"For a long time, Miles Davis and I had been trying to get together for a blindfold session. I was determined that when the interview did take place, it would be something out of the ordinary run of blindfold tests; and that's just the way it turned out.
Every record selected was one that featured at least two trumpet players. As you will see, this selection of material did not faze Miles.
Miles was given no information whatever, either before or during the test, about the records played for him."
I like the difference to Monk's blind reviews from the same collection. Monk is much more circumspect in what he says and really refuses to engage in negativity. I really love his restraint.
NB: recognising another instrumentalist by ear isn't the wildly special part; I've spent some time around professional musicians and for many the subtleties in phrasing and tone &c are as distinctive and intuitively unique as someone's face, and especially so of a contemporary on the same instrument, so I'd be more surprised if he couldn't. The fun part for me is the encyclopedic scope of Miles's knowledge, and the pithy opinions they inform.
Take for instance his comments on Dolphy, who was by then already considered very gifted by the likes of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane:
That's got to be Eric Dolphy - nobody else could sound that bad! The next time I see him I'm going to step on his foot. You print that. I think he's ridiculous. He's a sad motherfucker.
Then the irony
Carter, Hancock and Williams would go on to become one of the quintessential rhythm sections of the decade, both together on their own albums and as the backbone of Miles Davis's second great quintet. This aspect of the second great quintet is an ironic footnote for Davis, who was critical of Dolphy's music: in a 1964 Down Beat "Blindfold Test", Miles quipped: "The next time I see [Dolphy] I'm going to step on his foot." However, Davis new quintet's rhythm section had all worked under Dolphy, thus creating a band whose brand of "out" was strongly influenced by Dolphy.
For GP, based on the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" . The book was abolitionist, but a quick read through of the wiki should give some background on why the title characters name is now a slur.
All these can be found through SugarMegs search page http://tela.sugarmegs.org/
For best possible audio/video quality, join DIME torrents, which is where SugarMegs gets its stuff. http://www.dimeadozen.org/
Warning: If you're new to SugarMegs, prepare to lose a few days of your life. They have so much great stuff. Also, if you come across a set list that you can improve significantly (like you know all the song names), send them an updated HTML set list file, they really appreciate it.
Oh noes! Hope they reopen soon!
SugarMegs seems to have just about all the audio that DIME has anyway, and at very decent quality. It's mostly not great quality audio to begin with. But DIME does have video too! Most things I would've wanted on there, I was already very familiar with thanks to SugarMegs. I've joined DIME a few times, and the same thing happened each time—I download a lot of stuff, then you can't download more until your ratio is >=0.25, which can take a few months, so I seed as much as I can for months...and then before I get around to visiting again they boot you off because you haven't logged into the site in 3 months.
Miles was an extremely gracious person.
His on-stage and off-stage persona are so gruff... to the point, tell it like it is, take no shit, accept only the best work from people around you. But in interview after interview, he deflects personal credit and always (always!) raises up the young musicians around him. I never realized that selflessness.
A legend is an old man with a cane known for what he used to do. I'm still doing it.
-- On being called a "legend." Miles Davis, 1991.
I had kind of written him off after his "Let's Dance" sellout period I regret it. The second half of his career compliments the first half.
Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it.
-- Donald Knuth, 1977.
Here, go read Nat Hentoff’s interview with Miles from 1958 instead: https://www.jazzstudiesonline.org/files/jso/resources/pdf/JR... [pdf]
yes, the great music critic Tyler Cowen. No offense, but why is his opinion even relevant here? How is he qualified, compared to someone who either composes jazz or is a professional music critic?
For a group where we talk often about frameworks and architecture, and ponder the dividing line between a platform and an application, perhaps it's worth seeing parallels in the field of music. Miles Davis wasn't just one of the greatest musicians of all time, he was also one of the great architects of music, and Kind of Blue a shining example.
That's a far cry from "overplayed and overrated", which upon investigation appears to be a misquotation/misparaphrase of a disposable observation made for the purposes of debate during an economics professor's podcast (no, really). If that's the standard of evidence, I suggest taking the more subjective assessments in this article with a huge grain of salt, notwithstanding that it's otherwise a decent overview for those not overly familiar with the jazz canon.
Some real gems here, most of which are free to download. I admire the level of borderline-obsessive dedication required to keep such a project going!
One person I really started listening to a lot more of that I didn't before is Ahmad Jamal, who I know is an artist Miles Davis was a big fan of. IMO if you like Miles Davis you should really have a listen to Jamal as well. Davis was clearly listening to Jamal.
Miles Davis was often criticized for being too commercial, but I I didn't realize that Jamal was criticized for the same thing. Jamal had cross over to pop appeal well beyond a typical Jazz musician.
