971 gig in Switzerland under the Newport banner. This set is out of chronological order so it would fit uninterrupted on one disc. This gig featured Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett, Michael Henderson, Leon Chancler, and Don Alias and Mtume. Percussion heavy electric-funk/space music with Henderson’s mighty bass and Bartz blowing both soprano and alto sax, along with Jarrett’s electric piano made the audience sit up and wonder where they were. Again, in hindsight it’s difficult to understand what all the fuss was really about. But by this time many of Davis’ long time fans had already dropped by the wayside–more comfortable with more recognizable melodies that stayed in your head.

The 34 page booklet has individual essays on Davis’ Newport appearances by noted jazz writer Ashley Kahn, along with photographs from each period. There’s also a poster of a b&w photo (approximately 14″ X 18″) of Davis from early in his career. The discs snap (beware mine were really difficult to unsnap out of the trays) inside a five-fold cardboard package. Inside each disc tray is a different b&w photo from the Newport festival–a nice (and cool looking) touch. The overall period sound is good/very good–especially considering when some of these tapes were made under live conditions. Original sources include Voice of America (Disc 1), Sony analog tapes (Discs 1,3), the producer’s collection (Discs 2,3), and analog tapes courtesy of SRF Switzerland (Disc 4).
Disc: 1
1. Spoken Introductions by Duke Ellington and Gerry Mulligan
2. Hackensack
3. ‘Round Midnight (previously released)
4. Now’s The Time
5. Spoken Introduction by Willis Conover (previously released)
6. Ah-Leu-Cha (previously released)
7. Straight, No Chaser (previously released)
8. Fran-Dance (previously released)
9. Two Bass Hit (previously released)
10. Bye Bye Blackbird (previously released)
11. The Theme (previously released)
Disc: 2
1. Gingerbread Boy
2. All Blues
3. Stella By Starlight
4. R.J.
5. Seven Steps To Heaven
6. The Theme / Closing Announcement by Leonard Feather.
7. Spoken Introduction by Del Shields
8. Gingerbread Boy
9. Footprints
10. ‘Round Midnight
11. So What
12. The Theme
13. Closing Announcement by Del Shields
Disc: 3
1. Miles Runs The Voodoo Down (previously released)
2. Sanctuary (previously released)
3. It’s About That Time / The Theme (previously released)
4. Band warming up / voice over introduction
5. Turnaroundphrase
6. Tune In 5
7. Ife
8. Untitled Original
9. Tune In 5
10. Mtume
Disc: 4
1. Directions
2. What I Say
3. Sanctuary
4. It’s About That Time
5. Bitches Brew
6. Funky Tonk
7. Sanctuary

27 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN MUSIC #54: MILES DAVIS AT NEWPORT 1955-1975 [4-CD Box Set]

  1. Deb

    Although I certainly enjoy his music, I think this might represent “Miles Davis Overload” for me. As for your trumpet-playing career: The jazz world’s loss was the academic world’s gain!

    1. george Post author

      Deb, you are too kind! I had about the amount of trumpet playing talent that Miles Davis had in his little finger nail. But I did practice a lot.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, we encouraged Patrick and Katie to play an instrument. Patrick chose the violin and Katie played the flute. But much of instrumental music has been eliminated as local schools have cut their budgets.

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    Jackie took piano lessons. Years later she tried to teach herself guitar. She actually wasn’t bad on the piano.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, my parents bought an upright piano and my sister took lessons for a while. She wasn’t bad at tickling the ivories either!

  3. Deb

    Studies have shown the two main predictors for keeping teens on the straight-and-narrow (how ever you define it) are: (1) a regular faith presence in the home (it doesn’t matter what faith, just as long as it’s practiced regularly by everyone in the family); and (2) learning to play an instrument. All three of my kids play instruments–in fact, each of them plays more than one–and have always been in school/church bands. It’s not that I anticipate musical careers for any of them, but the commitment and focus and practice-time required are great building blocks for future endeavors.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, well said! My children made plenty of good friends when they played in the band and school orchestra. I served as a “Room Daddy” (along with the Room Mothers) on orchestra field trips to Toronto to see musicals like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and THE LION KING. All in all, the musical experience expanded Patrick and Katie’s horizons. A great educational experience!

  4. Cap'n Bob

    Kristine plays flute, piano, and guitar. She might even dabble on the uke I got her one year. She also has a fine singing voice. She pursued music heavily in school and grew up to be an outstanding young woman.

  5. Steve Oerkfitz

    Saw Miles once at Pine Knob Musical Theater. Played to whole show with his back to the audience.

      1. Todd Mason

        Actually, George, he was an asinine bastard throughout his life, pimping out his woman friends for drugs, assaulting Cicely Tson during their marriage, trying hard to use his influence to ruin careers of artists whose work he didn’t like (Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, even Coltrane in his free jazz work)…but would later imitate poorly (during most of his fusion career). Of course, those who worshiped him wherever whole lot of the problem. His free-floating open hostility toward the end of his life wasn’t really new. He could plat when he chose to. But not well enough to make up for his behavior.

        FWIW, people didn’t quite enable Mingus or Pepper Adams in their bad behavior to the same degree. Thank goodness.

      2. george Post author

        Todd, I never saw Miles Davis live. I only know his work from albums and CDs. But I’ve heard a lot of stories…

      3. Todd Mason

        In coherent English, his worshipers were always a lot of the problem…ever since his days with Charlie Parker’s band, when Parker liked his bad attitude more than his still-developing chops (teen Davis was then a very weak successor to Gillespie). They got to share heroin along with other sorts of self-destruction.

  6. Art Scott

    I heard Miles 4 or 5 times live in various configurations, beginning with the Hancock-Carter-Willams rhythm section & – I think – George Coleman, pre Wayne Shorter, in both concert & club gigs. The last was a concert at Stanford with Hancock & Jarrett & DeJohnette. In every performance, the ONLY musical interest resided in what the sidemen were doing. Miles was always bored/indifferent &/or coked up. Besides the tracks that were originally on Miles and Monk at Newport, the best live recorded performances were on Seven Steps to Heaven, Four & More, My Funny Valentine (LP titles – don’t know how they’re packaged now for CD).

    1. Todd Mason

      Yeah, I saw one of the dullest of his late fusion bands at Wolf Trap…my ex and I, pre-breakup, were there to see the Modern Jazz Quartet, who opened. Before we left, midset (Donna wasn’t feeling well, and I was bored), Davis had played perhaps five notes in three compositions, and mostly glowered at his bandmates.

    2. george Post author

      Art, it was clear that Miles Davis didn’t want to perform for an audience. He was one of those Difficult People. And in the Seventies, Davis lost most of his talent.

  7. Todd Mason

    I’m probably about ready to let my anger at the deification of Davis, or at least his being held up as the Pope of All That’s Cool, dissipate, finally, as the promulgators of this nonsense wise up or otherwise drop from sight…others are finally . making it clear just what sort of man he was, and that he wasn’t just Another Tantrum-prone Genius. But he could play, and I’m sure I’d enjoy hearing at least discs 1 & 2, maybe some of the latter (some good band-members).

  8. Art Scott

    Todd . . . Pepper Adams? Que? I know him as a great baritone player, busy session man, and anchor of the Jones-Lewis band sax section, but of “bad behavior” I’ve heard nothing. Nor can I find anything in a quick web browse. Did you mean someone else, or are there tales I haven’t heard?


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