"The joy of life is diminishing"
George Herbert: "Whitsunday"

Miles Davis and Gil Evans: Miles Ahead

Weekend Music

I'm only going to post one track from this album, but I really want to recommend the whole thing. It's almost universally considered a classic, and if you have much interest in jazz you've probably heard it; certainly you should hear it. I bought it some time back, on the strength of its reputation. I listened to it once without paying much attention, was a little disappointed with the overall sound, and put it aside. Something prompted me to take it out again last week, and I gave it my standard three full hearings before making up my mind about it. On the first one, I was, again, not much taken with it, but by the end of the third I was sold.

Miles Ahead is the first of three classic collaborations between Davis and composer/arranger/bandleader Gil Evans. It could technically be called a big-(jazz)band performance, but it's pretty far from the big bands of the 1930s and '40s, much more complex and musically adventurous. The actual billing on the album cover is Gil Evans in small type, followed in larger type by "Miles Davis + 19," meaning the 19 members of the band. To me there seem to be a lot of 20th century classical sounds here, though I don't have the musical knowledge to describe them. 

Here are two versions of "Blues for Pablo." The first, from the album, has better sound and is more polished. The second is live and is interesting for that reason.



One non-musical aspect of this and other works from the 1950s is the extent to which it gives the lie to the idea that the '50s were a dead period, culturally.


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Love it; listened to this, and a lot of other Miles Davis, during my big jazz phase, circa 1990...

I've loved Sketches of Spain, one of the two other related albums, since I was in my 20s, and I think the reason I wasn't immediately taken with this was that I wanted it to sound more like SoS. I haven't heard the third one, Porgy and Bess, because I've never heard the opera itself, and sorta wanted to before hearing the Davis/Evans variations.

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