Miles Davis Miles in Amsterdam (1957) Jazz O.P

Miles-in-Amsterdam-front-1800

Selection: ‘Round about Midnight. (T. Monk)

Artists

Miles Davis (t) Barney Wilen (ts) Rene Urtreger (p) Pierre Michelot (b) Kenny Clarke (d) recorded live at “Concertgebouw”, Amsterdam, Holland, December 8, 1957

1957Russia launches Sputnik I, first earth-orbiting satellite: the Space Race commences; Gov. Orval Faubus launches stinging attack on Mingus’s bass-playing technique; West Side Story debuts on Broadway: Shakespeare sues for plagiarism, Officer Krupke files for defamation, Maria sells story to media.

Music

April Fool over with, now its time for jazz, with a French accent.

In Paris at the end of 1957 to record the soundtrack for the Louis Malle film Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaude, Miles did a little touring with the Rene Urtreger quartet, featuring the impossibly young Barney Wilen on tenor, age twenty. Can you imagine a more daunting task than kicking off your tenor solo to the ripple of  audience applause for Miles? Wilen aquits himself remarkably.

In between recording the film score and the Amsterdam concert, Miles was dating Juliette Greco and gigging at the Club Paris St Germain ( Ed – isn’t that a football team?) It was here Miles perfected his battery of excuses for not addressing the audience – “My music speaks for itself” when what he meant was “I don’t speak any French”, which was just as well, given his habitual use of the  m-word in every sentence “I don’t speak very good English either“. Though Miles protested he had to return to New York that December, without Juliette Greco, if he had stayed he might have learned some manners  (turns to Reader’s Digest Popular Psychology part-work for insight)

Vinyl: Italian label Jazz O.P. OMS 7003 (1984)

Very sweet and smooth transfer onto vinyl, which really took me by surprise, open and spacious ambience. Not sure why I checked out the etchings as there is nothing to see on such an occasion.

Miles-in-Amsterdam-labels-1800

Miles-in-Amsterdam-rear-1800

The liner notes don’t exactly overwhelm you with information. For that you need to turn to the Evil Silver Disk…(Here’s one I prepared earlier)

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Imagine if CDs were more interesting artefacts. I even found a site where the fan lovingly photographed the evil silver disk, in this manner.  How sad is that? It’s digital. It has little or nothing to tell you, though the reflections are pretty .

Miles-in-Amsterdam-EvilSilverDisk-1800

Selection – it has to be the same track  as the vinyl, for comparison: ‘Round About Midnight (T Monk)

Reminder: Vinyl presentation

Now, The Evil Silver Disk struts its stuff. I have no predetermined views.  It is “modern” vinyl and not vintage vinyl, it may well have come from the same digital source, who knows. The CD seems to have a different pitch, according to my rip. For fun, run the two rips simultaneously…

The vinyl sounds better played through a high-end system, in a way the CD doesn’t, but your mileage may vary.

The Liner notes

Miles-in-Amsterdam-EvilSilverDisk--insert-notes-1800

At last, some value added information. Green font on yellow background. Good choice. All that time at Art School has really paid off here.  Retyping a couple of paragraphs from Miles autobiography. But its more than the Italian Jazz O.P.  release gives you. No bonus tracks, the vinyl shaves off some of the audience applause to save a few grooves.

Miles-in-Amsterdam-EvilSilverDisk--rear-1800

Collectors Corner: What to make of Miles Davis?

The CD insert quotes from Miles autobiography were timely. I have been listening a lot to Davis recently, and a few days in France without Internet access gave me a chance to catch up on some reading, which happened to be the autobiography of Miles Davis kindly passed to me by an American cousin.

I found the opening chapters offer little interest (likewise, Art Pepper’s Straight Life). Miles was born at an early age, as was everyone. The next two hundred pages are essential to following the comings and goings of all the musicians who for over two decades crossed Miles path during the rise and fall of bebop. Absolutely riveting. But from 1968 onwards my interest flagged and rapidly disappeared, as it does with his music, and skipped most of the last 100 pages. Do I care that Davis played the part of a pimp in an episode of Miami Vice in 1986? No, should I?