A personal favorite of mine is 'What I Say (Live)' off of 'Live Evil. That bass line is the foundation for a lot of my own playing and Keith Jarrett is on FIRE in this performance. It's a shame that his Miles performances are the only ones where we got to hear him in this idiom.
I'm also a huge fan of 'In a Silent Way' and 'On the Corner'. I suppose my fav Mile's records are the ones where he was really pushing the boundaries of music. It reminds me of the tag that started appearing on his record around the era of 'In a Silent Way': "Directions in music by Miles Davis."
Edit: Wow. The reviewer really just skipped right over these two records. I guess they're probably niche for most people. That's too bad, cause they're the most bombastic records in his catalog and really highlight his range and the depths of his innovations. Oh well.
You might like Richard Bona and Linley Marthe, both of whom played with Joe Zawinul's Syndicate project. They both have that similar kind of solid tone.
I forget who, but one of the 'Dark Magus' era players is on record describing how Miles would just throw in some wildcard players to keep everyone fresh and on their toes. I believe 'Dark Magus' itself features two players who had not played with Miles prior that gig and didn't know each other. Imagine that! Your first time (ever) playing with Miles is on stage at Carnegie Hall with a band who's never played with you. Talk about trial by fire.
Man, I love that live, and all the music from that period of Miles' career.
On The Corner is one of my favorite albums of all time.
That’s the art of arranging music. You can write a good song and you can perform it well, but an arranger who knows how to blend the colors of sound will make you feel it in a tactile way. It’s probably the aspect of music that feels most like cooking to me: It’s like having a savory base with an acidic note that cuts across everything. Control of musical texture is so broad and rewarding when you stumble on something exciting and “right”.
Miles’ fusion period is by far his most interesting work.
His 50's-60's work was genius, but is still an easily accessible language, even to non-jazz folks. His later output, by contrast, is a language that was never quite-this or quite-that. It never popularized, and will seem rather bizarre to most people even today.
I love hearing John McLaughlin tell Miles stories - he has so much respect and gratitude for him.
BB, In a Silent Way and Kind of Blue are probably my favourite Miles records, he really managed to reinvent the art form more times than many other people I can think of
Zawinul got his start with Cannonball Alderly, and one of his early compositions (Mercy Mercy Mercy) has big fusion vibes to it.
Hancock is just a Miles level genius. My piano teacher told me something like "I can play at Herbie's standard for a 5 minute stretch, but watching him keep at it for 90 minutes solid ..."
McLachlin is a hippie who cut his teeth on the late 60s modal/fusion scene.
In a Silent Way is my favourite jazz album ever. I think the history was they did Bitches Brew, then after that straightened that approach out a bit to make something more accessible.
Timeline on those albums - I think it happened the other way around actually - In A Silent Way was Miles’ first foray into electric jazz in 1969 - Bitches Brew came soon after in 1970 and was pushing the boundaries further. Both great albums, every single player on those albums is great. Miles sure could pick the best for his bands and make it gel together.
Herbie is without a doubt one of the giants. Listened to the Headhunters era albums probably more than any other records in my life. Killer. Love his earlier jazz stuff too, and the acoustic albums he put out later (Joni covers etc)
By contrast, any of his quintet performances is easily recognized as "jazz", even to people who don't listen to jazz.
BB will be more like "what am I listening to??"
Do you disagree?
"Well, I've changed the course of music five or six times. What have you done except fuck the president?"
But miles did reinvent musical genres several times.
I've noticed that many people have an impression of jazz as being very technical and abstruse. Personally I got into it as a young teenager just because I liked the way it sounded. I didn't know anything about its cultural context and certainly nothing about musical theory (in the meantime I've learned a bit about the history of the genre, but still remain completely ignorant of musical theory).
My approach with jazz, as with any other piece of art, is to enjoy in the simplest and most direct way the things that give me a nice feeling or that challenge and surprise me and at the same time to discard those things that I don't like. I suspect any professional or serious aficionado would find this approach childish and rudimentary, but I don't care in the least.
> a series that could teach you how to listen
If there is such a thing I think you should run away from it. At least as a consumer of art you should look into the things that speak to you personally without regard for how high-brow (or low-brow) they may be considered. This is not to say that you should immediately dismiss things that are 'too fancy', but just that it's OK not to like them.
I get where you're coming from, I didn't get into jazz until I started playing myself. You can certainly appreciate it more when you understand what goes into it and why. Same goes for so many things in life.
That said Miles' album Kind of Blue which has been mentioned here I think is an album that can be appreciated by anyone and for me personally served as a gateway to more complicated jazz. There aren't any fast-moving complex harmonies, the framework of the songs are simple. Coltrane's and Cannonball's solos are fast on some songs, but not that complex or weird to a non-trained ear (I'd assume) and they are also very melodic (especially Cannonball's).
