Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I've been asked recently by several close friends, 'Why the shift away from jazz listening lately?'

Well, because, it's just that jazz is such a passionate and engaging listening experience that any listening turns into a very emotionally intense experience these days. And I'm not quite sure why that is. Maybe the reason I'm listening to so much new wave and jangle bands recently is because that music is equally as emotional, but the presentation is much more aloof and removed.

I did venture back into Miles Davis territory a few days ago. Just for reference, here is my Miles collection:

Just because I have a personal preference for the performances, I got out discs six and seven of Columbia's Seven Steps to Heaven box set, as those discs are actually just the albums Miles in Tokyo and Miles In Berlin. The Tokyo concert is of interest because it is tenor saxophonist Sam Rivers' only recording in Miles' band and the Berlin concert is especially of interest because it is Wayne Shorter's first appearance in Miles' band.

There is something special about Miles' playing on these 1964 live albums. Indeed, the two live albums (My Funny Valentine and Four and More) from earlier in that same year (with George Coleman on tenor) find Miles in exceptional form as well. On the two albums recorded later in the year on foreign soil, Miles sounds at his romantic best; a swirl of passion and empathy during an unpredictable time in the world. The tension is particularly notable as Miles was notoriously unsure of his working band during 1964. It was a rare time of constant transition and change that found Miles mostly on cruise control creatively. It was, for him, rare to go that long without any huge creative revelations.

And yet, there he was.

Perhaps that's what makes those performances so yearning, so venerable, so intensely passionate: that want to make a large scale revelation, but feeling unable to do so and unable to change that.

On these occasions, it just sounded like another night for Miles.

Which is to say, they are some of his best performances ever documented.


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