Monday, January 05, 2015

Miles on Monday: 50 years of E.S.P.

For this week's "Miles on Monday," we look back at a recording that marked another historic turn in Davis' career. It was fifty years ago this month that the trumpeter made E.S.P., the first album by what often is referred to as his "second great quintet."

As recounted in this space a couple of weeks ago, Davis had worked with saxophonist Wayne Shorter for the first time a couple of years earlier on the sessions that yielded "Blue Xmas" for a holiday compilations album that Columbia Records was putting together.

While he also had worked with the group's other members on previous occasions, the sessions for E.S.P. on January 21, 22 and 23, 1965 were the first time Davis, Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drum phenom Tony Williams, then just 19 years old but already a veteran of two years in the band, would record together. Over the next four years, this quintet would be acclaimed widely as one of the best small groups in jazz, and their influence continues to be felt into the present day.

Although E.S.P. featured all original compositions by members of the quintet, Davis' "Agitation" is the only one known to have been performed live. The title track and "Iris" were written by Shorter, who would become an important composer for the quintet on subsequent albums. Davis and Carter co-wrote "Eighty-One" and "Mood," and the bassist also contributed a solo composition, "R.J.", while Hancock chipped in with "Little One."

You can hear E.S.P. in its entirety via the embedded playlist in the first video window below. In the second, you can see a live version of "Agitation," recorded on November 7, 1967 in Germany.

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