I think there are a couple of things that make jazz tend towards being more "difficult" for lack of a better word. One is that for whatever reason, jazz accommodates music with a very high level of complexity, and it's fun to go there and explore.
Another is that jazz no longer rules popular music, and is therefore not constrained to produce music that is "utilitarian" in the sense of being able to sell lots of records, fill dance halls, promote consumer products, etc.
It is a good watch but that's what peeves jazz nerds.
These articles are always missing a ton when they're written by a non-musician. That seems to be the issue with jazz. It's really really hard to tell what's going on if you're not a player, and jazz is not an easy thing to understand and learn even when you are a player.
I took Music History as an elective in college and it was really tough as a non-musician to understand a lot of this stuff. I made it a goal to learn an instrument and actually learn to understand this stuff as an adult as a result. And Jazz of course comes up as something very tricky to get your head around when you're trying to play it. The "aha" moments when you dig deep into a piece trying to play it/studying the score are what makes it special, and these kind of treatments of famous musicians completely gloss over that, as if it doesn't even exist.
In any case, I wish there were more "basic guides to X", being X whatever artist that has a certain level of fame and recognition which I fail to understand the reason for.
But I just don’t know my way around, and I’ve spent too much time avoiding Bitches Brew (no judgment, but not my thing, even though it hits a lot of my tastes) fanatics who always want to show me that.
I’m not at a place where I can take much from this now but I’ll definitely reference it again when I can.
Some may say the same for Kind Of Blue. I bought it on CD at Walmart in the 90s as a teen and fell in love with it. Never knew Miles was the Giant he was until later in high school.
I've encountered this reaction a lot, but I suspect that it actually stems from a dislike of the kind of people that often listen to jazz/classical etc. which it then extended to the music itself. My approach is to enjoy the music in complete isolation from the 'aficionado community'. Music is something that any human being is capable of enjoying, no need to have a degree in musicology or to be a musician yourself.
> I'd say I would be more of a fan of the blues genre
That's perfectly fine, no need to listen to things you don't like :) - keep in mind though that it's important to assess the thing itself, not its fanbase.
> maybe only in the background
Perhaps this is a problem. My experience with jazz and classical is that at their best they really aren't background music, at least not for the first few hearings. I would recommend setting some time aside to listen intently and to explore the feelings or visual imagery that the music elicits - not the kind of feelings/imagery that you think it should elicit (because some critic said it should), but what you actually feel. Hopefully something will come out of that. If it doesn't it's also fine.
Some advice for appreciating both genres:
- Do some learning about the functions of the music you're listening to; both jazz and classical music spans an enormous range of human musical expression and serves a huge range of needs, so knowing whether the music you're listening to was written for direct entertainment, background music at a party, the soundtrack for a play, or as a form of social interaction in itself can help to appreciate the music.
- Similarly, gain some understanding of the traditional forms and formats of the music. For classical, if you have some understanding of the mass, the sonata, the concerto and the fugue, you'll be able to learn to recognize and appreciate more what the composers are trying to do. For jazz, if you can pick up on the 12-bar blues, you'll learn to hear it everywhere. Either way, the forms help you build a pattern recognition that you likely already have for pop.
Lastly, both jazz and classical music are much more accessible from an entertainment perspective in their early forms than their later forms. If you start out listening to Bach and Louie Armstrong, it's a lot easier to build up to Schoenberg and Miles Davis than the other way around.
Edit: additionally, you might enjoy some more melodically focused players like Julian Lage. I’d highly recommend his album Gladwell as a starting point.
His music theory analyses may not be wanted/useful for non-musicians, but he’s very good at communicating what makes a given song/artist special.
I think the recognition of this trend is what led people to start declaring "jazz is dead".
If you want intellectual challenge then maybe you should enroll for a graduate program in Theoretical Physics :)
If you’d like a short answer by someone who isn’t qualified, it comes down to the disparity between his record sales and talent. Purists feel he has sold a shit tonne of records despite not being up to the technical standards set by the great sax players.
I’m not much of a Kenny G fan but I find that kind of criticism rather unwarranted. I don’t think it’s particularly fair to compare him to people like Coltrane or Cannonball as they’re almost completely different genres. To me (I’m not qualified), it’s like comparing baseball players to cricket players.
All that blah blah blah aside, like what you like and be proud about it. Purists can be wrong and they’re definitely not you.
I agree, it is not fair. However, a more apt comparison would be between a top 3 major league baseball player and a top 3 little league player. And many people enjoy watching little league games (often when their kids are playing) and are not interested in pros, and that's totally their right.
