On the East Coast – Miles Davis (trumpet) George Coleman (tenor saxophone) Herbie Hancock (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Tony Williams (drums) Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC, May 14, 1963
Selection: Joshua (Feldman) Recorded New York (new stereo rip)
On the West Coast – Miles Davis (trumpet) Victor Feldman (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Frank Butler (drums) Columbia Studios, Los Angeles, CA, April 16, 1963
Selection: Basin Street Blues (new stereo rip)
Seven Steps is not one of the great Davis works, of which there are many to choose from, however it is nonetheless an interesting record, catching Miles in transition from the first to the second great quintet and everything ushered in by that change. You get a lot of Miles – pensive, tender, brooding – accompanied by sympathetic top class musicians. In the East Coast sessions you also get a glimpse of what is to come, the Hancock-Williams-Carter rhythm section but not yet the shift in centre of gravity created by the arrival of Shorter, spurring Miles to greater things, the alchemy in which the product becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
To gain an understanding of how something works, it can be instructive to examine its component parts. (I did this once at the age of seventeen to my motorcycle engine. On rebuilding it, I found myself with three parts left over, indicating engines and I were never going to get on). You can better understand the contribution of Shorter from his absence. Coleman was competent journeyman but he was not a force that would challenge Davis. Whilst Feldman demonstrates artistry in the great tradition, you hear the percussive attack of Hancock, already making his mark.
This album is of primary interest to those following the evolution of modern jazz, and in the evolution of Miles Davis from the early to the later Sixties, which is a subject in his own right. It’s also got some great music, which comes as a bonus.
Vinyl: Columbia CS 8851 two-eye stereo, matrix indicates fifth/ ninth lacquer cuttings
Recorded in New York and Hollywood, East meets West, and released simultaneously in 1963 in the US and Canada. Canada? It is a Canadian pressing. Did they press good vinyl in Canada? Canadians are Americans some of whom speak French, unlike the Americans I hear often in France, who merely speak loud. And use the word like a lot. Seems an OK pressing, perhaps a little mellow.
Some of the sessions seem to me somewhat haphazard in their mixing and instrument balance – a surprise for generally impeccable Columbia 360 degree sound stereo editions. George Coleman is hidden in the background while Miles and Hancock dominate, perhaps excessively, in the front line. Perhaps listening to the mix Davis and Hancock felt they liked it that way. However it varies from track to track, may be its just me.
For the sound engineer
It is not by chance US Columbia are usually a treat for audiophile ears. The technical notes are a feast for the sound engineer: pure microphone porn. C12 and U47 are superstars I know, but Columbia have brought along a lot of “new friends” A Sony 37A and an Electrovoice 655C? And in the Scully lathe, Westrex or Ortofon cutters eh? On a Dansette portable record player, do you think we could tell? The early Sixties were an era that celebrated progress through science and technology. And of course Marketing the results. Only now with real hi fi can that 360 degree sound be unlocked.
There are only two kinds of information: information you can actually use to improve choices you can make, (“I’ll have that pressing over there, not the Ortofon cut, the one next to it, cut with the Westrex“)and information you can not use but which allows you to act a complete smartarse: “of course, the final transfer quality is down to the choice of lathe cutting head”.
I’ve blown up the technical liner notes so you can savour the information, and decide how you might use it. Or not.
The Label: 360 sound black text and arrows
Source: from the collection that recently arrived, and quickly went, in a North London record store. Word got around – they are not slow off the mark, these jazz collectors “up North (London)”.
Slim pickings, but I managed to grab a few remaining nice records before they had all gone. The Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus Bergenfield came from the same collection, which I guess left a smile on the face of quite a few collectors.