Miles Davis: Miles in the Sky (1968) CBS Italiana

Miles-In-The-Sky-cover-1920-LJC

Selection:1: Paraphernalia (Shorter)

Selection 2: Country Son (Davis)

Artists:

Miles Davis (trumpet) Wayne Shorter (tenor sax) Herbie Hancock (piano) George Benson (guitar) Ron Carter (bass) Tony Williams (drums) recorded Columbia Studios, Studio B, NYC, January 16, May 15-17, 1968

A few months later –  in June ’68 –  Chick Corea arrived on electric piano on Filles De Kilimanjaro, then In a Silent Way, enter Joe Zawinul, John McGlaughlin electric guitar, Herbie full-on electric piano, Dave Holland or Harvey Brooks electric bass, then Keith Jarrett electric piano. Acoustic Miles is gone…

…and regrettably me with it. Controversial I know, because some enthusiasts of the baseball cap sideways persuasion get very excited about Miles street corner/in-the-carwash schtick  and  Hancock’s electric piano-and-shell-suit phase. It’s their big thing, the funk and  fusion stuff. However there’s at least one track on this album for them. Something for everyone, if it’s not in your Miles collection, it should be, it’s in mine.

Music

One of six albums by Davis’s quintet between 1965 and 1968 which established the sub-genre post-bop.

I had neglected this album because I assumed it was in the electric phase, but my mistake, Miles is teetering on the edge of acoustic to electric transition, one of the last primarily acoustic  sessions of the second great quintet, aside from the addition on one track of George Benson (Paraphernalia), quite unlike the smooth jazz picker he became and one Herbie on electric piano track (Stuff) .

The rest a full modal, brooding, wonderfully simultaneously loose and together album, rapidly becoming a favourite. Miles drops in and out, Hancock plays  catch-as-catch-can with the other players, Shorter is, well, Shorter, Williams is a percussive force in his own right, and Carter is roaming and restless glue holding everything together. Even the Benson track which I had initial fear of, is exciting, with percussive and comping guitar adding rhythmic tension. A fine album.

Vinyl: CS 9628 US edition, Italian release, S63352, sunset orange/yellow CBS label.

On the Parliamo Jazze pericoloso sporgersi label, CBS Italiana, grazie mille, ciao! That’s about the extent of my Italian. Oh, and figlio di puttana! I recall Miles Davis used it all the time in its Anglo-Saxon form, but I was warned by Italian friends to use it only very sparingly when in Italy, and definitely not to catch the attention of a waiter in a restaurant – unless you want your drinks poured over your head.

Miles-in-the-Sky-US-1968-release]Released in 1968, simultaneously in US, Canada, Japan and European editions in France Germany Italy and the UK, and probably others. Usually I prefer for original US Columbia because of the mess UK CBS sometimes made in remastering, but the Italian edition appears to be pressed from a US  Columbia cutting.

The label indicates “Made in Italy by CBS Sugar.” Sugar?  One lump or two? It is also typically anarchic – Hey, Luigi – is it Stereo or Mono?  “Si, si, is stereomono”. Lost in Translation.

If anyone has the US or any of the European 1968 editions, I’d like to know if there is a 1A first mix, or if the 2A second mix is found on other copies.

Miles-In-The-Sky-labels-2000-LJC

The cover design seems Art-school Year One, preoccupied with then-trendy abstract design but without any special empathy for the music within, I’m not sure what it is trying to say. Anyone make anything of the cookie-cutter outer shape?

Classic Miles liner notes i.e none,  my music speaks for itself. In this case Miles pants definitely speak for themselves. He looks anxious, pensive. His ten year marriage to Frances Taylor came to an end that year, 1968, which must have weighed on his mind. Miles wears a facial expression I recognise: like he has just received a letter from Fran’s lawyers, setting out their proposal for divorce settlement and alimony. “Jeez, how much?!”

However Betty Mabry was next up shortly, to brighten his spirit.

Miles-In-The-Skyback-1920-LJC

Collector’s Corner

The London store selling this record helpfully noted on the price ticket, “Italy”. It doesn’t take linguistic genius more than a few seconds (sipping my Aperol Spritz),  to notice Miles plays tromba, and Hancock pianoforte electrico, while Benson plays chitarra. There’s a clue in there somewhere.