Edit: and I just realized my comparison is between Kenny G and Coltrane's performances. It is entirely possible, and even likely, that Kenny G can play at a high level, but he just gives his audience what they want.
I don't think my analogy was very effective, but I'm not sure the minor/major league baseball player analogy is much better. This one might just not be fit for analogies and the truth might be best.
John Coltrane and Kenny G are extremely good at what they do. They do dramatically different things and that's okay.
If you're right about Kenny G being able to play at a Coltrane-esque level, I'd argue that he's even better at marketing than music. It would mean that he could easily prove everyone wrong but he'd rather have the free press (and boatloads of cash) of infamy than bragging rights.
Well, it appears my assumption was false!
I finally read The Pat Metheny article you posted, and he's pretty clear that Kenny G is not on the level of the greats:
> He had major rhythmic problems and his harmonic and melodic vocabulary was extremely limited, mostly to pentatonic based and blues-lick derived patterns, and he basically exhibited only a rudimentary understanding of how to function as a professional soloist in an ensemble
> The other main thing I noticed was that he also, as he does to this day, played horribly out of tune - consistently sharp.
> There must be hundreds, if not thousands of sax players around the world who are simply better improvising musicians than Kenny G on his chosen instruments. It would really surprise me if even he disagreed with that statement.
Mind you, he is comparing Kenny G (unfavorably) to the best jazz sax players (because he also argues that it is jazz, despite what the naysayers may say).
I agree that the purpose is enjoyment. But art that demands attention, and, yes, some work, repays with a higher level of enjoyment. This is true for music, literature, movies, anything.
Music is like everything else, the more work you put into it, the more enjoyment you'll get.
But it's perfectly understandable if non-musicians (or musicians not really interested in music theory, formal or informal) stick to Smooth Jazz and stay away from bebop and its successors, and prefer simple melodies and minimal harmony instead.
But as a listener who likes it, it’s just really interesting to hear. It’s not a challenge or an intellectual pursuit.
John Coltrane is the mac daddy saxophonist. He is the capo da tutti capi. The recordings of his golden period (eg Crescent, A love Supreme etc) are the Mona Lisa.
By contrast Kenny Gs recordings are Trechikof's "Chinese Girl" - Extremely popular but kind of terrible.
Just like it's fine to prefer Phil Collins' version of "You Can't Hurry Love" to the original, it's fine to like Kenny G's music - you should like whatever you like. But it's not being a "purist" to dislike it. When people get to a certain level of education in their music taste they start to realise some of its shortcomings.
For anyone intimidated by Coltrane, I recommend just getting "Ballads" or "Coltrane and Johnny Hartman". They are incredibly beautiful music that I have successfully played to all manner of non jazz enthusiasts.
Actually that one really isn't fine. He messes up the iconic James Jamerson bassline by removing the beautiful anticipated quavers that give the original so much drive. Once you hear it the Phil Collins version seems so incredibly pedestrian.
Jazz might sound like an “old” style, but it was always bold, and audacious genre. You don’t have a 10year span without someone kicking the table and experimenting with something completely new and crazy (for the time being). Jazz is also consumed by people that know a lot about music, and these people get “bored” pretty quickly if they’re not stimulated by bold moves and perfect execution.
And Miles had a lot to do with this (I didn’t read the article).
Btw, there’s nothing wrong if you like Smooth Jazz or Kenny G or whatever. Music is music. Whatever makes you feel good.
As to Mile's supposed racism. I've never gotten the impression that he's had some inherent prejudice against other groups. What I would agree with, though, are his reactions to the various injustices and indignities of his own experience in America. His statements are nothing that I wouldn't expect from someone who was treated the way he was.
In his autobiography he describes his experience going to Paris for the first time and the revelation of being treated with the dignity and respect for someone of his status. Something he had rarely, if ever, received back home.
As another poster has said, if what he has to say about white people in America offends you, then perhaps you need some thicker skin. As far as I can tell, Miles' assessments are fair.
In his professional life, he had life-long and career-defining relationships with white people (Teo Macero, Gil Evans, ...), and clearly did not let race stand in the way of great music.
IMO racism against us hardly feels more than a little "prick" compared to what it does to minorities with a history of discriminations.
Unless of course you've bought into victim mentality.
As for racism, Miles faced significant racism himself, being arrested, assaulted by police etc. I don't recall the details right now but he did say some angry and not-so-nice things about white people, perhaps born out of his own experiences.
Nobody can fault him for any kind of discrimination in his music though, as he's helped shape the careers of many jazz artists over the years, from all backgrounds.
In any case, Miles was a fascinating character. A master at his craft.