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Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop

Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop

by Jeremy Yudkin
     
 

Focusing on one of the legendary musicians in jazz, this book examines Miles Davis's often overlooked music of the mid-1960s with a close examination of the evolution of a new style: post bop. Jeremy Yudkin traces Davis's life and work during a period when the trumpeter was struggling with personal and musical challenges only to emerge once again as the

Overview

Focusing on one of the legendary musicians in jazz, this book examines Miles Davis's often overlooked music of the mid-1960s with a close examination of the evolution of a new style: post bop. Jeremy Yudkin traces Davis's life and work during a period when the trumpeter was struggling with personal and musical challenges only to emerge once again as the artistic leader of his generation.

A major force in post-war American jazz, Miles Davis was a pioneer of cool jazz, hard bop, and modal jazz in a variety of small group formats. The formation in the mid-1960s of the Second Quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams was vital to the invention of the new post bop style. Yudkin illustrates and precisely defines this style with an analysis of the 1966 classic Miles Smiles.

Indiana University Press

Editorial Reviews

ForeWord

"In his thoughtful new book, Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop..., Boston University music professor Jeremy Yudkin reconsiders one of Davis's lesser known albums, [Miles Smiles], and argues that it constitutes a new direction for Davis as well as the mark of Davis' creation of the style of post-bop music." —ForeWord

Wisconsin Bookwatch

"A thoughtful exploration... Highly recommended." —Wisconsin Bookwatch

Metro Spirit

"Yudkin does a fantastic job of managing the various elements of music and personality in his work, and in so doing, he evaluates the previous work of Davis and the fusion of his later pieces while focusing on the moments in life that drove Davis into the wide open spaces of creative ingenuity. A thorough analysis of the 1966 classic 'Miles Smiles' is complimented by Yudkin’s ability to use schematics and sheet music snapshots in order to analyze the changes and revelations of the new form versus the earlier roads traveled. With stunning clarity, this work introduces the reader to the intricate details that exist beneath the sound coming from speakers." —Metro Spirit

www.allaboutjazz.com
...one of the best Miles Davis books...—David Rickert, www.allaboutjazz.com

— David Rickert

Jazzwise
"... the author writes convincingly about the actual music, as well as its surrounding circumstances.... this book should be widely welcomed and especially recommended to readers interested in the nuts and bolts of the music." —Brian Priestley, Jazzwise, July 2008

— Brian Priestley

Allaboutjazz.com
"...one of the best Miles Davis books..." —David Rickert, allaboutjazz.com

— David Rickert

www.allaboutjazz.com - David Rickert

"...one of the best Miles Davis books..." —David Rickert, www.allaboutjazz.com

Jazzwise - Brian Priestley

"... the author writes convincingly about the actual music, as well as its surrounding circumstances.... this book should be widely welcomed and especially recommended to readers interested in the nuts and bolts of the music." —Brian Priestley, Jazzwise, July 2008

Larry Dwyer

"This book combines serious historical research with penetrating analysis of the music and a generous portion of musical examples.... Jeremy Yudkin has made an excellent contribution to jazz literature." —Larry Dwyer, Director of Jazz Studies, University of Notre Dame

John J. Joyce

"It will make a fine addition to the still small number of solid musical studies of jazz, as begun by scholars like Gunther Schuller, Mark Tucker, and Lewis Porter." —John J. Joyce, Associate Professor of Music, Tulane University

From the Publisher
"It will make a fine addition to the still small number of solid musical studies of jazz, as begun by scholars like Gunther Schuller, Mark Tucker, and Lewis Porter." —John J. Joyce, Associate Professor of Music, Tulane University

"In his thoughtful new book, Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop..., Boston University music professor Jeremy Yudkin reconsiders one of Davis's lesser known albums, [Miles Smiles], and argues that it constitutes a new direction for Davis as well as the mark of Davis' creation of the style of post-bop music." —ForeWord