From previous experience, vintage Italian often means “molto bene!” A friend has an Italian imprint Impulse title which has RVG etching – again, indicting source US master metal. Prestige ’50’s  issued in Italy on Music-Depositato pressed with US metal master. Don’t assume “Italian” pressing means second division pressing locally-remastered . Ironically Columbia sent copy tape to UK CBS, but in other cases original metal further afield.

Interesting too that Miles remains a cultural icon  today, though it seems with more emphasis on the electric period from the ’70s onwards:

Miles-reinvented

May be I’m cranky and out of my time but 1956-69 hits my spot, probably more the later end than the former, as much due to the creative energy of  other members of the second great quintet. Modern narrative insists on a single person as the point of focus, the “celebrity”. More difficult to make a collective enterprise, the music, the star, which is where I come from.

Movie critic appeal: Miles autobigraphy taught me to draw a line between Miles the music and Miles the man.I don’t feel compelled to see the movie Miles Ahead.  Am  I wrong? Anyone who has seen it , what am I missing?

 

 

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47 thoughts on “Miles Davis: Miles in the Sky (1968) CBS Italiana

  1. WordPress Drainpipe alert! Reposted to top of comments – LJC

    Adam
    on September 5, 2016 at 08:34 said: Edit

    No flute? I agree occasionally it is used merely to fill up the top-end, to heighten and clarify. But Eric Dolphy? Roland Kirk? Yusef Lateef? Even David ‘Fathead’ Newman? These guys have wonderful things to say on this instrument. Disclaimer: yes, I do play the flute. I do love jazz.

    Reply ↓

    LondonJazzCollector
    on September 5, 2016 at 13:20 said: Edit

    Herbie Mann, is that you?
    Hi Adam, I should have learned by now, never say what you think on the internet, because someone will call you out. I’m afraid it’s true, no offense intended. Dolphy: alto – yes, bass clarinet – double yes, flute umm .. no. You can’t please everyone.
    A good friend of mine at school took up the flute. He said it because it was “more portable”. Than a grand piano certainly.
    Are there any instruments you think don’t fit well with jazz? You are among friends here, its safe space.

    • Adam
      on September 5, 2016 at 22:37 said: Edit

      No argument from me regarding Herbie Mann, there are a lot of flutists who shouldn’t be anywhere near a studio wherein jazz is being recorded. I was merely curious as to how total your dislike of jazz-flute is. I don’t lump Roland Kirk on flute in with Herbie Mann myself, but of course each to his own. As to the flute being a portable instrument, having spent twenty-odd years lugging my drum kit around the appeal of being able to carry a flute-case under my arm was not insignificant.
      Personally I have an aversion to trombone solos, excepting Grachan Moncur III. I like the albums Curtis Fuller and Bennie Green but the soloing hardly inflames the passions.
      As to Miles, my cut off point is Filles de Kilimanjaro. After that it’s just so much noodling.

      • Hey compadre, we are on a more similar wavelength than at first you might think!

        My cut off is the transition from acoustic instruments to amplified versions – acoustic to electric bass, Fender being the main offender, Fender bass and Fender Rhodes, worse, to synthesisers horrible squeaking noodling.

        Roland Kirk is a law unto himself, no problem, Yusef Lateef as multi-instrumentalist, likewise. No issue with their choice of instrument. The music speaks for itself.

        • I remember an interview with Ron Carter where he details his unsuccessful attempted transition to electric bass. His regretful performance on the instrument is documented on George Benson’s ‘Beyond the Blue Horizon’, which to my ears is mangled beyond salvation. And the man is a master! Bill Evans did some tasteful things with a Fender Rhodes, but he always considered it an auxiliary instrument to the acoustic piano. It’s not about being a purist just for the sake of it.

  2. “The cover design…I’m not sure what it is trying to say. Anyone make anything of the cookie-cutter outer shape?”

    The “cookie-cutter outer shape” is comprised of the profiles of two heads, each facing the bottom corner.

