Rare Classic Footage Resurfaces of Miles Davis from the Fifties
by Kam Williams

Rare Classic Footage Resurfaces of Miles Davis from the Fifties

photo miles davis

The Sound of Miles Davis

Running time: 20 minutes
Presented nationally by WLIW21 in association with WNET.ORG

TV Review by Kam Williams

Excellent (4 stars)

50th Anniversary Kind of Blue

Click to buy from Amazon

Incredible super deluxe packaging comes with a gatefold media carrier that contains a 180 gram single-LP pressing on blue vinyl, two discs complete with previously unreleased tracks along with a bonus DVD (NTSC/Region 0). Also included is a 60-page 12x12 book, memorabilia envelope, and large fold out poster.

The Sound of Miles Davis airs nationwide and debuts in New York on Wednesday, March 11 at 10:30 PM (check local listings)

50 years ago, on April 2, 1959, the Miles Davis Quintet teamed with the Gil Evans Orchestra to perform in New York City on a TV series called The Robert Herridge Theater. Music aficionados might be amused to learn why the legendary trumpeter's combo that day wasn't the usual sextet, namely, because alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley had cancelled due to illness. Miles' sidemen in attendance were giants of jazz in their own right, including tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, bassist Paul Chambers, pianist Wynton Kelly and drummer Jimmy Cobb.
Filmed in black & white, the show starts with a casual introduction by Herridge standing in front of the camera with a lit cigarette in his hand. Between numbers, the chain-smoking host, a man of few words, simply shrugs that ’this is music that should be ’listened to and not talked about.’

Sans audience, the set opens on a dimly-lit, shadowy stage with the group playing ’So What’ from its upcoming Kind of Blue album. What makes this rendition of the jazz standard unique is that in Cannonball's absence, Miles took a couple of extra solos, one just before and another after that of Coltrane.

Another factual footnote for trivia buffs is that in March and April of ’59 Miles was recording Kind of Blue for Columbia in the label's studios located nearby on 30th St. in Manhattan. Although the lp wouldn’t be released until August 17th, it would become the best-selling jazz album of all time.

The Gil Evans Orchestra is featured as accompanists here in a medley of tunes from Miles Ahead- ’The Duke,’ ’Blues for Pablo’ and ’New Rhumba.’ The musicians include trumpeters Ernie Royal, Clyde Reasinger, Louis Mucci, Johnny Coles, and Emmett Berry; trombonists Frank Rehak, Jimmy Cleveland, Bill Elton, and Rod Levitt; woodwinds Romeo Penque and Eddie Caine; bass clarinetist Danny Bank; French horn players Robert Northern and Julius Watkins; and tubaist Bill Barber.

In a personal aside, I must mention that I was pleasantly surprised to see an old friend, Bob Northern (aka Brother Ahh) in the film, since he had served as my mentor, given me my African name (Kamau) and even allowed me to play on one of his albums during my short-lived career as a jazz musician. In any case, the rare footage comprising The Sound of Miles Davis, despite its brevity, is an historical treasure unearthed and a must see for any avid fan of black classical music.


Miles Davis Quintet - So What (April 2, 1959) 1 of 4
(Source: kenjames64)

Personnel: Miles Davis: Trumpet; John Coltrane: Tenor Sax; Wynton Kelly: Piano; Paul Chambers: Double Bass; Jimmy Cobb: Drums;

On April 2, 1959, producer Robert Herridge recorded the Miles Davis Quintet playing the classic "So What" in CBS studio 61, New York City. The piece was taped for an episode of the Robert Herridge Theater, titled "The Sound of Miles Davis." CBS broadcast the show on July 21, 1960.

Historical Context:

The first great Quintet/Sextet had disbanded after recording "Milestones" in the Spring of '58, when Davis replaced Red Garland with Bill Evans, and Philly Joe Jones with Jimmy Cobb.

Evans left the band in late '58 and was in the process of forming his own acclaimed trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian -- probably the greatest piano trio of all time. Davis replaced Evans with Wynton Kelly, and Kelly would stay with Davis until 1963, when he quit to form his own trio -- taking Chambers and Cobb with him.

(Evans had temporarily rejoined the Davis group for the "Kind of Blue" sessions in March and April of '59, a month before the CBS television recording. Even though Kelly was Davis' pianist at the time of the "Kind of Blue" recording sessions, he only played on one tune, "Freddie Freeloader," with Evans playing on the rest of the songs, incl. "So What".)

'Trane stayed with Miles until April 1960, when he quit to form his classic quartet.

Cannonball Adderley, who played on the "Kind of Blue" recording, was absent here because of a migraine headache. He'd never again record with Davis.

This CBS session was recorded exactly a month after the first "Kind of Blue" session (March 2, 1959), which yielded "So What," "Freddie Freeloader" and "Blue in Green."

Three weeks later, on April 22, Davis went back into the studio to record the remainder of the tracks on "Kind of Blue": "Flamenco Sketches" and "All Blues."

This videotape is a rare glimpse of Miles Davis in the midst of recording arguably the most important jazz album of all time.

Miles Davis and the Gil Evans Orchestra - Blues for Pablo (2 of 4)


Miles Davis with the Gil Evans Orchestra - New Rhumba (3 of 4)



Miles Davis with the Gill Evans Orchestra - The Duke (4 of 4)