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Miles Davis and John Coltrane Live Again, 50 Years Later

TV Review: Miles Davis: The Sound of Miles Davis

This is really an incredible find. Miles Davis had formed one of the all time great sextets in jazz history at the time: saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, pianist Wynton Kelley, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Adderley sat out this gig, reportedly due to a migraine, but no matter, the remaining quintet is a wonder.

The two pieces that make up this special were filmed April 2, 1959. The quintet performs “So What” from Kind of Blue, unaccompanied. They are then are joined by members of The Gil Evans Orchestra for three songs from Miles Ahead. The three song medley includes “The Duke” by Dave Brubeck, “Blues For Pablo” by Gil Evans, and “New Rhumba” by Ahmad Jamal.

There are so many great moments preserved here, I hardly know where to begin. One of them comes very early, about a minute into “So What.” Miles takes his first solo, and the camera pans to Coltrane in the background, watching. It may sound corny, but I got goosebumps.

It has been speculated that due to Adderley’s absence, Miles took two solos in “So What.” One before, and one after Coltrane’s great solo. In any case, they are both terrific, as is Kelley’s piano solo. Incidentally, Kelley sat out the second piece in the program, the three song Miles Ahead medley. Miles solos on “The Duke” and “New Rhumba” here, and Coltrane switches from tenor to alto sax.

Miles Davis: The Sound of Miles Davis was originally aired July 21, 1960, as an episode of The Robert Herridge Theatre, on CBS TV. It was filmed in glorious black and white, and the print is remarkably well preserved. In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Kind of Blue, the program is airing nationally on Public Television stations throughout the month of March (check your local listings). It is presented by WLIW21 in association with WNET.ORG.

Miles Davis: The Sound of Miles Davis is highly recommended viewing for jazz fans especially, but I'm preaching to the choir there. I think anyone interested in music of any type should watch this.  Miles' late Fifties sextet were one of the most legendary jazz groups ever.  Miles Davis: The Sound of Miles Davis captures them at an undeniable peak.

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