  3. Finally emerging from the Olympics to catch up on your posts. My US 2-eye is 2A/2A.

    Whether or not one likes the electronic Miles, the transition beginning around the time of Miles in the Sky and continuing to the end of his career is amazing to hear. Personally, I continue to play the later records up to the point of Marcus Miller-influence.

  4. LJC, My MILES IN THE SKY is Italian and the same vintage as yours… But I was pleased to find that my FILLES and SORCERER are UK originals. At least, i think they are — they’re both A1/B1 stampers. Now, does that mean first or second? I’m hopeless at this stuff.

    • With mid/late ’60s UK issues of Miles / Columbia titles, on CBS rough-textured orange labels, the point of interest is whether the pressing is by Philips or Oriole.

      Early were Philips (very good) later all Oriole (variable) They were both re-mastered from copy tape sent to the UK, so there isn’t really a hierarchy of “originalness” other than the 1st UK release vs second UK, and later Columbia-all-round red label, ’70s and beyond.

      Occasionally you see some Miles on US Columbia imports with Columbia masked out on the label and cover, which are US cuttings, which I consider best. Unfortunately because Columbia established CBS as its European distribution channel, most copies in circulation in the UK are CBS.

  5. Duly noted, LJC.

    btw, its Jozef [or Joe] Zawinul.

    George [Duke] played in Cannonball’s turn of the decade band [succeeding Zawinu]; & in the early ’70’s Mothers of Invention avec Frank Zappa.

    Both monster players on the Fender Rhodes [check out Weather Report’s ‘Live in Tokyo’] & Duke’s 1st solo record, ‘Faces in Reflection’ on MPS. http://www.allmusic.com/album/faces-in-reflection-mw0000506770

    Apologies for my penchant for accuracy 😉


    LJC says: Apologies not required. George? Its Joe of course, I know that, I miss-wrote. I have a half dozen Weather Report albums on my shelf, purchased new. I loved them at the time, but that time is not now. Joe Corrected. 🙂

      • To be fair, I listened to around the first twenty minutes on youtube. 70’s jazz rock fusion, right? First ten minutes, Gravatt’s overblown drum solo, beating the crap out of his kit, what followed, more histrionics, Zawinuls’s keyboard high drama, thunderous bass, I had to turn it off, never got as far as Shorter.

        Seems to me electrification turned music into a series of “special effects”, like CGI has done to movies, apocalyptic, cataclysmic, electric. That is what people wanted, and got excited by at the time, nothing wrong with that. Back in ’72 I would have been in the audience cheering, but now … no, its not for me.

        • You listened to a sh _ tty mp3 file through savage Youtube compression on a computer with a twenty five cent sound card??

          & that’s the basis for your decision?

          [shakes head..

          • Sure youtube is sh1tty. I’m not thinking about the sound quality, I’m thinking about the “music”: bombastic splurgy stuff. I don’t much like the music, so I don’t much care about the sound quality. I think that’s where the disconnect is: wrong sort of sound.

            Occasionally I’ve put my old Weather Report albums on the big tt, they comes straight off again. I think I must be weather-averse.

            • I once attended an Andy Sheppard gig in Manchester in 1994. The drummer had a 459-piece kit, and commenced a three-hour pyrotechnic solo, during which the rest of the band left the stage. Maybe to go for a pee or something.

              • Based on the old bass player joke ie “Why do jazz groups have bass solos?” So the audience can go for a pee without missing anything.

                • The perfect rock concert drum solo was one which allowed enough time for everyone to get to the bar (band included), order and sup a pint, and come back for the last few seconds of the thundering crescendo, and offer piercing whistles in appreciation to cover up their absence.

                  The bass solo was for those who needed to relieve themselves of previous pints. It all worked out for the best.

                  The magic had gone by the ’80s and 90s, when the bar ran continuously and you took your pints at your stadium seat during the concert. As the queue to the loo was impossible, you relieved yourself somewhere on the way home.

                  There is a book waiting to be written about this.

            • My query remains, LJC: Is Milt Jackson an ‘electric’ player by dint of turning his vibraharp fans to ‘ON’, driven by [SHUDDER] electric motors?

