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Contrasting Miles Davis' Quintets

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Prashant, Jul 21, 2000.

  1. Prashant


    Feb 29, 2000
    Hello all,

    I have a question for all of you Miles Davis' fans out there: Which of the two Miles Davis "classic" quintets do you prefer (if either), and more importantly, why?

    Personally, I have a very special place in my musical heart/ear for the second quintet. I do love the first, but there is something really fresh in the second's music, that seems to transcend musical genres. (I guess that it makes sense that Miles' next phase was the whole "Bitches Brew" period, eh?).

    Plus, that rhythm section KILLS me. Tony Williams can slay me with just one cymbal, and Herbie's comping is just so spikey and "right"! Ron Carter's feel and tone (plus his IMPECCABLE intonation) just glues everything together SO WELL. And Wayne Shorter - don't get me started!

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

  2. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I'm going with the SECOND one, too;.
    Tony is a killer, but Philly Joe & PC ain't nothing to scoff at! biggrin.
    Even though Coltrane is my favorite musician, I have to say I really like Shorter's compositions(& playing). Too, I like Hancock's writing, playing, feel, comping, laying out,...
    If I hadda choose ,though, I'd pick PC over Carter.
    Groundbreaking band...to the least!
  3. ChelseaC


    Jun 27, 2000
    Yeah, word up to the second quartet. I didn't like them much when I was younger and I listened to some of the Plugged nickel stuff, but I guess my ears matured some cause when I got the '64 concert, they were all i wanted to listen to for a while.

    It definately takes a more mature ear to appreciate the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) genuis of the group. Though maybe that's because I was coming from a straight-ahead jazz background-- maybe someone from a more rock or fusion background would instantly like group 2 better cause they're more rhythmicly free?

    Anyway, the reason I love ALL of Miles's groups is that every time you listen to a recording, no matter how many times you've heard it before, you always hear something new. (I listened to Kind of Blue today for the first time since I-don't-know when. Not as complex in the layering and interaction as the 2nd group, but still lots to learn from.)

    Try listening to either group (but especially # 2) and trying to understand WHY each musician plays what he does in response to what the rest of the group does. I had to do this as an assingment in Jazz Styles class, and it really opened my ears up to how good musicians interact with each other in a group.

    Much love and happy listening,

    Why am I Mr. Sparkle??
  4. gmstudio99


    Mar 11, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    What a cool topic!

    I like them both for different reasons.

    I prefer the early quintet for "easier" listening. Not that there aren't many challenging moments, but for a bit more "traditional" jazz, something to ease the newbie into Miles, this quintet is the bomb.

    The later quintet takes a bit more "work" to appreciate. Williams, in particular, really carries this group and provides much more for the listener to appreciate. Requires much more active listening than the early quintet.

    They're both fantastic.

  5. Prashant


    Feb 29, 2000
    Wow! Thanks to all for the responses, and apologies on my part for not checking back in sooner.

    JimK - agreed, I'd take PC over RC as far as bass players...but Miles had the uncanny ability to pick the right players for the right ensembles...question of context, I guess. However, I learned a lot more from PC (back in high school/early college, when I was regularly abusing an upright) than RC in terms of fundamentals, and a lot of that has applied to most everything else that I've tried to play since. Chambers is a bad ass, eh? Oh yeah...after I got THE PLUGGED NICKEL sessions, they were the only thing I listened to (pretty much) for a few weeks. God, I love that group!

    Chelsea - as far as the rhythmic accessibility of the second quintet, I think that you make a great point. I never really thought of it that way, but I think that your onto something. Personally, I know that a lot of my jazz tastes come from one of the three angles I grew up playing/listening to: classical, hindustani (North Indian), and rock/pop. I think that those last two explain a lot as far as my liking the second quintet so much. Don't get me wrong, I do love the first group, and probably cop a lot more licks/phrases from that group than the second, but the feel/groove of the second is what hits me immediately...whereas it took me a long time to realize why Jimmy Cobb and Philly Joe were so darned good (though two of my closest drummer friends have opened up my ears A LOT in the past few years). Perhaps the first group has a little bit more subtlety, particularly to a kid who went through the typical rock-star adulation phase around the age of 12?

    GM - agreed...it would be much harder to hip a newbie (at least someone whose ear hasn't developed as much) to later Miles. The first ensembles are a great starting point (speaking from personal experience here - my first Miles' recordings were ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT and KIND OF BLUE, both random purchases for which I'm really thankful).

    Ed - I actually played at Caramoor once (side-stage/youth-symphony stuff) in high school. It's a beautiful place, eh? Been to see a few shows over there, but not yet this summer (have to put that on the growing list of "to-do"s). There's a couple of places on Main Street that may be the one your talking about, but if they had a music policy, then that narrows it down a bit. It might be either the Elms Inn (does all meals, but I know that they do have music at brunch) or Gail's Station House. Maybe Nina's?

    Also, I love all of the Miles bands that I've heard...except for some of the '80s stuff. I haven't really been able to get into Miles' stuff after he came back from retirement. I used to own AMANDLA and TUTU, but it just never hit me. A little too clean, maybe?

    Up to 1975, though, every band is absolutely burning! (Personal favorites are the second quintet and some of the early '70s ensembles on the Sony/Columbia/Legacy reissues - BITCHES BREW was simply an epiphany for me when I first heard it).


