Miles Davis Musings of Miles (1955) Prestige/ Bergenfield

 

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Track Selection: A Night in Tunisia (Gillespie/Paparelli)

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Selected because it’s a tune I can’t get enough of.

I read Gillespie turned down a generous offer from the Tunisian National Tourist Board, to rename the tune Two Nights in Tunisia, with full board, inclusive of airport charges and taxes, from only…

Artists

Miles Davis (t) Red Garland (p) Oscar Pettiford (b) Philly Joe Jones (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, June 7, 1955

Music

An often overlooked album in the vast catalog of Miles Davis,The Musings of Miles was Miles’ first 12″ LP, featuring the nucleus of the group that a few months later became his First Great Quintet – retaining Garland and Philly Joe, adding John Coltrane, but replacing Pettiford with Paul Chambers.

The song titles on Musings includes “I Didn’t,” Miles riposte to Thelonious Monk’s song  “Well, You Needn’t” – a sly reference to the earlier spat between Davis and Monk during recording of Miles Davis and the Modern Giants, in which Miles requested Monk “lay out” (refrain from playing) during his solo, following which Monk triggered a false start by asking Davis when he should start playing. Bristling egos, ruffled feathers! Great!

The interpretations are lyrical and melodic and, in the absence of a saxophone, focussed on Miles’ warm and muted sound.

Miles Davis Chronology:
Miles Davis & the Modern Jazz Giants (1954) Walkin’ (1954) The Musings of Miles (1955) Round About Midnight (1955) Cookin’ (1955) Blue Haze (1956)
Workin’ (1956) Steamin’ (1956) Relaxin’ (1956) Milestones (1958) Kind of Blue (1959). Positioned just before the rash of albums with the missing “g” required to fulfil his contractual requirements to Prestige  before moving to greener pastures with Columbia.

Vinyl: PRLP 7007 Second  pressing (Bergenfield NJ). The recording was first issued in 1955 was subsequently reissued in 1962 as PRLP 7221 retitled “The Beginning”. This appears to be that second press but features a  PRLP 7007 Side A label on both sides, makes no mention of the revised catalogue number, and has what appears to be an original cover of 7007, all of which makes me think we have been here before, like transitional Blue Notes. What if it wasn’t a mistake to have two side A labels. What if they didn’t care, and just used up the stock of  7007 Side A in the absence of Side B and old 7007 covers. Am I missing something (apart from my marbles)?

The cover is remarkable for its complete absence of typography (iconic photo of Miles, you are expected to know who it is), and the presence I am told of a Neumann U-47 microphone (branded Telefunken in the US) , which I am informed is the early model, due to its elongated body – hat tip Marc, who knows these things, if I got that right. Mobley 1568

Apart from the legendary Mobley BLP 1568 (left) I couldn’t find any microphones on my Blue Note covers, and I am told Rudy Van Gelder was extremely secretive about his microphone techniques and the Mobley 1568 is a fake pose for photographic purpose. “If you were recording Hank you wouldn’t put that mic there” says my inside informant.

The Microphone: Neumann U47  The microphone of choice of Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles. Introduced in 1949, it offered a quality sound studio engineers were looking for, with a big warm tone but a lift around 8 KHz –  brighter, more detailed sound than other microphones of the time. Its advanced multipattern technology was made possible by a dual diaphragm M7 capsule, which by altering the polarizing voltage the two back-to-back cardioid capsules could be combined to create an omni pattern or used singly for a cardioid pickup. Obviously. But  the most important element in producing that sound was the now legendary Telefunken VF-14M pentode vacuum tube, a steel tube originally built for German army field radios, some say. So there you have it – from the folks that brought you World War II, legendary recording technology.

Mercury Records promoted the U 47 as its Living Presence microphone, putting the mic’s image on many of its record covers, so it is entirely possible that with Musings of Miles  you are looking at sneaky Telefunken product placement. Production of the tube-based U47 microphone came to an end in 1965, when it was replaced by one with transistors, U47fet, marking a shift in technology and an end to “end to end” analogue quality recording.

Sinclair C5Between them, the Neumann U47 and its “rival’ the  AKG C12 introduced in 1953  (and it’s predecessor the C2)  probably account in large measure for the quality of sound of recorded acoustic instruments in Modern Jazz 1956-66. Not to be confused with the iconic battery-powered tricycle, the Sinclair C5, which made very little contribution, if any.