              And is Gary Burton a ‘classical’ jazz musician by refusing the siren call of the above?

              Enquiring listeners want to know, direct from the Pipe ‘n Slippers Lounge of LJC Castle [in an undisclosed location somewhere in Belgravia]!

              • I have little or no Milt Jackson on vibraharp as I dislike vibraharp. It is one of the instruments, along with flute, tuba, french horn and (acoustic) harp, that I don’t take to. As to why I don’t like those instruments, I don’t think electricity has anything to do with it, but I’m taking the Fifth. I have no Gary Burton albums at all, for same reason. Case dismissed.

                • No flute? I agree occasionally it is used merely to fill up the top-end, to heighten and clarify. But Eric Dolphy? Roland Kirk? Yusef Lateef? Even David ‘Fathead’ Newman? These guys have wonderful things to say on this instrument. Disclaimer: yes, I do play the flute. I do love jazz.

                  • Herbie Mann, is that you?
                    Hi Adam, I should have learned by now, never say what you think on the internet, because someone will call you out. I’m afraid it’s true, no offense intended. Dolphy: alto – yes, bass clarinet – double yes, flute umm .. no. You can’t please everyone, it
                    A good friend of mine at school took up the flute. He said it because it was “more portable”. Than a grand piano certainly. Are there any instruments you think don’t fit well with jazz? You are among friends here, its safe space.
                    (Reposted to top of comments to avoid the dreaded WordPress drainpipe view)

                    • No argument from me regarding Herbie Mann, there are a lot of flutists who shouldn’t be anywhere near a studio wherein jazz is being recorded. I was merely curious as to how total your dislike of jazz-flute is. I don’t lump Roland Kirk on flute in with Herbie Mann myself, but of course each to his own. As to the flute being a portable instrument, having spent twenty-odd years lugging my drum kit around the appeal of being able to carry a flute-case under my arm was not insignificant.
                      Personally I have an aversion to trombone solos, excepting Grachan Moncur III. I like the albums Curtis Fuller and Bennie Green but the soloing hardly inflames the passions.
                      As to Miles, my cut off point is Filles de Kilimanjaro. After that it’s just so much noodling.

  6. I’d have to look, but I believe my copy is a 2A/2B, just like some of the other posters. I lucked out and found a sealed copy a few years back. I think the Stereo/Mono just means it’s mono compatible. A lot of the stereo mixes done back then weren’t that wide, because most stations still broadcast in mono, so when played in mono, you still got all the information. I’ve heard that there exists an extremely rare white label promo radio station copy of this album in mono. Probably a fold, but it would still be neat to hear. The only one of these albums from this later 60’s period that comes up from time to time in mono is Nefertiti, also a white label radio copy, and it usually goes for a few hundred bucks. ESP, Miles Smiles, and Sorcerer can all be easily found in mono.

  7. Miles in the Sky is an incredible record that stands up to the other 2nd quintet recordings if possibly the least talked about. This to me is the quintet at it’s peak….playing creatively over complicated forms ( especially side two!) with lyrical precise looseness. Sorry I don’t know how else to say it, they are taking care of business and beyond! This has always been a musically inspiring record to me, even in the form of a ’70’s no eye pressing! I rarely replace recordings I have with original issues but this might be one of the exceptions. There’s a 2 eye with my name on it in the near future….

  8. I love all Miles played till Jack Johnson.
    I can’t stand, as Geoffry, all other stuff but I have listened to it all (have everything on cd’s).
    it’s not for electric instruments: it’s the music that’s boring.
    I really tried to enter Davis 70’s and later music: I gave up.
    I saw three concerts in the 80’s 90’s: no musical interest for me.
    Sugar: it’s an Italian surname of the founder of a recording industry and must spelled a bit different from English. obtained the distribution of Cbs in the sixties and published recordings with Cbs-Sugar, hence yours.