"...one of the best Miles Davis books..." —David Rickert, www.allaboutjazz.com

IMPROVIJAZZATION Nation
... Yudkin's style of writing will wrap any reader (even a musical novice) up completely in his flow. I assume (though I don't know) that he (Jeremy) wrote this while listening to the albums he wrote about, or that he had listened so extensively that the patterns were sort of "burned" into his brain - for my read, I watched the video of "All Blue" and "Footprints" (one of my favorite all-time tracks) as I read Professor Yudkin's blow-by-blow of each tune he was describing. His overall focus was that "Miles Smiles" was an album often overlooked as "classic Davis" - he succeeded in convincing me! This is an excellent account of the often turbulent life of a player that inhabited those cosmic realms that all jazz musicians aspire to, & I give it our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, particularly for those who want to catch a glimmer of how tunes are structured and (at times) improvised... the musical diagrams that are included really help the reader to understand each track, especially when they are listening to the tune being described.
—Rotcod Zzaj
David Metro Spirit
. . . [A] fantastic job . . . With stunning clarity, this work introduces the reader the intricate details that exist beneath the sound coming from speakers.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780253219527
Publisher:
Indiana University Press
Publication date:
11/28/2007
Pages:
184
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.46(d)

Read an Excerpt

Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop


By Jeremy Yudkin

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2008 Jeremy Yudkin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-21952-7



CHAPTER 1

Miles Smiles?


Before the release of his striking album of 1967, recorded toward the end of 1966, Miles Davis hadn't done much smiling recently. He had spent much of the previous year out of action due to severe pain from his arthritic left hip and two operations to repair and ultimately replace the joint. Three months in early 1966 were lost to an inflammation of the liver. He was also concentrating hard on finding his way through the turbulence of the 1960s. The imminent death of jazz was being forecast more often than usual and with more cause, and Davis was forced to react to several other phenomena of the time, both musical and social.

The most overwhelming musical maelstrom of the time was rock music. The first tour of the Beatles to the United States in 1964 began the American version of Beatlemania. This first trip lasted only nine days but was responsible for the sale of millions of records. In 1965 a multicity tour garnered completely unprecedented profits of $56 million. In today's star-weary world, it is hard to remember how startling was the phenomenon of rock in the mid-1960s. The Beatles were only one of many such supernovae in a two-year period that saw the early ascendancy of the Rolling Stones, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, the first products of the Berry Gordy Motown assembly line, and the electrification of Bob Dylan on Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited (both 1965) and the double album known as Blonde on Blonde (1966). Davis noted that "all of a sudden jazz became passé. ... All of a sudden rock 'n' roll was in the forefront of the media." The end of the decade saw Davis adopt many of the elements of rock music: electrification, synthetic instruments, heavy bass, and multiple percussion. There was also the creation of persona — the clothes, the iconoclasm, the sprezzatura — itself reminiscent of the aura of Dylan. Then, too, Davis had to come to terms with the powerful disintegrative forces of so-called free jazz, in the two modes adopted by John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman and idiosyncratically exemplified by Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy (often together from 1960 to 1964) and Cecil Taylor. Coleman's Free Jazz album of 1960 (Atlantic 1364-2) was not the first recorded example of collective improvisation, but it was certainly the most influential. Coleman's work represented an avant-garde that further divided jazz audiences and that was at first highly unattractive to Davis.

The jazz culture was disintegrating in other ways. Many of the clubs along 52nd Street in New York, the Mecca of American jazz, had been forced to close for lack of patronage or had become strip joints, and several dance halls and ballrooms had either closed down or changed to a movie format. Even the famous Birdland, founded in honor of Charlie Parker in 1949, closed its doors on Broadway and 52nd in 1965, and the site was taken over for a rock club.

