Live At The 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival
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Live At The 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival
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Vinyl, Import, December 5, 2014
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An outstanding new CD series of NEVER-BEFORE RELEASED performances by jazz icons recorded live at the worldrenowned Monterey Jazz Festival; all recorded at the height of each Artists' artistic powers. These are the INAUGURAL RELEASES of Concord Music Group and Monterey Jazz Festival's Monterey Jazz Festival Records imprint. This is the first time a festival has launched its own label. MJF's archives contain more than 1600 tapes with more than 2000 hours of concerts in the vault A JAZZ BONANZA!
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All around, a great new series of recordings and a must have for the old Miles Davis collection!
In some respects, this is but yet another example of what is known as Davis' "transition period" (1960-1964) between his "first great quintet," with tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, and "second great quintet," with Wayne Shorter. On this instance, the playing is good enough to make a listener wish the transition had lasted indefinitely. First, there was the fascinating contrast between Davis' free approach and reedman Sonny Stitt's systematic bebop vocabulary, then there was Davis' sophisticated urbanity contrasting with the musky, bluesy, unashamedly soul-baring tenor of Hank Mobley, and here it's the restless and searching Davis vs. the pure, open sound and "singing" approach of tenor saxophonist George Coleman. The fact that the band had been together only several months adds to the freshness and excitement of the performance--perhaps more so than anything that would follow during Miles' "acoustic" period.
On the opening "Autumn Leaves" Davis, on harmon-muted trumpet, conducts a Hamlet-like, alternately meditative and morosely malcontent dialogue with his 23 year-old pianist Herbie Hancock who, quickly reacting to some hints from bassist Ron Carter, provides harmonic substitutions that momentarily reshape the tune's character. At the completion of the trumpeter's turn, Carter and 17 year-old drummer Tony Williams release the ever-mounting tension with a flowing 4/4 time-stream for the linear and lyrical melodic inventions of Coleman, who transforms brooding soliloquy into extroverted aria.
During Coleman's solo, the interplay between Hancock and Williams is worth the listener's undivided attention in itself, as the pair will adapt a motif in the solo to a shared rhythmic pattern, which in turn redirects the soloist's constructions. A similar empathy and serendipitous coupling extend to a way-up-tempo yet strangely serene and flowing version of "So What."
I've never heard a better interpretation of Victor Young's "Stella by Starlight" ever (and I've heard hundreds). The mysterious lady is seen through prismatic colors, with each soloist drawing an evocative portrait of varied colors and shifting moods, from ethereal and mysterious to teasing and saucy. I doubt if Hancock has ever played more sensitively, clearly living up to the school of thought that associates him with Bill Evans. The blues "Walkin'," taken at another torrid tempo, opens with a Williams' solo that challenges the blues form itself, while Carter goes to a half-time bowed solo that demonstrates the expressive possibilities attainable through the mathematical permutations of tempo.
The overall sound is spacious yet up-close and vibrantly present, while every note is crystal clear, assuring the listener of catching each detail, from Hancock's delicate voicings to Williams' innovative, often surprising punctuations (in fact, the audio makes my CD copy of the later studio session "E.S.P." sound artificial and limited, the piano unlistenable compared to the one captured on this 1963 date. Moreover, everyone seems uncommonly committed to swinging and inventive melody-making. By the time of the Plugged Nickel sessions the group would play with a more self-conscious, calculated and cerebral approach to melody (don't give it away), harmony (invent the chords as you go) and time (let it shift, speed up and slow down midstream).
For me this is one of the four most important releases of the new milennium, joining "Monk and Coltrane at Carnegie Hall," Clifford Jordan's "Glass Bead Games" and Bill Evans' last, heroic and glorious stand (collected on "Consecration" and "The Last Waltz"). At the very least, I doubt any knowledgeable follower of the music could disagree that this recording is an indispensable addition to one of the most distinguished canons by a major artist in 20th-century music.
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