Tag Archives: Miles Davis

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Dec 10

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew


As with Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Bitches Brew was a work of art that I just couldn’t GET, no matter how many times I tried. With Faulkner, I GOT As I Lay Dying right out of the gate, just like I got The Birth of the Cool right out of the gate. But The Sound and the Fury was something I had to try, and try, and try with.

Same for Bitches Brew. I listened, I didn’t get it. I didn’t dig it. I couldn’t get through it.

What changed? With Faulkner, it was a conversation with my Dad. He gave me simple advice—just be patient. Don’t worry if you don’t know what’s going on through the first third of the book. Just absorb the words, the language, the feeling. Don’t worry too much about the story.

And he was right. I stopped trying to wrestle the first third into submission, and just experienced it. And suddenly, the book fell into place. It’s extraordinary. One of the greatest books I’ve ever read.

I could have used that advice for Bitches Brew. Ultimately, it was reading ABOUT the album that got me across the impasse. Something about reading HOW the album was recorded, WHY it was recorded the way it was, and WHAT was going on in Miles’ world at the  TIME it came together made it all make sense.

And then, when I went back for another listen, it all clicked. it GOT it. It’s extraordinary. One of the greatest albums I’ve ever listened to.

The trick of it is, is that it’s that thing—that whole “being deadly serious about that which is incredibly fun” thing. You have to get that Zen thing if you’re to understand this album. You have to understand both its seriousness and its fun, and you have to transcend them both. That’s the brew.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Nov 14

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue


As this series starts to near its end, I have to start thinking about making sure I get the really canonical albums on here, thus, this one.

Honestly, it may BE the greatest jazz album ever. It may be the best ALBUM ever. Who knows? It’s certainly otherworldly gorgeous. I couldn’t find a fault with it if I tried, and I wouldn’t change a note if I could.

If you’ve never read Bill Evans’ original liner notes, please do so now:

“There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.

The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see well find something captured that escapes explanation.

This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflections, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician.

Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved on this recording.

As the painter needs his framework of parchment, the improvising musical group needs its framework in time,. Miles Davis presents here frameworks which are exquisite in their simplicity and yet contain all that is necessary to stimulate performance with sure reference to the primary conception.

Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances. The group had never played these pieces prior to the recordings and I think without exception the first complete performance of each was a “take.”

— Bill Evans

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 27

Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool


Of all the innovations Miles Davis played a key role in, this is certainly one of my favorites—the birth of the cool. These seminal nonet recordings mark the first of many Gil Evans-Miles Davis collaborations, and as far as I’m concerned, everything they did together was pure gold.

Gil Evans was a textural and architectural sonic genius, and Miles’ voice was the perfect one to define the top layer.

It’s essentially impossible to overrate the importance of these recordings, so why bother? Just accept their magnificence, and revel in their cool lethality.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Feb 15

Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers


Yesterday I recommended a Miles Davis album. Today, I’ll recommend an album by someone Miles recorded with, Horace Silver.

Because one of the greatest passages from Miles Davis’ autobiography has to do with Horace and Art Blakey, I’ll recommend this record, which has them both on it!

And no, this recommendation has NOTHING to do with the fact that the album has a song called “The Preacher” on it. Even tho that song is badass.

Anyhow, here’s that bit from Miles:

“I think Art Blakey turned me on to Horace, because he knew him real well. Horace was staying at the same hotel I was staying in – the Arlington Hotel on 25th near Fifth – so we got to know each other well. Horace had an upright piano in his room where I would play and compose songs. He was a little younger than me, three or four years younger I think. I used to tell him a few things and show him some shit on the piano. I liked the way Horace played piano, because he had this funky shit that I liked a lot at that time. He put fire up under my playing and with Art on drums you couldn’t be fucking around; you had to get on up and play.”

For the record, this record IS the alpha and the omega of Hard Bop. If you want to know what Hard Bop is, this is it.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Feb 14 [Valentine’s Day Edition]

Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain


This is, quite simply, one of the greatest albums ever. Period.

But that’s not why I selected it today.

(I’ll choose it for musical reasons another day)

I chose it for Valentine’s Day, because it’s so extraordinarily beautiful, and of all the albums in the world that my missus and I have fallen asleep to over the years, we’ve probably done so with this one more than any other.

My missus is my permanent valentine, and when everyday is Valentine’s Day, then this one’s on repeat.

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