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Columns > Dan Alford - Audio Files

Published: 2001/08/20
by Dan Alford

Miles and Coltrane

Business: Phish has finally announced the release date
for the first 6 shows from the Live Phish series:
September 18. Preorders are, of course, being
accepted at www.phish.com. The shows (7/16/94,
12/14/95, 11/27/98, 6/14/00, 7/8/00, 9/14/00) all
circulate fairly widely already, but it is
particularly nice that 4 of the 6 are later shows-
shows that don’t make the rounds in soundboard form.
Hopefully future releases will continue to feature
post-95 selections with a nice sampling of early
rarities. On another front, Ratdog has released a
live double disc culled from the April Portland shows. This promises to be a fantastic look a Ratdog at its
finest. The cds are available now on the So Many
Roads tour and through GDM (www.dead.net ) and will be
in stores in early October. October’s Audio Files will
focus on some of the few Ratdog soundboards that
circulate.
Music:
Miles Davis Quintet @ Salle Pleyel, Paris 11-3-69
early
1 disc: Directions > Bitches Brew > Paraphernalia >
Riot, I Fall in Love Too Easily > Sanctuary > Miles
Runs the Voodoo Down > The Theme
In 1969, Miles Davis, who had so often been at the
vanguard of new styles and new sounds, again found
himself at the forefront of a revolution in jazz. His
band was slowly electrifying, and within a few years
would stretch into truly unknown regions that cause
any listener to reevaluate the term music. But before
those days where songs where 45 minute songs were
defined by a 30 second tag played nights earlier, the
Miles Davis Quintet showed why it remains one of the
greatest collaborations in history. This performance
exists in FM and pre-FM versions, and is widely
traded, relative to its subject matter.
The opening Directions points the way for the rest of
this set. Miles plays a series of somewhat lengthy
statements that fall hard upon one another, but it is
the loose compliments from Chick Corea’s electric
piano and Jack DeJohnette’s fluid, lively drumming,
both of which embroider the soloing, that capture the
tone of the performance as a whole. Wayne Shorter may
be Davis’s best compatriot in the exploration of new
sounds as he is able to throw aside preconceptions and
venture far into new territory in only a few bars. He
stirs up a mild storm before DeJohnette falls into a
light rhythm that heralds a nice duo performance from
Chick and bassist Dave Holland.
Easy noodling segues into Bitches Brew. The short
spaces between Miles’s sharp lines and Corea’s more
relaxed bubbles are eternally deep. With the help of
Holland and a crashing DeJohnette, the scenery
solidifies, although it remains somewhat out of focus
around the edges. Holland picks up the pace and
shines through with wonderful runs here and there
until Shorter begins his solo, knocking down the
structure and creating his own. It is, of course, a
structure of mind-bogglingly tall walls placed at odd
angles and distorted with shadows. Chick takes his
cue from the saxophonist and envisions a low,
sprawling, utterly organic series of passageways.
Miles plays delicate lines, creating a quiet city
street, and shatters it with piercing blows- What the
hell was that in the alley?- and gives way to the
Shorter composition Paraphernalia. The early section
is reminiscent of Miles’s solo in Directions but
quickly races beyond. DeJohnette is locked in a
symbiotic relationship with the trumpeter,
simultaneously feeding and feeding off the bandleader. Each works to send the other spiraling away and away. More melodic and tightly focused, Shorter’s leads
have a linear quality- a quality he maintains as the
band, at intervals, tears away around him. The song
pours over into an intense but short Riot- a perfect
way to end the first jam.
On a much quieter note, I Fall in Love Too Easily
begins the second jam with haunting notes from Davis
and wonderfully textured piano from Corea. It is
short and melts effortlessly into the Davis/Shorter
piece, Sanctuary. The sounds rise like waves,
DeJohnette’s kit causing each swell to topple, finally
toppling into Voodoo. A nice groove appears as Miles
races and zig-zags in varied tracks while Corea and
Holland chase and catch him in turns. Shorter’s solo
is so nimble and spastic that try as they might, no
one can come close to him. Instead, the band takes a
