JJ archives, 1960: Miles vs. Chuck
From JJ April 1960: One reviewer recommends Miles's Kind Of Blue ('one of the best jazz discs of any year'), another says Chuck Berry has more continuity with early black folk tradition
KIND OF BLUE
(a) So What; (b) Freddie Freeloader; (c) Blue In Green (24 min.) - (a) All Blues; (a) Flamenco Sketches (20 min.)
(Fontana TFL 5072. 12inLP. 35s. 9½d.)
My advice is to rush out and buy this disc immediately. It is one of the best jazz discs I have heard so far this year. For that matter it is one of the best jazz discs of any year. It is also possibly the best record to date by Miles Davis.
The basic idea of the album is deceptively simple . . . " Miles has prearranged things so that each soloist is thinking in terms of scales, short collections of consecutive notes which each have an emotional atmosphere," explains Benny Green in his informative sleeve notes.
It sounds crazy but out of it Miles has produced a collection that is remarkably effective and indescribably beautiful. For instance, in "Flamenco Sketches," a 12-bar blues played in 6-8 time, the musicians take off with some fascinating variations.
Miles' playing throughout the record has a curious hypnotic effect on me. It is, as usual, poignant, delicate and sensitive: at times it also borders on melancholia.
Of the other soloists lohn Coltrane enhances his growing reputation; his violent solo on "Freeloader" is one of his best on disc. Adderly is more subdued than usual but comes to life on "Freeloader" with some fluent improvisations.
According to pianist Bill Evans: "Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording date and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore you will hear something close to spontaneity in these performances. The group has never played these pieces before the recordings."
It's my opinion that this disc confirms the stature of Davis as the greatest soloist since Louis Armstrong. The disc is also a pointer to the way that jazz can-and-will-develop.
(a) Miles Davis (tpt) ; Julian Adderley (alt); John Coltrane (ten); Bill Evans (p); Paul Chambers (bs); James Cobb (d). (b) Wynton Kelly (p) replaces Evans. (c) As for (a) except Adderley out. 2nd March and 22nd April, 1959.
Too Pooped To Pop—Let It Rock
(London 45-HLM 9049. 45 s.p. 6s. 4d.)
“Let It Rock” is typical of Chuck Berry’s better performances - the amount of swing generated is breath-taking, and the lyrics, for a change, are interesting (“In the heat of the day, down in Mobile, Alabama/Workin’ on the railroad with a steel drivin’ hammer/Gotta get some money, buy brand new shoes. . . .”).
The playing time is very short and the echo thunderous, but the essential qualities remain, and anyone who cannot feel and appreciate them does not, I am sure, understand the nature of American Negro music. For, although the collector of blues, worksongs, rhythm-and-blues, New Orleans and early mid-Western jazz may have some justification for feeling that modern jazz, although often excellent musically, is lacking in content, the modern fan who dislikes folk jazz and who finds Chuck Berry “ vulgar” is thereby merely demonstrating his own ignorance and immaturity.
The music of the Negro did not suddenly become of age with Ellington or Charlie Parker - it was whole, complete art in the form of the early work songs, spirituals, hollers and blues. And it is within this folk tradition that people like Chuck Berry continue - it is with them, not with Miles, that you will find the essentials defined by the very earliest folk performers.
“Too Pooped” is a novelty number, and of little interest to anyone over the age of ten.
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