Miles Davis: Modern Jazz Giants (1954 / 56) Esquire UK


Selection 1: ‘Round About Midnight (Monk) – with Coltrane

A while back LJC featured a post of different versions of the jazz anthem ‘Round about Midnight, in response to which one poster recommended this version. And they are right. The Coltrane break is pretty much astonishing, coming as it does “out of the blue”. A rare pleasure.

Artists: Miles Davis (t) John Coltrane (ts) Red Garland (p) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (d) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, October 26, 1956

Selection 2: The Man I Love (Gershwin)

Comparethepressing meerkat veegeeNEW! You’ve ComparedThePressing, now CompareTheTake!
The December 24, 1954 session at which this and Bags Groove was recorded is notorious for documenting the bristling egos of Miles and Monk. Take 1 of the Gershwin tune starts with an exchange of words over how it should be played, and the second take, which thanks to the miracle of LJC streaming you can virtually play side by side, if you can fiddle with the timing.

Artists: Miles Davis (t) Milt Jackson (vib) Thelonious Monk (p) Percy Heath (b) Kenny Clarke (d) Rudy Van Gelder Studio on December 24, 1954 –  Christmas Eve? Ho ho ho. Good will to all men!

The Man I Love; Take 1

The Man I Love; Take 2

Vinyl: Esquire 32-100 UK first release of PRLP 7150

Prestige7150MilesDavisModernJazzGiantsGiants-AP45-1How many records had a cover you would you say, warranted putting on a T Shirt? (Not an excuse for a best jazz t-shirt poll.)

It’s nearly as good as the “Save a vinyl record – eat an ipod!” T-shirt I noticed worn at the Nice Jazz Festival this week. (Verdict: Chick Corea: a bit boring; Omer Avital group feat Avishai Cohen (tpt), sensational, brought the house down! Bravo!! Had to buy the CD).

Cracked record: Esquire covers Esquire managed to ignore the beautiful original  cover (right), choose a lesser photo, in which the microphone looks like a deflated  balloon on a string and Miles isn’t pointing at it anyway, then coloured it unconvincing Deep Purple.

Most of the pics online  of PR 7150 are pretty shabby so I lifted this one of an Analogue Productions 45rpm reissue. Whatever I think of the vinyl, the cover is a beautiful repro.

If my memory serves me right Esquire ran to a second pressing of most of its Miles Davis titles. As this has the title and catalogue number printed on the rear jacket fold-over and no mention of purchase tax, this may be the second press. Not that it matters that much with Esquire. They are already not-Original.

In addition to the RVG stamp, the run-out shows hand-lettered small AB (Abbey Manufacturing)  on both sides, and a couple of very strange “runes” stamped into the deadwax, which are new to me. ( i-Runes?) Very strange.



Collectors Corner

Source: From the collection of the late Brian Clark.

smug-index-2-Envy rating 2cool-3


I have seen this Esquire  couple of times, so I think it had a bigger pressing run than other titles so is less rare.The Coltrane presence on Round About and the Monk/Davis tension earns an extra Cool Factor star.

Thoughts on the trumpet, and live jazz, and fading stars.

This is an LJC “indulge me” postscript.

So much of my listening to modern jazz has been on vinyl, a riveting set at the Nice Jazz Festival this week by Omer Avital, featuring Avishai Cohen on trumpet,  brought me up sharply.

Omer Avital and group feat Avishai Cohen

I had heard the trumpet by Miles and a few others on record, but I had never really heard a modern jazz quintet live in the flesh  featuring a first class jazz trumpet, and I was unprepared for how potent an instrument it is, in the right hands. Piercing bright, silver and golden tones cut through the upper register, along with the other stuff “up there” like cymbals, the stuff that gets cut off on so many recordings. The power and intensity caught me unprepared.

Omer Avital Avishai Cohen3  Capture

Avishai Cohen (tpt) Joel Frahm (ts)

I was aware of Avishai only because he carries the same name as my favourite modern bass player. In the CD racks there was this other Avishai Cohen, the trumpeter, so I ignored him. How wrong. His contribution to this bass-led group was perfect.

