Monday, December 30, 2013


Miles Davis began experimenting with a more expressive modal music on the only album recorded with his original sextet.   In the year leading up to 'Milestones', Davis had broken up his quintet due to drug problems and traveled to France where he recorded the improvisational soundtrack to the film 'Ascenseur pour l'√©chafaud' and saw a performance by the Ballets Africains from Guinea from which he got the idea to pursue modal music.   

When he returned to the States, he reformed the quintet with the addition of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, who he had tried to recruit for the quintet before bringing in John Coltrane.  'Milestones' was recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City with producer George Avakian and features Miles Davis on trumpet and piano (on "Sid's Ahead"); Cannonball Adderley on alto saxophone; John Coltrane on tenor saxophone; Red Garland on piano; Paul Chambers on double bass; and Philly Joe Jones on drums.  The hard bop blues sound of most of the record is broken up by the modal experiments of the title track.  Davis would expound:    "When you go this way you can go on forever.  You don't have to worry about changes and you can do more with the line.  It becomes a challenge to see how melodically inventive you are.  When you're based on chords, you know that at the end of thirty-two bars that the chords have run out and there's nothing to do but repeat what you've just done - with variations.  I think a movement in jazz in beginning away from the conventional string of chords, and a return to emphasis on melodic rather than harmonic variation. There will be fewer chords but infinite possibilities on what to do with them."  

Shortly after the album was finished, Davis fired  Garland and Jones and replaced them with Bill Evans and Jimmy Cobb.  Adderley revealed:    "I had planned when I joined him stay with Miles about a year; but I stayed longer.  Miles was getting more successful, and there was the business recession.  I was functioning meanwhile as a kind of road manager - paying off the guys, collecting money...In a way, I suppose, I was kind of a stabilizing influence on the band.  Two of the men he had - fine musicians - weren't exactly on time or dependable."

Davis would admit:  "Fronting a band ain't no fun. A lot of people don't understand that music is business, it's hard work and a big responsibility. I hate to even think what all I've been through to play my horn, and still go through. I put everything I've got into it. Even after a good rehearsal, I feel empty. And you add to playing your instrument the running of a band and you got plenty of problems. I got my own family, and the guys that work for me, and their families to think about. On one tour, I had this white woman in Kansas City meet me when I came off the stand and wanted me to come to her table with her and her husband for a drink. I told her I didn't like to do that, and she hollered, "They said you're like that!" I felt like throwing down my horn and kicking it. But I said to myself I was going to try and educate at least that one couple. So I went over and talked to them.   I told them an artist's first responsibility was to himself. I said if he kept getting upset with what other people think he ought to do, he never would get too far, or he sure wouldn't last. I tried to make them see how I had worked all my life to play myself and then to get a band worth people paying to hear. I said that a lot of times when people in a club wanted to talk to me, I needed to be worrying about something about my band. They said they understood. I hope they did."

full album:

Miles Davis - Milestones - Full Album Remastered by BnFCollection

Side one
"Dr. Jekyll" (aka "Dr. Jackle") – 5:47 (Jackie McLean)
"Sid's Ahead" – 12:59 (Miles Davis)
"Two Bass Hit" – 5:13 (John Lewis – Dizzy Gillespie)
Side two
"Milestones" (originally titled "Miles") – 5:45 (Davis)
"Billy Boy" – 7:14 (traditional, arr. Ahmad Jamal)
"Straight, No Chaser" – 10:41 (Thelonious Monk)

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