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Collectors Corner

Source: From the private collection of the late Brian Clark (see Collectors Corner for Roy Haynes Out of the Afternoon). The Google Books online Goldmine estimate a NM first pressing of Musings on Yellow  W 50th St label to be worth $400, but a 1962 press on Bergenfield NJ  PR 7221 only $50. A bargain.

The back of the sleeve is stamped with a logo KJAER. A quick search of “Kjaer” pulls up some very fishy connections, once more pointing to our old friend, Denmark:

  • A Danish vehicle supplier to the foreign aid and overseas development sector,
  • a Danish professional football player,
  • The Danish head of The European Wind Energy Association

So far I have a Danish group wanting to supply third-world dictators with more luxury black limousines, and a source of renewable energy from wind turbines strapped to Scandinavian footballers. Perhaps it makes sense in Danish, though it sounds more like something that would appeal to the Norwegians. But how does it connect to Miles Davis? Was he secretly Norwegian?

21 thoughts on “Miles Davis Musings of Miles (1955) Prestige/ Bergenfield

  1. I bought the “Musing of Miles” album when it came out and it immediately became a favorite. The record did fine, but the front cover did not wear well. I followed this with original issues of the missing “g” records–Relaxin’, Steamin’, Workin’, Cookin’, and I think Walkin,’ all of which I still have The title tune “Walkin’ was first recorded in 1950 by Gene Ammons on Prestige 78 PR 717 entitled “Gravy.” Other than Parker Savoy and Dial 78s, the first records I bought under Davis’ name were the 78s he recorded for Capitol in 1949 and 1950. I had them all.

    One day, a friend visited me in my upstairs bedroom. I had the Davis Capitols sitting on a chair. Wouldn’t you know it, my friend sat in that chair breaking all the Davis Capitols. It took me years to replace them with mint or N- copies. The Davis 78s, like all the records in the Capitol series, were only out a short time. My first LP with Davis was 10-inch Lee Konitz “Ezz-thetic,” (PRLP 116; recorded in1951) in part named after boxer Ezzard Charles, who was reportedly a jazz fan. Later, I acquired all the original 78s from the album because the album surface was unsatisfactory.

  2. wives ‘n’ jazz: just ’bout this record, I remember my wife got it from a well known shop/Ebay seller who claimed it as original. when I saw it, I told her: nice, but it’s not original. But he assured me it was! no, it isn’t, please take it back and have your money back. It was the second NY edition as described by Rudolf.
    later I found the first and all the 15 original Miles’ Prestige lay side by side on my shelf.

  3. Another sure shot, with a seminal front cover and so many superb comments to check out today 😉 -I also immediately noticed the curtains. You see them in Blue Note photos as well.

  4. felixstrange: thank you for this very valuable collection of Weinstockia. I met Bob once in the sixties after having been in business with Prestige directly since 1959. My contact was his sister Marcia. When I was in the Bergenfield offices I spent more time in their warehouse, where they stored their deleted and returned items from the greater Manhattan area.I was quite unprepared when Al Johnson, the warehouse manager, asked me whether I wished to meet Bob. When i was taken to his office I must have stumbled something in schoolboy English like “for me Prestige is THE modern jazz label, very pleased to meet you. Bob said he appreciated that somebody had come all the way from Holland to visit his company. And that was it!

  5. I just realized I forgot to post my usual arsenal of spam filter triggering links!

    Hopefully someday, someone will write a book documenting the story of Bob Weinstock and Prestige. Until then…

    Bob Weinstock talks about the beginnings of Prestige:

    http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1995-08-27/features/9508220367_1_prestige-records-new-york-jazz-bob-weinstock

    A great interview with Mr. Weinstock which includes the story of how Miles came to record for Prestige:

    http://www.tempestjazz.com/html/notepad.php?pad=10

    A brief interview with jazz critic and sometime Prestige producer Ira Gitler about Rudy Van Gelder in which he discuss the beginning of RVG’s relationship with the label:

    http://jazztimes.com/articles/20326-vangelder-s-studio

    And finally for those interested in further delving into techno-nerdery, here’s a thread discussing the V14M tube, it’s origins and role in the sound of the U47. There’s some interesting details about what made the original U47s unique and what prevents manufacturing one today:

    http://repforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,34815.0.html

    • Great links as always FS. The mic-geeks are extraordinary but I particularly liked this quote from the Bob Weinstock interview:

      ———————-
      JR: How do you feel about current trends in digital recording and remastering?

