Miles Davis “Blue Haze” (1953-4)

Track Selection: I’ll Remember April (7:40) Soloists in turn,  Miles Davis, Horace Silver piano, Dave Schildkraut alto, Silver reprise.


Miles Davis (tp) Davey Schildkraut (as) John Lewis, Horace Silver or Charles Mingus (p) ) Max Roach, Art Blakey or Kenny Clarke (d) Percy Heath (b)

The product of three recording dates between 1953 and 1954: WOR Studios, NYC, May 19, 1953, Beltone Studios, NYC, March 15, 1954, Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, April 3, 1954.

Three different pianists, including Mingus on one track – curious how Percy Heath felt playing bass on that.


The track selection I’ll Remember April is the first time I have noted  alto player Davey Schildkraut. He was apparently a regular feature of Miles very early work before Rollins came on the scene, and has only one record as leader, so my lack of familiarity is understandable. He is a very fine alto player in the manner of Charlie Parker, so much so that the story is told Mingus wrongly identified him as Parker in a blind trial. Most players would simply fall by the wayside copying Parker, so being good enough to fool no less than Charles Mingus is a compliment indeed. His solo here is very fine. Horace Silver seems to take a little time to find his footing, but like the other soloists delivers an interesting exploration.

An enjoyable record, a good outing with strong individualistic players

Vinyl:  Esquire 32-088 UK release of US Prestige 7054

Record cover design competition requires a tie breaker – if anything, my vote would be for the plucky British cover

I think Prestige should have done better but didn’t. Neither manages to make a convincing connection with the title “Blue Haze”, but at least the British cover manages to include a trumpet.

As usual, the Esquire is pressed from US stampers bearing the RVG hallmark, hand-written, also normal for recordings this early, especially considering only a couple of tracks were recorded at the Van Gelder Studios.

Collector’s Corner

Battered cover, slightly noisy vinyl, and a last-second sniper who doubled the price for me, which was an unwelcome surprise as the Prestige original is not especially sought after ($40-80 typically, probably overshadowed by the first  original quintet with Rollins in 1955). I wasn’t expecting to pay as much, but then to be fair, probably neither was the other sniper, caught in the crossfire. He clearly didn’t understand who he was dealing with – me! Get off, its mine!

Making the best of a not so good deal (par for the course with eBay) fortunately the record cleaned up much better than I thought. A fair amount of its click ‘ n’ pop was down to I think tomato soup in the grooves, once again reminding me of the importance of investing in a good RCM if you collect older vinyl. Or find yourself short of soup.

Brings my collection of Esquires to twenty six. Finding precious little documentation of Esquire I have I have invested a little time in starting a discography of sorts of these 200 interesting Prestige UK releases here on LJC

Works in progress, as they say. Some of these are so rare only one perhaps two have ever come to market, so a bad photo on eBay is the best I could find. Just one or two gaps left in identifying all the releases and covers.

14 thoughts on “Miles Davis “Blue Haze” (1953-4)

  1. One source might be PRLP 185 a 10 inch pressing mastered by RVG.
    MD Quintet: Miles, David Schildkraut, Horace Silver, Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke
    Tracks Side A: Solar / You don t know what love is
    Side B:I ll remmember April
    Great session ! Look for the french barclay issue. 10 inch, heavy vinyl and RVG etched in dead wax, Propably taken from the original stampers. It appears on ebay from time to time. Very low prices compared to the prestige originals.

  2. He must have done the Hackensack sessions, that’s for sure. And although he mastered all tracks, if the other tracks were recorded by other engineers with other thoughts on mic placement than Rudy, then I’d think that the others must sound different, which makes for an exiting listening session at home, figuring out who recorded what.

    On another (blue) note: two fabulous articles about Rudy van Gelder (must reads with some great photos!) can be found HERE (part 1) and HERE (part 2). Enjoy 😉

  3. Listening to the track as we speak. Nice uplifting rendition and I don’t know about the rest of you, but for some reason I’m especially enjoying Kenny Clarke’s work with the brushes here. (According to the label of side 1 it’s Kenny Clarke on drums). Gives the entire track a hasty but joyful atmos.

    Since we’re dealing with material recorded in three different studios, I was wondering if you can tell an obvious difference in sound? Or were all sessions at successively WOR Studios, NYC, Beltone Studios, NYC and Hackensack, NJ, recorded by Rudy?

    • That’s a good question, as say when they don’t know the answer. You are ahead of me. I am still trying to work out if I can tell the three pianists apart. It is a possibility each session was recorded by a different engineer but the tapes were all mastered for the one record by Rudy, given his initial on the matrix. Right, I’ve had enought time to think. And the answer is – I don’t know; I’m not sure; may be; of course; and obviously…

      • As far as I’m aware, RVG never recorded outside of the studio in his parents house (until he built his new large studio in Englewood Cliffs). That was where all his custom built equipment was and as we all know, he was very particular about the equipment used to record.

        On many of these Prestige and Blue Note reissues, the presence of his initials in the deadwax indicates that he remastered the material and not that he was the engineer (in fact, many of the Prestige sleeves indicate this as ‘Remastered by Van Gelder’).

        Information about the recording engineer(s) has not survived for most pre-1955 NYC jazz recording sessions. Apex and WOR studios, to cite a couple of prominent examples, don’t seem to have noted who the technical personel involved with the sessions were. In this sense, Blue Note and Prestige were pioneers in crediting engineers on LPs as well as musicians.

        • Seems the engineers were just seen as “grunts”, technicians, until the likes of Van Gelder and DuNann were acknowledged as important to the final product as the musicians themselves. This was possible because the chain of command on these small jazz labels was about one long: “Alfred said to Rudy”. Inbig corporations there would have been three Vice Presidents in any chain of command, none of which knew their A from their E.

        • I have a 60s repressing of this record, and on the back the engineers are listed. Three different engineers were involved – Doug Hawkins did four of them, Les Cahan did three, and Rudy Van Gelder did only one. Interestingly enough, I noticed a HUGE difference between the RVG cut and all the rest, even on my lackluster equipment. Can you figure out which one it was?

  4. What’s in a name? Plenty it seems – Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver, Max Roach…names like that are seemingly predestined for greatness, it’s almost poetry – Sonny Rollins – how can someone with that name not be great? But Dave Schildkraut…no wonder we’ve never heard of him, poor sod!

      • Mister Schildkraut should never be underestimated. He was one of Stan Kenton’s major alto soloists, in a line with Lee Konitz, Art Pepper, and Lennie Niehaus. And one bass player, in a Downbeat blindfold test, even mistook him for Bird. The name of the bass player was, uhm… Charles Mingus.

        • I didn’t know much about Davey Schildkraut so thanks for the info. He certainly plays well on the Blue Haze and Walkin’ LPs, both of which I have on Esquire. . My “priceless” comment was written after I’d read Justin’s comment and I hadn’t read the subsequent “sauerkraut” comment, which I think is also amusing but slightly over the top.

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