Miles Davis: Sorcerer (1967) Columbia


Selection: Vonetta

Selection 2: Masqualero


Miles Davis (t) Wayne Shorter (ts) Herbie Hancock (p) Ron Carter (b) Tony Williams (d) recorded Columbia Studio B, NYC, May 16, 17 and 24, 1967


Sorcerer is one of several transitional works between Davis’s mainly acoustic recordings with the Second Quintet and his later electric period kicking off with Bitches Brew. Wonderful Hancock/ Carter/ Williams/ Shorter line up finds a reinvigorated Miles Davis, suffused in the heady abstraction of the 1960s, in a spacious flow of music surrounded by musicians who understood the new directions since Miles Smiles, escaping the confines of “too much structure”.  Minimal structure and common mood invite the listener to slowly absorb the music, rather than seize and devour it.

The Cover

Meet the Wife Wives…


Frances Taylor, Betty Mabry and Cicely Tyson made it to the cover of Miles records. Tyson was apparently just “girlfriend” at the time of Sorcerer, as he was in the process of marrying Betty Mabry: one hell  of a difficult call to explain.

Miles honey, who that woman?

Which woman, sweetcakes?

The one on the cover of your new record, Miles.

Oh, her? She’s just a friend…

The liner notes of this cover of Sorcerer makes no mention of the artists, and the actual notes are indulgent nonsense penned by West Coast Music Writer  Ralph J Gleason..  It’s claimed Miles wanted no explanations because “the music speaks for itself”.

Vinyl: PC 9532 stereo US pressing, vinyl 114gm (skinny!)

A strange US import, not the first I’ve seen, all references to Columbia covered up to avoid breaching EMI’s ownership of the Columbia (Magic Notes) name in the UK.

Columbia couldn’t import and sell a “Columbia ” record in the UK as they had licensed the Columbia name to EMI. The long term work around for this was  the creation of the CBS identity for Europe, from around 1963. The stick-on label obliterates all the important detail of the Columbia recording credits. The label underneath is clearly red, so it could be either a two eye (in use up to 1970)  or a later Columbia-Columbia no eye, in which case a second US pressing. The low vinyl weight suggests a more recent edition. As an import, it sidesteps the UKs poor Orange CBS/ Oriole pressings, and is great music which sounds as it should – great.

CBS fail to obliterate the US Columbia matrix which indicates this is a US metalwork pressing and not remastered from tapes sent from the former colonies.



Note the obliteration of all mention of  “Columbia” from the footer of the liner notes.


Collector’s Corner

Source: local record store.

It’s always fun to find a little vinyl gem hiding like this amidst a sea of nondescript re-issues. I was tempted to try and lift the stuck-on centre labels, but  for once someone has done a very effective job in sticking them down. (UPDATE May 2016: I finally got around to lifting off the sticker label. Underneath, it’s a modest Columbia all-round red label)

I have resolved to try to find US originals of Miles late Sixties pre-electric output, as CBS UK pressings are of variable quality. As for Miles electric period from 1970, I know it has its following, but a quick spin of Bitches Brew – signalled by the arrival of John McLaughlin – confirmed I am not among them. Somewhere in the loft are fourteen John McLaughlin albums, which will stay there for the indefinite future.

LJC-Jason-King-BandW-2I come across many people who are animated about the music of their youth. It reconnects them with something that is long gone. In contrast, I find the music of my youth mostly like old clothes that no longer fit. I had a moustache like those 118 adverts, embarassing, really.  I enjoyed the Seventies, but that was then and this is now. Great thing about the future, unlike the past, which is already written, it still has a lot of potential.

Wayne Shorter at 80, London Jazz Festival, November 2013.

Milestone Alert!

Big thank you to all readers – LJC just crossed a half million page views, something it takes Justin Bieber a whole fortnight to accomplish. It’s rather satisfying, though for the life of me I can’t think why. As a friend suggested, it’s  increasing the total sum of human happiness.  Can’t argue with that.

12 thoughts on “Miles Davis: Sorcerer (1967) Columbia

  1. Andy, the length to which Columbia (US) went to export their items to UK and still bypass EMI/Columbia’s trademarked name infringement lawsuit is nothing short of surreal.

    A few years back , I sold on eBay two copies of the Bob Dylan’s first album (about three years apart) on the bizarrely rare Columbia (US) “three-eye” label (never used in the States, but patently manufactured there). Needless to say, the “Columbia” name was neatly censored, taped, stickered and otherwise obscured all over, just as it is on your copy of the ‘Sorcerer’

    This (3-eye) Columbia label was the label used by the nascent Singapore subsidiary of Columbia (US), a/k/a CBS Singapore PTE LTD which started operating soon after Singapore gained independence from Malaya (later Malaysia) in 1965 or thereabout (give or take a year). What I do wish to stress again is that neither the record, nor the cover, nor the labels apparently ever saw Singapore. Everything was 100% American-made, only exported to the Malaya/Singapore (and then beyond, into the Commonwealth nations) with an export label and processed for entry to the country via shared customs processing center in Butterworth, Malaysia (the second copy actually had a Malayan customs stamp on the record label, clearly demonstrating that it wasn’t manufactured either in Malaysia or Singapore). In essence, Columbia (US) was using former British colonies, which probably had a much more lax set of import laws on their books than former colonial masters, to gain a “back door” entrance to the Commonwealth (meaning: British, too) market. What Columbia could not gain inside of UK (a market share under it’s own name), it gained by saturating the Commonwealth market, and making abundantly sure that there are enough copies in circulation to reach UK. then largest-single consumer market in the organization. Screw the international patent and trademark laws, our might makes right.