Miles-autobiography

What it confirmed for me is that a musician, even a great musician, is no more and no less than that. His opinion on other subjects is of no special merit. Indeed, because of the peculiar demi-monde in which the musician travels, with its attendant adulation, may be less trustworthy. You don’t have to understand  Miles, or even like him, in order to get his music. You can even dislike him, as a person: his reading of events is often lame, ill-informed, and prejudiced. As is many people’s.  He remains  a great musician and group leader. Reading his book cured me of any lingering sentiment, an ill-advised and ultimately futile attempt to connect great  musical ability to “a great person”.

On the upside, it has saved me an enormous amount of time, dispensing with the need to read all the other jazz biographies. This may be sacrilege to fans of Davis, but I Iike to think, taking him at his word, that Miles Davis would not have given a damn what I or anyone else thought of him. And that is probably as good a place to leave it as any.

Postscript: ‘Round About Midnight

Mindful of the hundreds of times Monk’s magnificent jazz anthem ‘Round About Midnight has been recorded, I reflected which was the best interpretation? You may have your own, but my favourite is the duet between Monk and Gerry Mulligan from Mulligan Meets Monk. Two truly great musicians, each with entirely different voices, came together to create something of rare beauty. It’s uncompromisingly Monk, and uncompromisingly Mulligan, just two instruments, a magnificently dark and smokey mood that wrings raw and sometimes near unbearable emotion from every note of this greatest of Monk compositions. Truly Great.

An even better place to leave it now.

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17 thoughts on “Miles Davis Miles in Amsterdam (1957) Jazz O.P

  1. I have a much, much, much better sounding 1957 concertgebouw tape and CD from this concert. I recorded it from the radio broadcast in 1978 on a 2 track Braun TG 1000 taperecorder. It is mono and Miles blows his wind into your nose…

  2. On the subject of Round Midnight I agree that Monk’s Blue Note version is definitive but how about the dark version on George Russell’s Ezz-thetics where Eric Dolphy turns the composition inside out? Well worth looking up if you’re not famiiar.
    I mentioned in the previous post i had an Orange label CBS 1st pressing of Miles Smiles in the post – it arrived and was somewhat disappointing – I should have heeded LJC’s warning about the Oriole pressings. My later reissue seems better just as my reissue of Sketches does. I’ll have to look out for the Americans.
    Thing is I have a 67 CBS Uk pressing of John Barry’s The Persuaders which is a delight- a lucky strike perhaps.

    • Andy, Yes, yes, yes to the version on Russell’s EZZ-THETICS. There may be more immediately enjoyable versions, but this is one of the greatest — as simple as that.

      Ah, but one of the strangest? The minute and a half (or so) version on Giorgio Gaslini’s GASLINI PLAYS MONK…with clockwork toys on (or maybe in) the piano.

      I shall go and pay the Russell/Dolphy version now.

  3. “Reading his book cured me of any lingering sentiment”

    Kind of reminds me of watching Let’s Get Lost about Chet Baker. I didn’t know much about Chet before I watched that. Now I know too much.

  4. My favourite version is ‘Round About Midnight on Monk’s Genius of Modern Music – Blue Note. A haunting version that also ‘sounds’ late at night. Actually, on that release it’s titled as ‘Round Midnight.

    But then again, there are so many fantastic renditions, I think I have a favourite version for every occasion 😉

  5. Interesting…the CD, while it sounds lousy, is actually in the right key of Eb, while the vinyl, sounding much better, sounds in the (wrong) key of E. GIven the choice, I’ll take “good sound” over the right key.