    • I guess I’m with Dott. I have listened to a very large proportion of later Miles over the years — not everything, but a lot — and my interest stops at around Jack Johnson. The huge live sets — Agharta, Pangea, Live Evil, all of that stuff — I find holds no interest at all. Although some commentators (Cook and Morton, for instance) claim it has avant-garde/experimental intentions that were as important as anything Miles did, to me it sounds like empty histrionics. And worse, the bands are often populated by people (especially guitarists) who clearly didn’t understand Miles’s intentions.

      I can live without it all and over the years have disposed of everything — whether CD or vinyl — after Jack Johnson.

      And if I’m honest it must be years since I last played Bitches Brew, despite the fact that I do think it a great record and genuinely ground-breaking…

  9. I totally avoid anything from “Bitches Brew” on. I have heard none of these albums. I liked Miles with Parker; I liked some of the Blue Note 10-Inch LP recordings; I like all of the Cookin’ Relaxin’, Workin’, Steamin” albums, and the early Columbias. And I like some of the performances from LPs issued many years later of previously unissued recordings from this period. I first heard Miles live at Boston’s Hi-Hat Club in 1953. I heard Miles at Newport in ’55. I first saw the Quintet in Boston in the Summer of 1956. If I need to convince myself of the wisdom of avoiding Miles after about 1965, I turn to photographs in the book “We Want Miles” that depict Miles dressed in strange costumes that even Liberace might not wear. He seemed to put more emphasis on how he looked rather than what he played.

    • Yes and yes. Isn’t the accepted story that Miles was jealous of Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and other fusion acts, as well as James Brown and Stevie Wonder and other popular black soul and fund artists, so started performing to “get popular,” get awards, etc. rather than making his own music? From what I’ve read and heard, I always understood that to be the case. And it’s certainly borne out in his work after Bitches Brew, and esp. his ’80s travesties (for which he won some Grammy Awards, as was his goal).

    • For all Don Cheadle’s good intentions, I think “Miles Ahead” was a missed opportunity (as were “Bird” and “Mo’ Better Blues). Tavernier’s “Round Midnight” remains the only completely satisfying movie about jazz.
      “Miles in the Sky” remains a fascinating album; you can hear Miles reaching for the next stage of his musical exploration, without being quite sure of what it was. It’s an unpolished exploration and that’s what makes it so interesting.

  10. I really enjoy reading your emails. It’s turns me on to some new stuff and makes me pull a few things from the shelf I haven’t played in awhile.

    I have 2 copies of this record. One is a US original press with the 2A on both sides and the other is a newer copy from the 70s or 80s I think. Side one has a 2F and side 2 has a 2B. The newer copy also has a 6B printed on the back cover. This gets into the side of collecting I don’t know much about, but I hope it helps.

    Let me know if you would like a picture.

    Keep up the good work!

    Brian

    >

  11. controversial opinions with GTF:

    i am slowing losing patience with Miles, in all eras. his electric period is too repetitive to warrant close study, in my mind. once you’ve got bitches brew and on the corner you’ve heard it all. as for the second great quintet: miles’ pinched tone and rockstar attitude show through, and while the sidemen are fabulous, miles himself doesn’t really dazzle me. when he uses a mute i want to tear my ears off. that harsh, terrible pinching. and as for earlier miles: this is the miles i prefer most, but he still has a sloppy, pinched tone that grates a bit. i like miles for the most part, but more and more i find myself passing over his records in my collection for other things: trumpeters who seem more in control, who don’t gloss over notes, who have a fuller tone, who rely on sideman to spur them instead of carry them, who are more about their music than their iconic status.

    i know, i know. yell at me all you want. it won’t be the first time.

  12. U.S. Pressing with 2-Eye’s and matrix’s 2A/2B……Sounds excellent. I haven’t heard the new MOFI reissues but there is quite a bit of hoopla over them. 45rpm can sound sweet (ala Analogue Productions 45rpm Verve reissues) but I am very happy with my orig. 33rpm with its lovely organic, wholesome sound…..Anyone else here have the Miles/MOFI 45rpm edition that would care to comment?