Omer Avital Avishai Cohen2  Capture

Avishai Cohen (tpt)

Who the hell is Omer Avital? Why didn’t I know about him? I haven’t been paying attention.

Arguably the most talented bass player on the scene and at or near the top of modern day jazz composers . . . about as thrilling as it gets.
– eMusic

‘Song For Peace’ is illustrative of the exciting, empathetic interplay that these musicians developed . . . anthemic, chaotic, spare and peaceful. For the listener, this unpredictability, the shifting dynamics, and a sense of ‘What’s gonna happen next?’ add to the excitement of hearing this agile quintet gallop.”
– Editor’s Pick, DownBeat Magazine

This music bristles with electricity and improvisational fire. There is not a weak cut or even weak moment on ‘Suite of he East’
– Step Tempest

. . . a deep organic fusion of Middle Eastern and North African music with current cutting-edge jazz. . . . incantatory melodies and throbbing rhythmic patterns that are foreign until you feel their universal human celebration . . .
– JazzTimes Magazine

Well that’s what it says on his website, but for once, believe the hype. This was really exciting improvisation-driven jazz. The communion between the drummer and the pianist was scary as they fed off each other (Village Vanguard anyone?), whilst Avital’s melodically driven bass drove the tunes. Joel Frahm’s impassioned tenor and the anthemic melodic statements on tenor in duet with the trumpet were positively chilling.  I haven’t been so excited by live modern jazz in a long time, I definitely should get out more.

Omer Avital LG01 Capture

Omer Avital (b)

I am probably in breach of whatever copyright is on these photos but they are freely on-line and I don’t have any commercial interest, so here they are. The Nice Jazz Festival organisers prohibit photography except to accredited professional photographers who hold a Festival permit, so it is their own fault, because I could easily have taken my own pictures. Needless to say the audience was full of sad people trying to capture the performance on their camera phones.

Omer Avital LG078Capture

Omer Klein (p) Avishai Cohen (tpt)

The official star of this evening of the Festival was not Omer Avital (though actually he was) , it was the famous jazz pianist Chick Corea. Sadly it was an assembly-line performance by Chick, noodling endlessly on electric piano, songs endlessly replete with long bass solos from Christian McBride, long drum solos from Marcus Gilmore (grandson of Roy Haynes), and walk on parts – on cue –  to British brass journeyman Tim Garland, and Californian guitarist Charles Altura. The only improvisation was in “the solos”: there was no communication and true improvisation between the musicians. Chick is boss, he pays the wages, he gets to play a lot.

Chick Corea and the Vigil 8LGCapture

Chick Corea and The Vigil

I  noticed a lot of the audience voted with their feet after a few numbers. I endured four tunes, but “Galaxy 37, Planet 4” about did for me too. Chick hasn’t moved into any fertile new ground since the middle of the last decade. The Ultimate Adventure (2006) was the last album I liked, and still sometimes listen to on Evil Silver Disk.( Don’t let anyone know. Its our secret.)

That adds Chick Corea to the  Herbie Hancock “past their best” list.  Sorry Chick, Omer Avital played the set that should have been yours. You needed a trumpet. You need to become a music aggregator, not a grandstanding fading star. Jazz has moved elsewhere.

I am grateful however to listen to and enjoy the Miles Davis Quintet 1950-something, on vinyl, which is still as close as I can get to this fantastic sound. It’s never going to be available, live, any time soon.


15 thoughts on “Miles Davis: Modern Jazz Giants (1954 / 56) Esquire UK

  1. My copy (Esquire 32-100) has a deep pink plain front cover with MILES DAVIS in bold black against a white background lower down. Would this be a later re-issue?


    • Hi Robert – check here on the label guide to Esquire – the back cover tells the story;
      32-100 was one of the dozen or so Esquires that had a second pressing. The first press of this has the RRP 37/9p on the back, the second pressing has no RRP shown at all. From what I remember seeing there are two different covers, one of the few time Esquire did this, reasons unknown. My cover, as shown, is the second press without the price. If yours has the recommended retail price, it is the first edition. If you have some other combination you have uncovered another mystery, send for the men in white coats.