    The story of my two Bob Dylan “3-eyed” cyclops is told here:

  2. I love Miles from this period, I like Smiles and ESP, things realy get moving with Killimanjaro, but in my opinion the pinnicle comes with the inclusion of John McLaughlin in the band. The most exciting period in Jazz for me was the development of Miles music from Silent Way to Bitches and the crowning glory Jack Johnson. The Mosaic versions of some of these on vinyl sound superb.
    Keep up the good work I realy enjoy your postings, they allways get me searching my collection for and album or trying to find one on the bay/shops
    Thanks Freddy Jack For Short

  3. A fine record, and it would be finer still if that cringeworthy Bob Dorough track hadn’t been tacked on to the end. I can’t for the life of me understand what Miles saw in that guy. Or am I just not hearing something I should be hearing?

    (Congratulations, LJC – keep up the good work!)

  4. I like some of the later Miles as well, especially ‘In a Silent Way’. Wayne Shorter 80 at the London Jazz Festival – I am definitely there. I have managed to see Shorter at least once a year in the past four years, and find him very fresh, creative with lots of new ideas. Probably the most interesting living jazz composer out there.

  5. Congratulations to the LJC blog on passing half-a-million pages views. Let’s recognise the labour of love that this represents…. OK, back-patting over. It’s interesting you should post this as it’s the one LP from that quartet of late-60s Miles ‘abstract’ albums (ESP, MIles Smiles, Nefertiti, Sorcerer) that I am still looking for… Over recent weeks I have been rediscovering these albums from what Cook/Morton call Miles’ “most enigmatic period”. THe second side of Nefertiti is simply wonderful — boilingly intense but not empty of lyricism, free but not “free”, cerebral and cool but also in its way playful. If I remember correctly LIve in Berlin is broadly of the same period and has the same characteristics. (MInd you, I also love Live in Tokyo, the single recorded live date — I think — on which Sam Rivers plays. Apparently, everyone says that Rivers didn’t fit but to my mind and ears it’s a great shame he didn’t last longer with Miles. His Tokyo contribution doesn’t always quite work but it would have given longer – he brought something genuinely fresh and challenging to the line-up.)

    And while PLugged Nickel is two years earlier, again the direction is evident. It makes you realise how intensely Miles was rethinking jazz in just the three or four years prior to hooking everything up to the mains and launching into his electric period.

    The strange thing about Nefertiti is that at times it sounds as if the music is just waiting for a jolt of mains power to set it free. Somehow it is most evident in Hancock’s playing. Listen to it — I swear he is playing that grand as if it’s a Fender Rhodes. The same splashes of texture and colour that would define his electric playing are all there….just waiting for the juice to be turned on.

    Altogether fascinating stuff — and ripe for hard relistening….

  6. I’d agree that Smiles is the best from this period. Unlike LJC I like Miles pretty much all the way. The UK vinyl editions of Bitches, Live/Evil, In Concert, Fillmore all sound very good. I have no idea whether these would be Orioles but they are uniformly excellent.

  7. Congratulations on achieving half a million page views. Very well done and well-deserved. Today’s post is another fine one. ‘Sorcerer’ is not a Miles Davis album that has tempted me so far, so your chosen tracks are new to me. I enjoy the earlier Columbia / CBS recordings and then my collection takes a rain check right up to ‘You’re Under Arrest’. I did, however, enjoy listening to an audiobook version of Chris Murphy’s ‘Miles to Go, The Lost Years 1973-1983’ a book which covers a slightly later period, post ‘Bitches Brew’.

  8. I love this period of Miles and have original 2-Eyes of all except Filles De Kilimanjaro. By far the best sounding one is a mono promo of Miles Smiles (which is also my favorite musically). It absolutely explodes off the needle. I have a mono ESP but it doesnt have the same heat. Does anyone know if this is a promo thing or a Miles Smiles thing? Cheers

    • My CBS UK Oriole pressing of Miles Smiles – one of my favourite Miles – is nothing special. In fact my 80s reissue is better but hardly a delight. It sounds like you’ve got a good’un there. TBH In lieu of a US two-eye I’ll probably look for the CD.

  9. The PC prefix would indicate a later reissue (with red orange label); the original release was CS or CL. I think this is a very underrated offering; excellent stuff. That group knew what they were doing.

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