  13. Ahah had some good laughs with your funny use of our italian curse language. I had this pressing, sounds pretty good. It’s the italian repress. I have sold it once I found the original, thick vinyl, laminated sleeve. The 68 original has an orange label which looks very similar to the UK CBS end of sixties label. I have 5 or 6 first italian pressings from this period including Bitches Brew, all of them sound pretty well. When I will be back from my vacations I will write down in this post the matrixes of the 68 italian pressing. Buona serata, stammi bene LJC.

  14. I agree, crocodile chuck. I think all six of the LPs from Miles’s most enigmatic three year period — E.S.P.; Miles Smiles; Sorcerer; Nefertiti; Miles in the Sky; Filles de Kilimanjaro — are essential and do describe some kind of trajectory, probably best understood by Miles but nonetheless audible to all with ears to hear. I know LJC stops short of the electric period but i have said here before: you listen to these records and the music sounds as if it is waiting to be electrified. Somehow the germ of the electric period are there… Great stuff.

  15. 1) LJC, if you like this, don’t miss the contemporaneous Filles de Killamonjaro, recorded in June & Sept. ’68 [even grouchy curmudgeon Stanley Crouch liked it], with Betty Mabry on the cover. Also, the mid ’70’s ‘Water Babies’ release [when Teo was mining the vaults for content for Columbia to release in his retirement] includes material from all these sessions. Heck, the mid ’60’s Columbia box set is unmissable [even if it is in the dreaded ‘silver disc’ format]
    2) As for the recent Cheadle film, its not bad, but it is non essential [the film’s conceit-that he was obsessed with Frances Davis in the late ’70’s is far fetched-MD never looked back]. There really WAS a fugitive recording session in ’77, though he was in v bad shape, only periodically stabbing at the organ [there used to be mp3’s of this online, ’till the Estate took them down]. Cheadle’s performance is good, though.
    3) I’m of the opinion that ALL the Columbia output* is worth getting [ie, the complete series of Box Sets], excluding the dire ’80’s stuff, which came later.

    ‘Quiet Nights’ is definitely dispensable, however

    • I’d second ‘Filles De K’, it’s simply a beautiful album, and largely acoustic.
      I also don’t understand the writing off of In A Silent Way as an electric album. To me it’s transitional, and another favourite.
      I need to spend more time with Miles In The Sky I think.

      • The mouldy [note Brit spelling!] fig demarcation between ‘electric’ and ‘acoustic’ is both amusing and pointless.

        Because of the presence of a Rhodes electric piano?

        Is Milt Jackson an ‘electric’ player because he utilises the [electric!] fans on his vibraharp?

        & is Gary Burton an ‘acoustic’ player because he turns his off?

        Discuss.

        • All opinions are respected here, even those that are wrong. (hehe only joshing) I’ll take you on, Crocky.

          Fender Rhodes and Fender bass are in my opinion instruments of the devil whose sole virtue is the convenience of amplification for large auditorium audiences (sound of cash register, not music)

          With electric piano, the piano percussive acoustic properties of attack and decay are lost. What happened to cabinet resonance of a real piano? Electric, none. It leads to Chick Corea noodling or Zawinul rollercoaster vertigo.

          The sound of fingers on bass strings is inseparable from the notes played, and the double-bass body resonance. With electric bass the need to play each note is replaced by the ease with which the electric bass player merely slides up and down the neck, because you can, not because it is musical.

          Electric guitar is an exception, it doesn’t have enough volume as acoustic to match the other instruments, so it must be.

          My argument is not that vibraharp is wrong because it is electric, that’s clearly nonsense, but because with certain key jazz instruments the 70’s electric versions degraded the ability to make music. The purity of sound for me is air moving – acoustic jazz. Needless to say the (ahem) eccentric ideas are purely my own, I have no problem with being the only one that holds them!

          • I find the sound of the Fender Rhodes distinctive and soothing – it was originally created at a therapeutic tool for soldiers returning from battle. A lot of jazz musicians continue to use it as an alternative to the piano along with the Hammond B3 which also has a wonderful sound – to my ears at least. The keyboard sound which should be thrown into the dustbin of history IMO is the really awful sounding Yamaha DX7 – the very dated sound you’ll hear on Whitney Houston records and which I think Miles used on his 80s stuff.
            It really is the most horrible jarring bell-like sound and should be made illegal.

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