Saturday, May 26, 2012

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Happy birthday, Miles Davis!

Today is the 86th anniversary of the birth of Miles Davis, the most famous and historically significant jazz musician to come from the St. Louis area. In tribute, today we've got six extended-length performance videos of Davis for your listening and viewing enjoyment over the holiday weekend.

Representing four different decades of the trumpeter's career, some of these videos have been excerpted here before, but this is the first time they're being presented on StLJN in their entirety, adding up to nearly six hours of live sounds from Miles.

We get started with a half-hour of Davis from 1959, in the form of a television special devoted to his music and posted online as "Miles Davis - The Cool Jazz Sound." Davis' quintet here includes most of the musicians who helped him make Kind of Blue, including saxophonist John Coltrane, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb and pianist Wynton Kelly. There's also an orchestra conducted by arranger Gil Evans, with whom Davis made several recordings.

The next video, down below, is a 45-minute set from Davis' classic quintet with saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, drummer Tony Williams & bassist Ron Carter, captured live in 1967. The songs performed are "Agitation," "Footsteps," "Round Midnight," "Gingerbread Boy/The Theme" and "I Fall In Love Too Easily."

Below that, there's a set recorded in 1969 in Paris, lasting just over an hour and featuring Davis' so-called "Lost Quintet," with Shorter, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Chick Corea. This ensemble is noteworthy because for many years there were basically no recordings of it released (hence the name), and because it served as an important transition point between the all-acoustic group seen in the 1967 footage and the more electrified bands that followed.

You can hear the next phase of Davis' musical evolution in the the fourth clip, which contains his famous set from 1970 at the Isle of Wight Festival in England. The audio originally was released as part of a three-record set featuring various acts from the festival - mostly rock bands, except for Davis' group. Asked by someone from the record company what to title the 35-minute improvised performance, Davis is reported to have said "Call It Anything," and that became the name of the piece.

By the time of the next video, which contains about 28 minutes of music from Davis' set at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival, the trumpeter's music had become even more electric, abstract and abrupt. The band for this performance included Davis doubling on trumpet and organ, along with Dave Liebman (soprano sax, tenor sax, flute), Reggie Lucas (guitar), Pete Cosey (guitar, percussion), Michael Henderson (electric bass), Al Foster (drums), and Mtume (percussion).

The final clip moves forward a full decade, past Davis' temporary retirement in the late 1970s, to catch him live in 1983 in Warsaw, Poland. There's nearly two hours of music from what some critics and fans consider to be Davis' best band of the period, with Foster, saxophonist Bill Evans, guitarist John Scofield, keyboard player Robert Irving III, bassist Darryl Jones, drummer Al Foster, and percussionist Mino Cinelu.

StLJN has covered Miles Davis extensively over the years, and you can catch up with that past coverage by following this link. For more about Davis, in addition to his official site linked above, check out the comprehensive site Miles Davis Online, run by Davis enthusiast Jeff Hyatt, and The Miles Davis Movie, Hyatt's companion site tracking the progress of the proposed feature film about Davis being developed by actor Don Cheadle.

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