Miles was also getting "blacker." Handsome black faces graced the covers of his recordings from the 1960s, including his own and those of his wives Frances Taylor Davis and Cicely Tyson. The 1960s quintet was all black, although Davis collaborated frequently with white musicians. Most important among these were Gil Evans, of course, the arranger and composer for Birth of the Cool (1949 and 1950), Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain (all late 1950s); 8 Bill Evans on Kind of Blue (1959); and Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, and David Holland for the fusion albums in the late 1960s. Perhaps the most enduring relationship of his life was with Teo Macero, his white record producer. Davis and Macero worked together for nearly twenty years, and Macero has referred to the relationship as a "marriage." Certainly Davis stayed with Macero longer than he did with any of his wives or indeed with any other musical collaborator.

Issues of social justice and racial equality were higher than ever on the list of cultural concerns in the mid-1960s. The year 1961 had seen the beginning of the Freedom Rides and the bus boycott of Albany, Georgia. In 1963 police assaulted demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama; Medgar Evers was murdered in Jackson, Mississippi; and Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech in front of 200,000 civil rights marchers in Washington, D.C. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was followed in 1965 by passage of the Voting Rights Act. Music was at the forefront of these concerns (as with many others of social and cultural consequence, including sexual freedom, war protest, and drugs). Witness Bob Dylan's "Oxford Town" (1963), about the resistance at the University of Mississippi to the matriculation of a black student, "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" (1964), and "A Pawn in Their Game" (1964), about the death of Medgar Evers.

In 1965 two strongly contrasted images presented themselves to the American public. While ghettos burned in Watts and Harlem, popular music and jazz reflected the "black is beautiful" emphasis of soul. James Brown ("Soul Brother Number One"), Otis Redding ("The King of Soul"), Ray Charles ("The Genius of Soul"), and Aretha Franklin ("Lady Soul") were swept along as music drenched in blackness swelled the wave of popular music in the mid-1960s. Black themes colored the recordings of John Coltrane, not only in their religious fervor (which, though not an exclusively black theme, is a powerful element of soul) but also in the occasional wordless protest (for example, the keening "Alabama" [1963]). Both free jazz and hard bop were deeply infused with black influences — political, aesthetic, and musical. Miles Davis's black-tinged titles from the mid-1960s include "Freedom Jazz Dance," "Prince of Darkness," "Hand Jive," "Black Comedy," and "I Have a Dream."

In 1965, therefore, Davis was faced with unprecedented challenges to his sense of self and the place of his music in the contemporary world. What is remarkable is that he not only survived these challenges but overcame them to embark upon a period of extraordinarily creative productivity. Between January 1965 and June 1968, Miles Davis did many things, including tour the world and spend over a year and a half in the hospital or recuperating from a serious illness. But if for nothing else, this period will be remembered for six albums recorded by Miles Davis and his band, in which a wholly new approach to music making is attempted, extraordinary risks are taken, and performances are captured that stand among the most intense and intriguing of the genre. Jack Chambers writes, "For reviewers and fans alike, [these six recordings] belong at or very near the apex of Davis's achievements as a jazz musician." For Todd Coolman, the recordings document "what is arguably the greatest single transition of musical style in all of modern jazz." In his book 'Round about Midnight: A Portrait of Miles Davis, Eric Nisenson states: "The albums Miles made with the 1960s quintet are among the most important work of his career." Harvey Pekar describes the mid-1960s quintet as "the most unjustifiably neglected group that Miles Davis ever led." And Bill Kirchner states categorically: "Today [1997], the Davis quintet of the mid- to late 1960s is revered as one of the finest ensembles in jazz history." This achievement must be seen as all the more impressive given the adversity of the cultural and social context in which Davis was working.

