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Miles Ahead
Miles Davis
Miles Ahead
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest, Pop
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #1

These 1957 recordings were the first of Miles Davis's collaborations with arranger Gil Evans for Columbia, renewing a relationship that had begun with the Birth of the Cool sessions in 1949. It was perhaps the most importa...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Miles Davis
Title: Miles Ahead
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Sony
Original Release Date: 1/1/1957
Re-Release Date: 9/23/1997
Album Type: Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest, Pop
Styles: Avant Garde & Free Jazz, Cool Jazz, Swing Jazz, Orchestral Jazz
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 074646512128

These 1957 recordings were the first of Miles Davis's collaborations with arranger Gil Evans for Columbia, renewing a relationship that had begun with the Birth of the Cool sessions in 1949. It was perhaps the most important relationship ever forged between a jazz soloist and an arranger, for Evans excelled at finding fresh material (like Delibes's "The Maids of Cadiz") and then adding subtle voicings and blending unusual instruments to highlight Davis's central voice. Everything Evans does enhances the trumpeter's keen sense of space and his evocative sound. He could construct complex arrangements and make them fly (as on the opening "Springsville," by John Carisi), contrast Davis's voice with tuba or bass clarinet, or create the longing, Spanish-inflected "Blues for Pablo," a precursor to their later Sketches of Spain. --Stuart Broomer

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CD Reviews

Time for Tale-Telling!
Kevin W. Celebi | Greencastle, IN | 05/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Either as its own or as part of the elegant boxed set collecting all of the orchestral collaborations between Miles Davis and Gil Evans, "Miles Ahead" finds the ripe Davis crossing into previously unchartered lands for him - playing in front of a large-scale orchestra conducted by Gil Evans. Unlike the other orchestral collaborations, "Miles Ahead" has no specific theme or flavor to it, but it was the first of such albums, and its music stood tall because of its newness and daring approach, hence its name.

In "Miles Ahead," Evans' orchestra serves as a bed of gentle flowers for Davis to walk upon while playing his delicate and meaningful musical statements. The orchestra includes five trumpets, three trombones (and a bass trombone), three French horn players, a tuba player, three doublers between flute and clarinet, a bass clarinetist, Lee Konitz on alto, and Paul Chambers and Art Taylor on bass and drums, respectively, but rather than crush the sensitive Miles under its size and power, it surrounds and supports him with a soundscape of astonishing beauty and prods him to produce morsel after morsel of song from his flugelhorn.

Not only were these some of the top improvisers in jazz (Konitz) and studio musicians (the ubiquitous Jimmy Cleveland), but Gil Evans could be possibly the fairest and most brilliant of orchestrators to ever enter the realm of jazz. Amazing in 1956 and equally impressive over fifty years later, "Miles Ahead's" numbers are not head-solo-head treatments or even "orchestral introduction then trumpet glory" sequences, either; any possible combination of the above instruments you can imagine is used in the recording. Miles glides over the brass and reeds during rubato passages of the title track, or slowly convinces the diatonic notes of his instrument to come forth with solely the bass clarinet supporting him. The resulting music is swinging, or lilting, or extravagantly magnificent, or even plaintive, but always stunningly beautiful. Gil Evans is among the select group of musicians and composers whose voicings were golden 100% of the time (Ravel, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, etc.).

The ten selections connect together in a ten-part suite, some of which was rehearsed without Miles (before he came to the studio and after he left). Springsville opens the album in fervid fashion, Miles' flugelhorn romping through the uptempo piece as if announcing a new man in town. The chords change so quickly that there seems to be no settling of a tonic, presenting no problem to the soloist. "Maids of Cadiz" slows the boat down, perhaps stopping at a village of beauteous (but forbidden?) maidens. The melody is lamented and unleashes percussive accents from the brass and silky chords of every type imaginable for Miles to gently state the melody over. Dave Brubeck's "Duke" could have been the "hit" of Side A of the record, featuring a half-time, happy, swinging melody that Miles states over rhythmic tuba and bouncy bass and drums - the solo section starts out with only horn accompanied by bass and drums, with strictly diatonic movement by the soloist joined by occasional preaching from the horn section. "My Ship," possibly one of jazz's most beautiful melodies, finds Evans really digging into the heart of the song to milk it for every note in the four and a half minutes of his orchestral rendition - the major ninth chords (with French horns stating the top note) create an unbelievably calm effect, combining nicely with Davis' subtle vibrato (Davis respecting the melody, barely embellishing it). Side A (I'd imagine, anyway) closes with the title tune, with Davis climbing down from his lookout tower and riding with the rest of the orchestra in a rhythmically unison statement. Davis solos over the mirthful chords, again, with such a diatonic approach - no tensional notes, no harmonic edge - yet his scalar flights fit perfectly with the rest of the orchestral palette.

"Side B" (let's stick with the LP theme) revisits the depressing minor mode with "Blues for Pablo," evoking the feeling that the boat has reached a city's commanding citadel fronted by a tough, demanding guard up front. For a large portion of this one, Miles steps out of the way and lets the orchestra release crunchy, dissonant voicings, bluesy figures, and punchy trumpet bombs. "New Rhumba" is definitely the "hit" of Side B, featuring an even more rhythmically appealing melody than "Duke." This masterpiece by Ahmad Jamal was the sole requested addition by Davis, and its sus4 chords and syncopated figures create a listening experience that is simply a testament to the orchestral wisdom of Evans. "Meaning of the Blues" slows the tempo back to the mellow Saturday night vibe, as if Miles were enunciating a story, the meaning of the blues, to a handful of listeners fascinated in his musical lore. The melody's chordal structure is similar to a combination between "Summertime" by Gershwin and "Wave" by Jobim - a mix of morose melodic statements and hopeful chords that look to the horizon. J.J. Johnson's "Lament," another candidate for jazz's most gorgeous melody, once again evokes the image of the orchestra surrounding Miles in a sizeable circular hedge (those who have seen any footage of this collaboration know that the orchestra did, indeed, form a circle, with Miles in the middle), and rather than his drowning, the result is his piercing tone stating the melody over the supporting horns. "Lament's" beauty simply can't be overstated, with its sequence of minor ninth chords (which Evans was a master of) finally resolving to a beautiful major destination at the end. The album closes with "I Don't Wanna Be Kissed," which could be the most conventionally jazzy of the melodies, following a rhythm changes structure and giving Miles a bass-drums solo background. The resulting music is so delicate and fine-spun - the orchestra ended its journey at the rose garden and along its tour doesn't hit a single thorn.

If you are listening to the version of Miles Ahead as part of the boxed set, you'll notice that every track has an alternate take. Good Lord, talk about "double or nothing!" So the listener can enjoy the album and listen through it once more, the second set different enough (in terms of melodic interpretation and improvisations) to keep things interesting.

Miles Ahead finds Miles and Gil Evans lamenting the world, celebrating its vastness, and creating an unspeakably variegated image of moods in the process. "Recommended" doesn't work - in lieu, how about, "there should be no opinion allowed - this music is artistically (and arguably aesthetically pleasingly) groundbreaking?"

It is Miles Davis!
D. E. Garvin | Westminster, CA | 09/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"His is what west-coast Jazz is about! Brubeck is a master of this genre,as well."
Miles away from its historical moment!
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 12/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Miles Davis added another glorious jewel to his impressive catalogue of succesful recordings. This suite -which dates from 1957- illustrates once more, the egregious and unequalled sound of his instrument with such grandness and innovative originality that one must recognize we are in front of one his most unerring musical achievements.

Don't miss this milestone recording: an acoustic gem.