    • Well said Jim, but the CD is still out of tune, pratically «up»in the same way the «Jazz O.P» vinyl is. On the other side, if you get the other two historic vinyl releases («Rare» and «Celluloid») you will have the opposite problem: too slow. Anyway on vinyl you can adjust the speed… speedin’ it up to c. 34,5 rpm (on «Rare» and «Celluloid») and you’ll reach the right sound and perspective.

      • I have the Lonehill CD, and it is (approximately) the correct speed. “Round Midnight” runs to 5:37 – exactly as indicated on the CD cover shown above. I wonder why the CD (?) rip above is only 5:21 and, consequently, out of tune. I guess LJC may have posted the same LP rip twice.

        • That’s very possible. In fact, to my ears, the two uploaded files sounds identical, one to each other. I did a personal remaster and correction speed, some year ago. The ‘Round Midnight track should run at 5:33… if I did a good job… ah ah ah

  6. Now there’s an interesting question — which is your favourite Miles LP? Oddly, I find myself returning frequently to SKETCHES. I have long thought that the Concerto is somewhat over-rated, but the track after it and the whole of the second side has some of MIles’s most glorious playing. And then the other weekend I discovered a bit of the Concerto I previously had no recollection of. Gil mentions it in the liner notes (but doesn’t say where it is — it’s towards the end of the concerto). He asks Miles whether the timpani are too loud, and that he was aiming for just the slightest sound, a little cushion of air for the trumpet to float on — and damn me, that is exactly what you hear: the oddest sensation, the trumpet forlornly soloing over this slightly pulsing cushion of air. It is pure magic.

    So, to keep a long answer a bit shorter, my current favourite is probably SKETCHES.

    • Playing the wild card eh? Your Miles favourite: Sketches. Wouldn’t claim to have heard enough to make a judgement call but I’ll look out for it with renewed interest.

  7. Great post LJC. A triumph for vinyl; I thought the CD sounded terrible in comparison.
    Miles is a really interesting character in that he wasn’t as gifted as say Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan yet he is perhaps the most influential in the music’s history.
    I think my favourite Miles record, if pushed, perhaps because I bought it age 18, didn’t understand it but grew to love it, is Miles Smiles; Circle is magical.I own a CBS reissue of the record but I’ve got UK pressing CBS Orange 2-eye label in the post – not sure whether it will be an improvement.
    BTw Thanks for the pressing/label tips – after lurking about your blog for the past few weeks I’ve
    been inspired to buy more vinyl on ebay – a disaster for the wallet but wonderful for the soul.

    • Great comments Andy, and welcome, all opinions here are good.I don’t know his later stuff like Circle and Smiles, but maybe I ought to. Everyone learns from each other here, I hope. Vinyl is food for the soul. Nutritious. You won’t regret the journey.

    • I just purchased an orange label UK first pressing of Miles Smiles. How would this compare to a US first pressing?

      • UK CBS Matrix 62933 A1 /B1 vs US Columbia CL2601 ?

        I have the UK 1st press above of Miles Smiles, its a Oriole press, and dismal, like most of these later 60’s CBS European editions. Where I have had a chance to listen to the original Columbia against the CBS pressings, the US win hands down. Nothing chauvinistic, just bitter experience. CBS.Oriole are flat and uninteresting. The very early CBS are Decca and Philips pressed, great, but by this time they had shifted pressing to their own (clapped out) acquisition and the results are pretty universally dismal.

        Whether the fault lies with the copy tape, remastering or pressing I have no idea, I just know they are a big disappointment. Many people never get the chance to A:B them, so they don’t know any better. I always upgrade to a US whenever the opportunity presents.

        UPDATE
        Just to make sure I wasn’t talking BS I just sat and listened to my UK 1st press. Hollow, dull, compressed, it’s one of the worst pressings it has been my misfortune to listen to. Absolutely horrid, everyone who had anything to do with it should be dragged from their graves and hung, drawn and quartered. If you like later 60’s Miles I recommend you find anything but the British press.

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