cue and runs willy-nilly before settling into a calm,
cerebral solo from Corea- truly sanctuary found. The
last minutes are decorated silence, examples of
insanely deft playing that finally coagulate to close
the show. It’s Official: John Coltrane, Live at the Village
Vanguard/The Master Takes
Spiritual, Softly as in a Morning Sunrise, Chasin’ the
Trane, India, Impressions
John Coltrane’s performances at New York’s Village
Vanguard in the fall of 1961 are legendary. The band
was almost solidified into its classic form, and was
experimenting wildly, testing the bounds of
improvisation and jazz- testing that would change
music forever. The last few nights of the nearly two
week run were recorded and are available in a variety
of forms: Live at the Village Vanguard, Impressions,
The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings and Live
at the Village Vanguard/The Master Takes. If you dig
Trane, check out the complete recordings, but if your
just testing the waters, I suggest The Master Takes as
it offers Coltrane as Coltrane wanted to be heard. He
selected each of the songs included.
Spiritual opens with a slow dirge from Trane. It runs
a few bars before Elvin Jones slides in with light
cymbals and begins to swing in the breeze. Eric
Dolphy plays a nice bass clarinet solo early on,
followed by McCoy Tyner. The pianist’s solo is
comprised of fast flourishes and climbing squiggles,
making it a nice counterpoint to Dolphy’s work. As it
cools down, Trane is drawn back into the mix and plays
a high barrage of notes before rehashing the dirge,
this time with a more dramatic flare.
The second and third tracks are from November second
and offer a more playful vision of Coltrane and his
band. The standard Softly as in a Morning Sunrise
begins with a nice upbeat section from Tyner. He
races back and forth along the 88 as Reggie Workman
works a fine bass line. The piano begins to froth and
settles for just a moment before Coltrane drives
forward, pushing the rhythm section to keep up with
him. His long statements flow like a ribbon in the
breeze- bending, snaking, whipping. Elvin steps in
and runs with Trane, crashes and fills spilling over
right through the end. Similarly, Chasin’ the Trane
is speedy, Coltrane dancing the introduction before
refracting the notes into a wonderfully twisted
torrent of clean notes and skwonks. Elvin Jones plays
a fuller sound with many more snare fills. With that
as a solid bass, Jimmy Garrison (who was not yet
Coltrane’s full time bassist) is free to drift out a
bit, leaving the hard ideas for a variety of high end
lines throughout the song. Meanwhile, Trane continues
to literally chase himself, answering his own
statements without hesitation. He is the only soloist
on this number and does not pause or become repetitive
once during the song’s almost 16 minute duration.
Amazing!
India is calmer and more contemplative. Coltrane’s
first solo is high, and in parts, reminiscent of
Indian woodwinds. Both Garrison and Workman play bass
on this one and they swell to the surface with deep
movements that give a real weight to the composition.
A little less than six minutes in, Coltrane mimics a
raga with flurries of notes before giving way to
Dolphy, who bravely paints the smell of incense, the
taste of dust and the experience of the crowded
streets of Old Delhi. Eventually Coltrane returns,
again more reflective in his playing. The bassists
fill the area with great heavy notes as Elvin Jones
maintains the momentum. As the coda returns, both
Dolphy and Coltrane run fast leads, drawing the song
to a close.
Finally, a masterful Impressions, recorded on November
3rd ends the disc. Utterly buoyant, it is a jam in
the truest sense. The bands functions as a single
entity; each member reacts to the others in a
completely organic way. Jimmy Garrison is
exceptional, as he responds directly to Coltrane’s
leads, yet simultaneously meshes with Jones’s driving
kit work. Trane’s leads are compact and equally
forward looking in focus. The music is an underground
river rushing onward over the rapids and unforeseen
waterfalls. Somewhere near the nine-minute mark,
Coltrane begins to answer himself again, and in a
stunning display, Garrison does the same! The skill
level only increases as the quartet slices forward,
returning to the coda at full stream to end.

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