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Underrated Miles Davis???

May 16, 2011

Disregard my punctuation and spelling errors I wrote this mad late….

It seems like everybody remembers the Billy Madison line where the old women says “if peeing your pants is cool….consider me Miles Davis.” Even though its context is rooted in such an sarcastic scenario; I find it difficult to find a more fitting description for the man. Miles epitomized cool. He was continuously at the cutting edge of jazz, always reaching towards intangible ideas that seemed no one else could imagine except him. Miles’ excessive lifestyle, stoic demeanor, and larger than life personality ensured that Davis was rarely out of the consciences of the jazz public. Long a polarizing figure in jazz because of his entrance into fusion in the 60’s and 70’s, Miles paid little mind to critics throughout his career, instead choosing to play everything and anything that challenged him as a musician and intellectual.

One of my favorite songs that I feel needs more recognition is “Someday My Prince Will Come”. This was originally a walt disney song written in  the 1930’s by Larry Morrey and Frank Churchill. Leave it to Miles to be  able to record a disney tune and somehow find a way to make it sound incredibly hip and original. A big reason why I think this track is so good is because of the top-notch rhythm section. The rhythm trio consists of Wynton Kelly(Keys), Paul Chambers(Bass), and Jimmy Cobb(drums). This  might be my favorite backing trio of all time in jazz…or at least they’re in my top three. Wynton Kelly’s bluesy staccato comping is the perfect complement for Davis’ broody, searching trumpet while Paul Chambers anchors the groove precisely,  managing at the same time, to make his enveloping bass lines feel incredibly loose and organic. Jimmy Cobb pulls the whole rhythm section together with his deftly nuanced drumming that propels the group into a tightly locked unit that really articulates the atmosphere that I think Miles wanted for this track.

This track is also a shining example of Davis’ ballad playing. Something he was  almost peerless for while he was involved with music. His horn is augmented by a  Harmon mute here, which has become one of the most distinguishing sounds in jazz, and he single handedly made famous. His playing is extremely tasteful and lyric throughout striking a perfect balance of technique and emotion. Hank Mobley contributes the second solo of the song and while never inspiring, his solo is nevertheless quite adept and fits within the confines of the song seamlessly. Wynton Kelly picks up the next solo, creating rhythmically and melodically rich lines at will. The last solo is performed by John Coltrane before the head is stated again, and the song finishes out with a static vamp from Kelly. It seems Miles knew that John Coltrane was an incredibly unique musician because he saved the best solo for last. Coltrane’s solo exemplifies everything that he was about as an artist. There are many moments where trane’s playing and phrasing in the song are incredibly lyrical, but also times where its quite dense, chaotic, and ambiguous.

A perfect example of all the things that would make the young tenor player a trailblazer in jazz, and cement his status in the jazz cannon and history books forever……

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