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Miles of Miles 

Before I start: thanks to those of you asking about Muswell. He's doing quite well! I'm still having to give him various pills, powders and potions, but they're working.

Several years ago now, a friend of mine initiated me into jazz via the iconic, visionary trumpeter Miles Davis. And though I can't say I'm a jazz buff yet, I really dig Miles a lot, if I may use some dated hipster lingo.

As a pop-rock person, my entrée into the world of Miles was his fusion period. When I first heard In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, the language spoken there was roughly akin to some of the music I grew up with. What he's most celebrated for—and my friend's preferred iteration of Davis—is his 1950s work, culminating in the legendary Kind of Blue. For me this material has been a challenge to appreciate, and I'm still trying. In fact, the first time I heard Kind of Blue, which is universally acclaimed as the greatest jazz album of all time, I cheekily renamed it Kind of Boring. It's still not my favourite Miles album, but I'm slowly coming around.

Anyway, it's not just the longevity of Miles Davis' career that astounds but its dizzying breadth. From a Rolling Stone article: "Miles was once seated next to a senator's wife at a felicitation of various artists at the White House. The lady, obviously not familiar with jazz, asked Miles what he had done. 'I changed music six times, ma'am,' was the quick response."

Wanting to broaden my horizons, I went shopping for a career-spanning box set. Surely an artist of Miles' stature, active for 45 years, has been given the comprehensive overview treatment, right? Nope. Not unless you count the 70-CD Complete Columbia Album Collection. Comprehensive, yes; overview, no. So, I decided to make my own.

I took as my starting point The Essential Miles Davis, a double-CD collection that barely skims the surface and, in my opinion, glosses over some major works entirely. After a lot of research and digging through YouTube, I arrived at my version, which I'm calling ...

 

 
Even though mine is strictly an mp3 playlist, I curated it as if Columbia had hired me to create that career-spanning box. I've divided his work into six CDs, each representing one of the "six times" alluded to by the man himself.

A few ground rules I used:

  • The material is to be ordered chronologically, by recording date.
  • Each CD should be as close to full (80 minutes) as possible.
  • Every major album is represented by one song, whether that song is three minutes or thirty minutes.
  • Seminal, ground-breaking albums are allowed two songs.

Given those parameters, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. Inevitably, some works are underrepresented and arguably, some are given more space than is warranted, depending on your tastes. Example: were my friend still alive, he'd probably split the periods much differently than I did. I can envision my Discs 3-6 crammed onto Disc 6 in his version, with the '50s/early '60s material taking up Discs 1-5.

Disc 1 (79:03): Hard Bop, Cool, Modal—1945-1959

  1. Now's the Time
  2. Jeru
  3. Rocker
  4. Confusion
  5. Tempus Fugit
  6. Walkin'
  7. It Never Entered My Mind
  8. 'Round Midnight
  9. Miles Ahead
  10. Générique
  11. Milestones
  12. Stella by Starlight
  13. Summertime
  14. So What
  15. Blue in Green

Disc 2 (76:36): Post-Bop—1960-1967

  1. The Pan Piper
  2. Someday My Prince Will Come
  3. Once upon a Summertime
  4. Seven Steps to Heaven
  5. My Funny Valentine (live)
  6. E.S.P.
  7. Circle
  8. Masquelaro
  9. Nefertiti
  10. I Fall in Love too Easily (live)

Disc 3 (76:35): Electric Cathedral—1968-1969

  1. Stuff
  2. Tout de suite
  3. Petits machins
  4. Ascent
  5. Shhh/Peaceful
  6. In a Silent Way

Disc 4 (78:23): Fusion with the Gloves Off—1970-1972

  1. Pharaoh's Dance
  2. Miles Runs the Voodoo Down
  3. Right Off
  4. Little Church
  5. Directions (live)
  6. Black Satin

Disc 5 (74:34): Ambience/Funk Insanity—1973-1975

  1. Calypso Frelimo (excerpt)
  2. He Loved Him Madly
  3. Prelude (live)

Disc 6 (76:55): Reassessment/Summation—1981-1991

  1. The Man with the Horn
  2. Jean Pierre (live)
  3. Star People
  4. What It Is
  5. Human Nature
  6. Time After Time
  7. Orange
  8. Portia
  9. Mr. Pastorius
  10. Chocolate Chip
  11. Boplicity (live)
  12. Blues for Pablo (live)

And there you have it: the Miles Davis box that should exist but doesn't. If you'd like to re-create it, all the material is available on YouTube. Happy exploring!

Announcement: Remainder of Micro-Tour Cancelled 

My beloved cat Muswell is seriously ill with advanced kidney disease, among other things. I'm adapting to a treatment regimen that's time-consuming and constantly changing and also making frequent trips to the vet, at times in near-emergency situations. 

As a result, the rest of the autumn micro-tour is cancelled. I'm hoping to play the occasional show here and there, but cannot at this time make firm commitments. Though the tour has been cut short, all shows were recorded and I still (at some point) intend to post the highlights on the music section of my website. Look for those in December or January. 

If you'd like to send prayers and healing Muswell's way, here are a couple of photos of my beautiful boy. Heartfelt thanks, dear readers, for your kindness and concern, and blessings to you and your families.

 

 

Photographs by Carol Witwicky. Instrument illustrations and GZ logo © 2017 Grinning Zone Studios.
Album and lyrics page artwork © 2017 Gabriel Altrows. Web design by Vern Nicholson.
Sour Landslide and Benvereens archival footage courtesy Neil Whitlock.
All pages and contents © 2017-2018 Vern Nicholson.