Given this week’s topic and Toffeeboy’s promised Go-betweens retrospective I’m reminded that I made a rash statement a while ago to post an overview of 3 Miles Davis tracks.
At the time I was trying to quell the natural inclination to go off on a rave about my favourite artist, list 50+ tracks and, in doing so, rapidly end up somewhere no-one’s particularly keen to follow. So three it is; I’ll post them in instalments.
I’m not claiming these are his three best tracks; however, they are among my favourites and are not so well known, so may offer some perspective for anyone interested in getting into his work.
First up, Milestones, from the eponymous 1958 album. This has the distinction of being the only album I have ever bought in the U.K. incidentally, from Mole Jazz in north London. Milestones is a deceptively simple piece; the theme is stated in two parts, once with all three horns in unison, and once with the trumpet setting a counterpart and “slurring” slightly to establish tension with the two saxophonists; this tension is then released by a return to the more up-beat part of the theme.
The solos are played by Cannonball Adderley, followed by Miles, who darkens the tone, and then John Coltrane on tenor, just starting to develop his “sheets of sound” style. Drummer Philly Joe Jones plays his famous “rimshots” throughout, hitting the rim of the drums to keep a snapping pulse going.
The theme of the piece is quietly carried by the pianist Red Garland, while the mood is set by bassist Paul Chambers, who alternates between “walking” the bass and sitting on a repeated riff during the second part of the theme to create tension.
The solos look forward to the famous “Kind of Blue” album in that the players are starting to create their own melodic or “modal” lines based on the chords of the theme, rather than just “playing around” the individual notes bebop-style, although the harmony remains static and each of the rhythm players has quite a constrained role.
A perfectly balanced piece of music, glowing with freshness, clarity and invention.