Nutmegging This Up

Hunting vintage jazz vinyl records in the Nutmeg State

Miles Davis – Milestones (1958)

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Miles Davis, trumpet

with John Coltrane (ts), Cannonball Adderley (as), Red Garland (p), Paul Chambers (b), Philly Joe Jones (d)

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Columbia Six Eye label, mono

Matrix stamps end in 1AA on side 1, 1G on side 2.  I haven’t been able to stumble upon any information regarding what that means.  I have Columbia LPs with “1A” at the end of both matrix numbers, which I assume denotes a first pressing.  I don’t know what to make of this guy…but I have noticed an odd additional marking at the top of the front cover that leads me to believe it is a second pressing.

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I’ve seen mono six eyes on eBay that have covers which do not have this marking.  It reminds me of the “STEREO” marking that some covers would have, where it would be the top of the front cover if it were a stereo pressing, but would be folded over to the back if it were mono.  The actual text doesn’t actually provide a clue either way.

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(What a tough cover to have ring wear on…that inner ring goes right through Miles’s eye…)

A really interesting record when you consider what Miles’s quintet (expanded to sextet here) was putting down on Prestige and the prior releases on Columbia, and what the next version of this band would create the following year.  The story of Kind of Blue is a fascinating one, and Milestones has a substantially significant role in its creation if you think about the music found on this LP.

“Miles” opens the second half of the record (a tune that is often known as “Milestones”), and if I remember correctly, it is the first piece of modal music Miles would play on one of his own records, maybe the first he ever recorded at all.  I’ve read reviews and critiques of the track where writers seem to suggest that some of the musicians, particularly John Coltrane, sound as if they aren’t exactly sure how to go about playing over a seemingly stark background of just two chords, each one used for an eternity in jazz changes: 16 bars or longer.

I hear it a little differently – guys like Coltrane and to a lesser extent Adderley and Garland are not trying to force patterns and changes into the stagnant harmony.  Instead, it does cause them to branch out slowly but surely, and when they do play something that seems to be somewhat outside of the modal vein, like when Coltrane busts out some quick sheets of sound descending arpeggios, it totally changes the perspective of that lick.  It’s not a case of square pegs and round holes, but repeated listenings to the cuts doesn’t necessarily reveal any moments of epiphany for any of the players either, even Miles.

It’s interesting to note that barring Red Garland’s jaunty block-chord romp through “Billy Boy” all of the music besides the modal “Miles” is based on blues changes (“Two Bass Hit” uses blues changes for the solos, other tunes are blues changes throughout).  Even these cuts have a somewhat exploratory feel to them, in particular the murky and sluggish “Sid’s Ahead” which seems as if it’s almost designed in a way that bars the players from slipping into tried and true turnarounds at the end of each chorus.  It seems no coincidence that the blues have a significant role in two of the five songs found on Kind of Blue.

Some would say I’m splitting hairs here…that I should just enjoy the music.  I beg to differ.  When you’re talking about someone like Miles, who changed the course of music a few times, it’s all worth dissecting.  Bottom line is when you take the music out of the context of its time, place, and circumstances, you put a cap on just how much that music can be enjoyed and appreciated – sure, you’ll always hit that glass ceiling, but don’t you want to know what’s on the other side?

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One comment on “Miles Davis – Milestones (1958)

  1. Joe L.
    January 7, 2013

    Helpful Columbia stamper info is here:

    http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/columbia-stamper-info-needed.79832/

    1G is the 7th cutting and 1AA is the 12th cutting from the first mix or tape used in the mastering.

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This entry was posted on December 2, 2012 by .
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