      • Many thanks for that – it has the RRP at 37/9 so I guess it is a first pressing. I shall list it on Ebay tomorrow and am already checking out the cost of 14 days all inclusive at a 5 star hotel in The Maldives!!!!!

        PS I note number 103 is missing from the Esquire list. I have provided the details.


  2. I once saw Chick Corea live at the North Sea Jazz Festival and didn’t like it. It was harsh, loud, superfast and, well, ‘difficult’. I really only knew him as a side man from albums like Blue Mitchell’s The Thing To Do etc and I only knew a bit from his, for instance, Return To Forever output, so I wasn’t well prepared either 😉

    But anyway, listening to both takes of The Man I Love plus ‘Round About Midnight was a joy and, as with other Davis albums, hearing the studio banter is always a nice little extra – bossy or not.


  3. There are several rumors about what went on in this session. One says that Miles, who once boxed, took a swing at Monk, a much bigger man. Miles denied it, and Monk, being Monk, smiled and said nothing.
    Oh, by the way, the original 33, on Prestige, shows Miles on muted trumpet, with a yellowish hue. Around him is adark background.


    • The original cover is a classic, and at least Esquire didn’t fiddle with the music. (What if all those records sounded the way they look! They wouldn’t swing if you hung them…)


  4. I think that while Coltrane and Rollins were directly inspired by Monk’s rhythmic sense it seemed to interfere with Miles’s precise phrasing. I was listening to my Sonny Rollins Vol 2 Pathe Marconi ‘upgrade’ from my earlier dreadful DMM version yesterday and noted just how pivotal Monk is to the whole band and in particular to Rollins and Art Blakey.
    Good to see a live review on here – but I agree about Chick Corea. In fact, I have never liked his playing which has always tended towards the noodle for me.
    On the subject of Esquire – these pressings seem to command really high prices and I’ve only managed to snap up a few – mainly at my local record shop where they seem more fairly priced – I suppose it’s the presence of RVG on the runout.


    • There are times I feel guilty about talking-up Esquire, Andy, as higher prices are adverse to me too. Then there are other times I am reminded it increases the value of the 68 Esquires already in my collection, he he.

      They are a load of rubbish harrumph of course harrumph. I shouldn’t bother with them…


    • Here is a quote from Miles’ second Down Beat blindfold test (1958) which references the Bags Groove session: “You know the way Monk plays – he never gives any support to a rhythm section. When I had him on my date, I had him lay out until the ensemble. I like to hear him play, but I can’t stand him in a rhythm section unless it’s one of his own songs.”

      In other words, Miles being difficult and Monk not giving a damn. I’m sure others here are more knowledgeable, but my impression is just that Miles’ iron-grip focus and control over his band and career, as well as his prickly demeanor, was just oil to the water of Monk’s distracted, whirling-dervish approach to music and life.


    • You are right about the Bags Groove session (PR7109);
      Allmusic note of this (PR 7150) album “recorded the same day as those on Bags Groove, ….. Davis and Monk actually did not get along all that well, and the trumpeter did not want Monk playing behind his solos”

      Both recorded December 24, 1954 – same session.

      In his autobiography Davis was always countering claims that they didn’t get on. Methinks he does protest too much.


  5. Will definitely check out Ovital if he comes through. We have the pleasure of seeing live jazz in excellent dedicated venues quite a bit, and had a similar “good lord, that trumpet is amazing!” moment when we saw We Six last year and Eric Jacobson just burned up the room on trumpet. Beats the pants off most of the “legend” shows we’ve seen.


  6. mine has the 37/9.5 price printed on the back. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that an earlier cover was without the picture of Miles, just the light purple colour of “the Modern Jazz Giants” covering the major part of the sleeve. Not very exciting, whence the added Miles plus micro (hanging like a bulb).
    In any form, this is essential Miles.


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