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In Person Friday and Saturday Nights At the Blackhawk - Complete

Miles Davis

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Album Review

The Legacy imprint's issuance of the complete performances of the Miles Davis Quintet at San Francisco's (infamous) Blackhawk in April of 1961 sets straight a very confusing record once and for all. The individual nights have been available in many different configurations over the decades, first as LPs, and in even weirder ones on CD. That's all over now, as this pair of double discs contain both nights in their entirety, adding a total of four previously unreleased performances to Friday night and nine unissued performances to Saturday night, including an entire unreleased fourth set. This alone is reason to purchase the four-CD package, though both evenings are available individually as well. In terms of which night of the two was better, it's a toss-up. This short-lived version of the quintet featured Paul Chambers, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb, and Hank Mobley with Davis. These four discs should begin to fill the void of criticism about this band. Though short-lived, the unique character of this group was its sheer intensity and diversity of attack. Because of the departure of Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, Davis had to rely as much on a muscular attack in playing his instrument as his considerable gift for melodic improvisation. For his part, Mobley had the shoes of two monster players to fill, and he does so elegantly with a ton of fire in his playing. But it is Kelly and Chambers who really set the pace for this band. Kelly fills space in the middle register with an amazingly percussive attack that is as rhythmic as it is harmonically inventive. Mobley steps away from the hard bop side of his trademark sound to go back to the Sonny Rollins book of bebop, and even Davis uses the method of attack and surprise that gained him a reputation with Charlie Parker. Chambers is the man on whom it all turns, equating the parts of the band's aesthetic. He and Cobb move toward one another and Chambers translates the shifting rhythmic patterns and segues to Kelly, whose interplay with him is almost instinctual, and then through Kelly to the horn players.

Kelly's sense of that ever-changing momentum and dynamic allows him to be a real part of the rhythm section (as opposed to a melodic counterpart to the front line) and adds room for the horn players to move about inside the bridges he creates between the two factions. His right-hand soloing is based on a series of harmonic and intervallic modes he continually pulls out of his hat and feeds Chambers, more in terms of directional possibility, which is vertical rather than horizontal. For evidence, check the contrast between the opening tunes: Friday's "Oleo" at breakneck speed, and the nearly 13-minute "If I Were a Bell" on Saturday, which lopes and takes its time articulating the varying chromatic architectures being erected not only during the solos, but in the band's ensemble playing as well. The common tunes from both nights — such as "If I Were a Bell," "Walkin'," "On Green Dolphin Street," "No Blues," and "Love, I've Found You" — differ radically from one another. On Friday everything is pent-up; chops are flying off the bandstand furiously, with each player holding tight to Miles' arrangements, but forcing the issue of the solos. On Saturday, the set is relaxed, uptempo in most cases, and filled with a kind of comfort that allows for chances to be taken without consequences. The reading of "Autumn Leaves" and the unique version of Thelonious Monk's "Well, You Needn't" provide an astonishing look at bandmembers who could pull off virtually anything, although they had only been together a short time. Add the set of ballads on Saturday — "I Thought About You," "Someday My Prince Will Come," and "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" — that closes out the weekend, and the listener perhaps hears as many dimensions to Miles Davis as existed at the time. The sound is pristine; the packaging is lovely, with new notes by Eddie Henderson that accompany Ralph J. Gleason's original ones. Complete documentation accompanies each disc, and no Davis fan should be without these recordings purchased separately or as a set.

Customer Reviews

In person Fri. & Sat. nights

On a late Sat. night in April, 1961, I got pushed out onto Turk & Hyde sts. in SanFrancisco because I'd been standing at the bar too long. I still remember what was playing-"I thought about you". Since the rest of the night got lost in time ,this set really brings back that exact time in my life.. You can't believe how powerful all these sides are for me.It's too bad that this group which Miles assembled couldn't have had more sessions together.I even love much of the background noise(maybe me being thrown out?) Great collection. Thanks.

One Of Miles

The Complete Friday and Saturday at the Blackhawk is one of the surprise recordings in recent years. It really sets so many wrong things right, especially for Hank Mobley whose solos were edited out on so many tunes in the previous LPs and CDs. Mobley proves that he was the right choice for Miles at that time. Mobley blended with Miles and his band so well. Mobley fitted this band like a hand in glove! Forget what Miles said about Mobley not inspiring him. Miles' problem was with himelf and what he was personally going through (particularly musically) back then. If Mobley was such a drag, why was he there for almost 2 years? And when he left what did Miles do? Went out and hired another tenor player who sounded and played almost like Mobley, George Coleman. This CD certainly makes the case that Hank Mobley was also an innovative tenor saxophonist who personified the hard bop tenor style. The rhythm section of Kelly, Chambers and Cobb sound sublime. Perhaps it was here that they realized their strength together that eventually let them to go out on their own as a trio? As mentioned above, Miles picked up the slack of no longer having the innovative John Coltrane in his band. Miles in essence becomes the most innovative force in the band and one can hear the next evolution in his playing that culminated later with the Shorter, Hancock, Carter & Williams version of this band. All in all this is one fine recording that will continue to reward with repeated listenings. I for one can't get enough!

Miles about to transition

These records came out my last year of high school. I was a budding pianist myself at the time. I had been transfixed by everything Miles up to that point--Kind of Blue at the top, sharing a tie with Miles Ahead and Milestones. Philly Joe Jones, Paul Chambers and Red Garland were the apex of muscular swing that had been part of Miles Quintet and Sextet starting in 1955. Kind of Blue was and is on an eternal pedestal by itself. All of a sudden here was Miles and Hank and Wynton and Jimmy Cobb with Paul Chambers, running down Miles' repertoire of standards and occasional jazz standards as well! Live! I think Miles hadn't done a live record before! (There would be some live bootleg things to follow, expecially after his death.) The record had some weird edits in it--one which actually left a beat off(!) in If I Were A Bell, all of Hank's solo in All Of You was taken out. We had Miles' solo butting up against Wynton's solo. During the time that Hank would have been playing, the tempo slowed a bit, so when the edit occurred, there was a sudden drop in the tempo under Wynton! No matter. His solo, as well as pretty much everything else Wynton Kelly played on these two albums was inspired and pretty much always landed in a red-hot groove! Wynton had the reputation of being a cliche-driven player. But if you listen to what he plays, his infectious, swinging lines never follow a prescribed pattern. They're always inventive and take unexpected turns. But the star of all of this is Miles--playing with a ferocity that was to be a trademark of his in the next quintet. The interplay with Wynton Kelly and the rhythm section as a whole, was inspired and one of the most exciting things that Miles Davis ever did. Hank Mobley was excellent, but, come on, after Trane and Cannonball, I mean, how do you follow that? I've listened to these records for over 40 years; it's a thrill that we now have all the music that was played those two magical nights

Biography

Born: May 26, 1926 in Alton, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Throughout a professional career lasting 50 years, Miles Davis played the trumpet in a lyrical, introspective, and melodic style, often employing a stemless Harmon mute to make his sound more personal and intimate. But if his approach to his instrument was constant, his approach to jazz was dazzlingly protean. To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-'40s to the early '90s, since he was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the...
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