What Davis did was to establish a family from within which he could fight these personal and artistic battles in a way that would satisfy his creative cravings. He put together a group of musicians with whom he could work, whom he could lead, and whose musical integrity and individuality were such that Davis could both mold them and learn from them at the same time. His spiky and difficult personality was turned only to the outside world. Within the group, Ron Carter said, he was "friendly and open ... willing to lend you money or even borrow it for you, always ready to invite you to lunch or dinner. ... I have only superlatives for the man." The central element of strong family dynamics prevailed. Herbie Hancock says: "We had absolute trust in each other's ability to respond to whatever would happen. ... You could just throw something out there just because you felt it, and you would know you could trust that something would come back." Even more than in most families, there was unanimity in this group. "Collectively," says Carter, "We were a mind of one." And in a 2000 interview Wayne Shorter recalled the magic and excitement of working together:

We didn't even say anything to each other. In fact, we never even talked about anything. We never discussed what we were doing afterwards or before. But we all knew that we were going into some territory, some virgin territory or some points unknown. And you know what? Miles asked me, he said, "Do you ever get the feeling that you can play anything you want to play?" And before I answered, he said, "I know what you mean." He said [whispering, imitating Miles], "I know what you mean." [laughs] "You can play anything that you want to play." I was getting ready to answer, and he said, "I know what you mean," and he walked away. So I walked away, too. [laughs] We had a good time.


No wonder the band called their first studio album E.S.P. Looking back in his autobiography, Davis gave the band his highest accolade: "I knew right away that this was going to be a motherfucker of a group."

The sextet of the late 1950s — with Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Wynton Kelly (sometimes Red Garland and/or Bill Evans), Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb (sometimes Philly Joe Jones) — had produced much fine music as well as one of the most enduring albums of twentieth-century jazz: Kind of Blue. But like Bob Dylan, Miles Davis never looked backwards. The quintet of the mid-1960s was, if anything, even more productive than the sextet of the late 1950s. And of the six albums released during those years, 1965–69, the one that most successfully balances innovation and tradition, the one whose intellectual component is sufficiently rigorous to support radical musical change and the bounding energy of five highly independent-minded individuals, is Miles Smiles, featuring a completely uncharacteristic eyebrows-to-chin shot of a broadly grinning Davis on a background of hot orange. On the six tracks of this album, recorded without alternate takes on two consecutive days in October 1966, the intense seriousness of the participants is patently obvious. The fire and energy of these performances cauterize every blemish (there are several) and overshadow some ragged uncertainties of ensemble and direction, whose combined effect, far from detracting from the spirit of the music, lend it the immediacy and dangerousness of a high-wire act. The six performances (again, these were all first takes) of Miles Smiles are "Circle," "Orbits," "Dolores," "Freedom Jazz Dance," "Ginger Bread Boy," and "Footprints." They were recorded in this order, the first four on October 24, the last two on October 25, 1966. On the album itself, the order of the first two is reversed, and "Footprints" is placed third, putting "Orbits," "Circle," and "Footprints" on the first side of the LP and "Dolores," "Freedom Jazz Dance," and "Ginger Bread Boy" (alternately "Gingerbread Boy") on the second.

Almost everything is fresh in these six performances. Most notable are the adoption of a kind of elastic form that can stretch to accommodate creative improvisation; employment of uncommon time signatures and reinterpretation of familiar ones; reconceived roles for drums and bass; redefinition of the piano as a horn; full engagement in both the precompositional and the performance-compositional modes by both horn players; a flatter, more floating, and rhythmically more varied approach to the creation of solo lines; melodic as well as harmonic reminiscence; a multifaceted juxtaposition of momentum and stasis; a reversal of the locus of greater activity from soloists to drummer; and the replacement of much of the responsibility for timekeeping from drums to bass, thus freeing the drummer in the direction of unprecedented flexibility. These are the specific elements that make up the new style that we can call post bop. Analysis of Miles Smiles also permits us to make direct comparison of three of the tracks ("Footprints," "Freedom Jazz Dance," and "Ginger Bread Boy") with recordings of the "same" material from within the previous couple of years, thus showing dramatically what is new in the post-bop style.