    [This message has been edited by Prashant (edited July 24, 2000).]
  6. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    I'm with you on the "clean" sound of '80s Miles; that's the Marcus Miller "touch", right? On the old board, I really played Devil's Advocate with quite a few who liked MM's playing AND production skills. IMO, you either love it or hate it. I don't really "hate" the slickness; I mean, in Pop-oriented stuff, it's "OK"...whatever, to each his own, right?

    I do love the first Classic Quintet, too; the second one, though, could play the standards, the classics, Miles' repetoire, PLUS THEIR OWN STUFF! Shorter was one of THE writers of '60s-'70s Jazz. They were definitely "unconventional" & the rhythm section's influence on following bands is documented. Really, maybe it's just a Tony-thing with me...man, that guy was unbelievable!

    Desert Island material? The Complete Quintet 1965-'68 Box Set; and The Complete Miles/Coltrane Box is in the mail(good sale at www.
  7. Prashant


    Feb 29, 2000
    Hi JimK,

    I'm with you on Wayne as a composer. DEFINITELY not given the props he deserves, IMHO. Wayne's actually coming out with his first traditional small combo recording in years this fall...quartet, I'm pretty sure...hope it's a comeback to straight jazz. There are some unhip small combos in the limelight nowadays (particularly in the Downbeat type crowd), IMHO. Musically great, but just not very ambitious. Hope Wayne can give it a jumpstart.

    Tony can burn me a new hole with just his ride cymbal...do you know the second tune on "Filles de Kilimanjaro" (the name is escaping me right now)? Tony's snare and kick dialogue on that track is so hip! And the first tune on that album ("Frelon Brun", I think), is some of the funkiest drum work I've ever heard.

    And thanks for the URL...I've been meaning to pick up a couple of the recent reissues on Legacy.

    - Prashant

    [This message has been edited by Prashant (edited July 24, 2000).]


    Mar 3, 2000
    i usually try to read all the opinions of other people before i say something about a topic but in this case i have been thinking about this question for maybe three years. My nerdy music friends and i have debated it over and over again. I have come to this conclusion. To make the ultimate Miles Davis Quintet add one part hebbie Hancock( he was and is very interesting) next, add two parts tony williams( he is one of the most amazing jazz drummers ever and can play the hell out of any groove in any time) next add two parts PC Paul Chambers. PC is the man. His tone was so thick but, clear enough to hear the speed of his licks. And if you want to make an argument that he was not as complex or hip or whatever try diggin Coltranes "giant steps" album. next add two parts coltrane. Wayne Shorter is a great player he is a classic but coltrane is an institution. wait till dark and head to the vanguard.
  9. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    You can always have BOTH 'Trane & Shorter in your dream band, right? wink.
    The thing about 'Trane...he was more that ready to do his own thing by the time he left Miles' umbrella. Could you imagine A LOVE SUPREME, CRESCENT, TRANSITION, ASCENSION, etc...even(maybe)GIANT STEPS happening IF he stayed with Miles?
    Miles used to chide him about "practicing on the bandstand"(recall the "...just take the horn out of your mouth" comment?) wink.
  10. Prashant


    Feb 29, 2000
    Coltrane is one of the heaviest (if not THE heaviest) of the heavy-weights, but I don't know if things would have worked out well for either party if he had stuck around with Miles. Seems like they both had their own, singular vision that they needed to strive towards...

    I love 'Trane, but I wouldn't love him as much if it were not for the work he did post-Miles. Comparing the two (Wayne and 'Trane) in the context of their playing while with Miles, I'm going with Wayne.

    [This message has been edited by Prashant (edited July 25, 2000).]
  11. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Prashant:
    I don't know if things would have worked out well for either party if he had stuck around with Miles. Seems like they both had their own, singular vision that they needed to strive towards...

    I agree with this. Trane needed freedom in the way that Miles needed discipline. Their work together is memorable, but I enjoy both of their work post band mate more I think. It was in the John Coltrane quartet where I think he really found his sound on the horn and not until "India" that his composition really came around.


    Mar 3, 2000
    funny how we are talking abour trane vs. wayne on a page that is devoted to bass players.
  13. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by JDBJJJP:
    funny how we are talking abour trane vs. wayne on a page that is devoted to bass players. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    This is the sorta discussion we should be involved in, right? wink. It's about music...it doesn't "have to" revolve around bass(at least for me).

    Are into the late period Coltrane?

    As far as my "Top 10" all-time favorite musicians, both 'Trane(#1)& Shorter are in it.

    The COMPLETE Miles/'Trane box set arrived in the mail yesterday; heavy, to say the least!



    Mar 3, 2000
    i love to talk about coltrane. He is a great artist. There was a year of my life where i only listened to zepplin 1 and giant steps. But on the other hand it would be nice to hear some opinons about what i was talking about PC or carter. I could be wrong
  15. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    put me down as a steve grossman fan too,i saw
    him a few times in the 70's,and he tore it up! i also like the bands that miles had pete
    cosy in also, one of fusions lost heros!
  16. Prashant


    Feb 29, 2000
    When I listen to Pete Cosey, I have this image of a man about to implode, were it not for the near-lethal doses of smack in his veins, wrestling with a guitar...it's pretty mean stuff...eh? (The guitar work...not the smack wink. .)

    Where did he come from, and where did he go after playing with Miles? I haven't a clue.

    Steve Grossman is great. I also liked Gary Bartz and Sonny Fortune quite a bit. (Fortune's lines on "Prelude" off of Agharta are really cool...especially when starts doing the "bop meets the whole tone scale" thing).

    Maybe we should rename this thread "People who played with Miles"?

    Don't know if it would still belong in "Recordings" though...

    [This message has been edited by Prashant (edited July 28, 2000).]

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