      BW: Well, I think nice sound is good, but good performance is better. What did it matter that all of these old records had a horrible sound? Do you have to hear some fusion with tremendous sound, with all kinds of crap going on and eight mics on the drums? Just give me Max Roach, when you can hardly hear the drums, but you hear the cymbal going shhhhh. That other crap is all meaningless. Man, I don’t care whether it’s on sand paper or toilet paper! The important question is, “Is the music really there at all?” If it’s there, dig it, listen to it, and be thankful it’s been preserved!
      ————————–
      The guy interviewing is clearly a slave to the Evil Silver Disk. I just wanted to ask: Have you ever heard your own records played in vinyl on decent equipment, Bob? And that knock on the door- it’s the recycled vinyl police and they want a word…

  6. Anonymous: you are a lucky man with such a thoughtful wife. The outcome of your kakubuchi search is correct. When you check your copy, could you please, should it have the later album covers on the back, tell me whether they are the same as the ones shown by Andrew?
    Regarding two identical labels: all hypotheses are good and defendable. I have an authentic first of an original Blakey’s Big Beat, BLP 4029. It has two side 1 labels! Why? Human error seems most likely.There was no reason to improvise something, since it was a first pressing run.
    I have two examples of mixed labels for Prestige: one side NY, the other NJ. This is logic when they were in the process of moving over from Manhattan to New Jersey. The two I have are 7073 “All night long” and 7095 “Rollins plays for Bird”.Sleeves are NY. I keep them as curiosities together with the 100% NY copies (and I may add, copies of the Esquire version).

    • I have a few blue trident label Prestige pressings with wrong-sided labels and/or labels with the wrong song information. In fact, I once saw a blue trident Prestige labeled as “George Wallington New York / 1954.” Not only does that record (as titled) not exist, but the PRLP number and songs were from a record not by George Wallington at all. It was sans jacket, but I nearly bought it anyway, just because it was so strange (it was not a fake either; the matrix info was correct and legit and matched the PRLP number and songs – the label was just mis-titled with a non-existent title). I always just assumed it was a vinyl-production version of the telephone game: the master tape notes were mistranslated by one vendor, the liner was written incorrectly by another, the labels misprinted or misapplied by another, etc.

  7. Lovely LP and your post is going to prompt me to dust off my copy. I am lucky to have a DG, NY pressing of this LP, maybe a first pressing?! One of the first birthday gifts from my wife. She knew I frequented a nice music store in Chicago called “Deadwax” and popped in to see if he had anything that would trip my trigger. The owner, Will, knew what I liked and pulled out a few LPs for her to buy, including the Musings for Miles for what I think was $55. This was back in 2002 – kind of a steep amount for me as I was just starting to collect.

    Until reading the above comments I had no idea what a kakubuchii, kakubushi cover was. Now 30 minutes of frantic Internet research later I think it refers to the process of the back cover edges being folded over unto the front cover – before the cover image is pasted on – leaving the appearance of ‘frames’ or flaps under the front cover. I will have to check my copy but I doubt I have a kakubushi cover.

    Cheers!

  8. Gee, Andrew, your posts appear like bullets from an automatic rifle. Chapeau!
    Now with the present one I am on very familiar grounds: I started my collector’s life with Vogue and Prestige. This forerunner to The Quintet is a laboratory session in a sense, Musings of Miles hints at what is to come in the coming three years. And O.P. is a gas. He was too expensive to be engaged permanently for the Quintet, I heard.
    Now, actually four versions exist: the first, non laminated, kakubuchii cover and lemon labels with angular letter type, of course NY adress on sleeve and labels and no sleeve pictures of later albums on the rear.The second NY issue with laminated cover, no kakubuchi, the classic ochre shade labels with the familiar letter type and NY adress, also NY adress on the rear and pictures of later albums on the rear. The third, ditto, but NJ adress on labels, and no adress at all on the rear. The 4th is the real re-issue, repackaged “The Beginning”, a correct title indeed, with the matrix 7007 barred and the new 7221 put next to it.
    I had the four, but sold the 3rd and 4th version copies recently (slimming down). The first version copy I have was a gift from Al Johnson, warehouse manager at Prestige and occasional photographer for Prestige (he did some pictures resulting in actual sleeves in the 7300/7400 series), a charming guy I knew quite well.

    • Phew, that is what I call real “knowledge” first hand. I guess this is the third edition, as the matrix in the trail-off has not been updated, so its a near relative of the second, but earlier than the fourth. Europe has not been a good place from which to collect Prestige. Up until 1964 UK received Prestige-supplied stampers but local alternative covers and pressing, by Esquire. Three quarters of my Prestige recordings are UK first releases on the Esquire label so it’s a treat to find the real thing, even a third edition.