But before we can understand the historic breakthrough of Miles Smiles and the significance of its position in Miles Davis's output, we need to look back at his musical accomplishments in the years leading up to the formation of the second great quintet. What we shall discover is a career with a slow beginning, a meteoric ascent, and a disconcerting collapse before the revivifying period of the mid-1960s.

CHAPTER 2

Birth


Davis's style was established over the years from 1949 to 1959. He had apprenticed with Charlie Parker since the mid-1940s, and it was perhaps in sheer self-defense that he developed his epigrammatic way of playing and his tendency to use the lower register of his instrument. Against Parker's flurry of notes and Dizzy Gillespie's high-energy, high-stratosphere playing, Davis's style is clearly differentiated.

His first important work was in the context of the nonet that was gathered together to make the recordings that ultimately came to be known as The Birth of the Cool. This title was only retrospectively applied to the highly influential small-big-band sessions recorded in January and April 1949 and March 1950. Remarkably for a young man of twenty-three, Davis had a contract for twelve sides from Capitol Records, and under the guidance of Gil Evans he brought together an unusual combination of players. The nonet of Birth of the Cool fame stood halfway between the normal bop quintet and the big band of twelve to sixteen pieces. It featured trumpet, alto sax, and a rhythm section (piano, bass, drums), like a bop combo, but it also included four other instruments, two of which were conventional for a big band and two of which were not. Davis and Evans had in mind a special smoother sound, so in addition to the normal trombone and baritone sax they used a French horn and a tuba. The result was a mellow, mid- to low-range sound, capable of flexibility and rhythmic subtlety. Max Harrison has described the sound of the band as one in which "the sounds of all the instruments were fused in a texture whose parts moved with a supple fluidity that contrasted with the hard, bright, darting lines of bop." The main soloists, apart from Davis, included the alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, and pianist John Lewis. It was early in their careers for all of these men, and they shared a common characteristic: a light, smooth style of playing, evenly rhythmic with subtle swing, that stood in contrast to the unpredictability and irregular bursts of bop. Konitz and Mulligan were twenty-two; John Lewis was twenty-nine. At thirty-seven Gil Evans was the gray eminence behind the group. He had made a name for himself as an arranger for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, where he favored a smooth texture, rich in medium and low brass and light on the vibrato. The relationship between Evans and Davis was based on mutual respect. "He liked the way I played, and I liked the way he wrote," Davis said. As Evans put it, "We had this thing — this sound — in common."

Evans lived in a small basement apartment in New York, which served as a kind of informal meeting house in which jazz musicians gathered and talked. As Mulligan recalled, "Everybody seemed to gravitate to Gil's place." These were knowledgeable men. Apart from the immense amount of knowledge they picked up by playing, many of them had formal training. Davis had come to New York from East St. Louis to attend Juilliard (although his attendance there was brief and spotty). Konitz had studied with a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as with Lennie Tristano. Mulligan played many reed instruments and had learned the piano; he was also a composer and arranger who worked for Gene Krupa's big band and contributed scores to the Thornhill Orchestra. John Lewis studied music at the University of New Mexico and earned a master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music; he also spent time in Europe, studying piano and composing.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop by Jeremy Yudkin. Copyright © 2008 Jeremy Yudkin. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

David Rickert
"Accessible and colorful . . . one of the best Miles Davis books . . . "--(David Rickert, All.About.Jazz (allaboutjazz.com))
Larry Dwyer
" . . . Combines serious historical research with penetrating analysis of the music... an excellent contribution to jazz literature."--(Larry Dwyer, Director of Jazz Studies, University of Notre Dame)
J.B. Spins
" . . . [O]ffers some helpful transcriptions and interesting observations on the Davis recordings . . . an intriguing argument . . . "--(J.B. Spins, jbspins.blogspot.com)

Meet the Author

Jeremy Yudkin is professor of music at the College of Fine Arts and associated faculty of the Department of African American Studies at Boston University and Visiting Professor of Music at Oxford University.

Indiana University Press

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