Saturday, December 27, 2008

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Two vintage performances from Miles Davis

For the final Saturday video post of 2008, we turn once again to Miles Davis, a St. Louis legend who's one of the all-time greats of jazz and a personal fave of yr. humble editor, and therefore of this Web site as well.

The two clips featured today are from the fall of 1964, right after the formation of Davis' classic quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter. The first video, a performance of "So What," is from September 1964 and, according to the annotations on the clip's YouTube page, is supposed to be Shorter's first recording of any sort with Davis.

It would be noteworthy for that alone, but it's also interesting to hear how this version of "So What" differs from the well-known studio recording on Kind of Blue (and the earlier video rendition with John Coltrane featured here in the past and oft-seen around the 'Net). The harmonic structure and two-note motif are intact, but just about everything else has changed. It's a harbinger of things to come, in terms of the way this group of musicians would eventually deconstruct and reassemble a number of familiar songs.

The second video features the same five players a month later, performing at the Teatro Dell'Arte in Milano, Italy. The tune is "Joshua," which can be heard in its studio version on the album Seven Steps To Heaven. While this is a much less well-known tune than "So What," it's still fascinating to hear all the elements of what would become one of modern jazz' signature group sounds coming together before your eyes and ears. It's all there in early form: Carter's rolling, deep-rooted bass, Hancock's distinctive keyboard voicings, Williams' always-probing approach on the drums, plus Davis' and Shorter's singular tonalities, at this point not quite yet enjoying the near-telepathic rapport they would eventually cultivate.

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