    • Hi Rudolf,
      Don’t forget to mention that first issue of 7007 was a flat-edge Plastylite pressing with the “P” in the deadwax. The original back cover slick (with no albums pictured) also states “custom made pressing by “PLASTYLITE”

      • Aaron: I checked. You are absolutely right. That was not only negligence, but a serious omission on my side. Mea culpa.

  9. I recently acquired a copy of the Prestige reissue version (“The Beginning” PRLP 7221) which is pressed from the original master. I am still getting to know the music, but there is always something captivating to me about Miles’ Prestige years.

    I have mixed feelings about these reissues. On the one hand, the garish and often just plain ugly covers and altered titles means they can be had for a bargain, so I probably would not even own many of these albums if Bob Weinstock hadn’t decided to “modernize” these early releases in the 60s. On the other hand, I really envy people who have a copy of the beautiful original sleeve like this one. For me, this image expresses so much of the mystique of that era. Like Gil Melle’s enigmatic cover of “The New Miles Davis Quintet”, Bob Weinstock’s photo confronts the viewer with a simple, yet fascinating image.

    For many years, jazz for me meant mostly “Kind of Blue” on Columbia. I was vaguely aware of the existence of independent jazz labels like Blue Note and Prestige, but I knew almost nothing about them or the music they issued. I had heard the name Rudy Van Gelder, but at that time, in my mind audio engineers were mere technicians who’s sole responsibility was to not screw up what the musicians created. Recording studios were expensive complexes owned and operated by large companies with boards of directors and legions of slick A&R men.

    I remember noticing this cover when I first began to explore the world of Prestige and other independent jazz labels. Looking at this image felt almost like peering through a window into a different world: music recorded after hours in a secret living room studio concealed somewhere in the suburbs. Audio engineers who saw themselves as craftsmen rather than technicians. Record labels which were owned and operated by individuals and persevered only through the passion of men who lived and breathed this new music.

    Also, you’ve got to love the curtains Mrs. Van Gelder picked out.

    • The curtains! I knew there was something about that cover.There’s me thinking it was Miles sailor’s hat, and all the time, it was the curtains. Genius.

      Interesting how people arrive at the same places from different start points. At the start I knew only Blue Note. Then slowly it expanded to other labels and artists, and styles, to the point you feel comfortable with a helicopter view of the Jazz landscape and can land anywhere at will. Every time I go through a new door I discover a new room with more doors.

    • I have a number of the garish ’60s re-titled re-issues and am always just confused about why he felt the need to “update” packaging of records for which there was obviously already a market in existence (otherwise, why spend the $$ to reissue?) I can’t follow the logic: “hey, we can make money by reissuing titles which our customers recognize by cover and title; to do so, we’ll just change the cover and title!” Makes no sense.

      • My sense is that there were a couple of reasons for these reissues:

        1. Cost

        Cheaper vinyl, labels, jackets, etc. This is the reason for the dreaded Blue Trident hiss we’ve all run across at one point or another. I suspect that part of the cost cutting was jettisoning original cover art (which I suspect may have involved royalties) and replacing it with cheap “modern” graphic layout or stock photography. Prestige always struggled financially and by the 60s its fortunes were starting the decline which would ultimately result in its sale to Saul Zaentz’s Fantasy label in 1972. Weinstock was becoming less and less personally involved with Prestige in the 60s and ultimately abandoned the music business altogether.

        2. Novelty

        Certainly with 60s Coltrane titles, there was a not to subtle intent to present unreleased 50s outtakes as “new” material and capitalize on Coltrane’s by now superstar status among jazz artists. I imagine that this was also the thinking with changing titles and cover art as well.

        Ironically, Weinstock had very little outtake material to work with by the 60s as he was notoriously stingy with tape. Unlike Alfred Lion who would often do multiple takes of one tune as well record extra tracks and choose what material to issue after the fact, Weinstock would have RVG back the tape up and record over any false starts or takes he felt weren’t up to snuff.

  10. LJC: Have you ever thought about coming up with your own “stamp” which tastefully uses elements of the old stamps that you seem to have on many of your purchase with a new logo. I am thinking of all the guys who got tattoos in the late 90s with names of old girlfriends or bands like Whitesnake that now need to have their Ink redone.

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