Track Selection 1 E.S.P
selection 2: Little One
Miles Davis (tp) Wayne Shorter (ts) Herbie Hancock (p) Ron Carter (b) Tony Williams (d) recorded Columbia Studios, Los Angeles, CA, January 2-3, 1965
Miles “second quintet” strongly influenced by Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. 1965 was a watershed, ushering in the “post bop” era: letting go the prettiness of “Kind of Blue”, redefining the new cool: restless pace, jagged lines, darker colourings, bitter rather than sweet melodic changes, a more free attitude. After a steady staple diet of bop, it took me a little while to get attuned to the change.
ESP was recorded shortly before Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and you pick up the shift in direction. Ron Carter and Anthony Williams catch the new mood perfectly and you sense Hancock’s growing confidence. The Herbie Hancock quintet featuring Miles Davis. For some strange reason the credits refer to him as “Herb Hancock” perhaps an innuendo that his playing “smokes”. Many musicians were understandably fussy about their professional name – it’s Charles (serious) not Charlie (matey) Mingus. He wasn’t Herb Hancock for long. It’s Herbie!
The choice of album title picks up on the strong Sixties fascination with pop psychology, echoed in Wayne Shorter’s title “Schizophrenia and Ornette Coleman’s Ornette, in which the song titles are all acronyms of books by Sigmund Feud, like T&T – Totem and Taboo.
Miles wives, as documented by his record covers:
Where some people have family albums, Miles had record albums. E.S.P is another Miles cover which shows off first wife Frances Taylor, a former dancer.The photo on the ESP, according to Miles biography, was taken a week before Frances left him for good. Perhaps E S P was a sense of Miles anticipating her departure?
No matter, Miles soon met next wife, actress Cicely Tyson, who rated only one record cover, Sorcerer, and after her, Betty Mabry, a singer half his age, also got one cover, Filles de Kilimanjaro.
After that Miles tended to just feature pictures of one Miles Davis. At least he wasn’t going to divorce himself. To lose one wife may be unfortunate. To lose three begins to look like a system problem. Perhaps changing partners seemed to him no different to changing John Coltrane to Hank Mobley, and to Wayne Shorter.
Vinyl: UK CBS BPG 62577 release of Columbia CL 2350
Mono, and much like other UK CBS releases, an acceptable pressing though not outstanding. At around forty-eight minutes, I read somewhere it was one of the longest jazz records of the day. Music has never really been sold on length. (Hey, have you heard the new Miles Davis Album? It’s really…umm…long) Mainly, people complained if a record is short measure.
A friend once forced me to sit and listen to Cecil Taylor’s Nights at the Fondation Maeght. After a few minutes I was praying it would end, and soon. Any free jazz masochist err enthusiasts out there will be pleased to know that comes in three volumes.
The Matrix: Looks like but is might be Decca – but in the wrong position at two o’clock instead of six o’clock, no engineer letter – here was no “I” so it’s a 1, for a fresh master perhaps. Not curved like usual EMI matrix but the most likely suspect.
My vote for the most pretentious set of liner notes ever. Prepared by Ralph J Gleason, San Francisco’s premier jazz critic, who composed it entirely out of Miles song titles. Of use only in the unlikely event your local is holding a Miles Davis Song Title Quiz Night. A significant record, which deserves better.
Source: West London record shop One of those negotiating moments, as the record had not yet got a price on it.
LJC: Not especially collectible, not one of Miles best, I’ll give you fifteen.
Seller: (Pause, nervous laugh) I had more like twenty in mind. It’s in lovely condition.
LJC: Hmm, I don’t know…
Seller: Nice cover. (Eyes narrow) .What do you say we meet in the middle?
LJC: (Thinks. I can’t keep this up any longer, honour is satisfied) Seventeen fifty, done.
We Brits lack the “souk mentality” If he’s asking ten, he would like eight but he would settle for six, so it is worth four, so offer him two. Be prepared to walk out, twice, and call him son of a camel for good measure. Think of it as a sort of sport. You mustn’t actually want the item, which is where I think I fall down.