Chapter Study Outline

  1. The Sorcerer: Miles Davis (1926-1991)
    1. Nobody looms larger in postwar jazz than Miles, partly because no one had a greater capacity for change. He changed the rules of jazz five times from 1949 to 1969.
      1. 1949-1950: the "Birth of the Cool" sessions helped focus a younger generation's search for something beyond bop and started the cool jazz movement.
      2. 1954: "Walkin'" started the hard bop movement.
      3. 1957-1960: with Gil Evans he enlarged the scope of jazz composition, orchestration, big bands, and recording projects while adding a new, meditative mood to jazz.
      4. 1959: Kind of Blue was the culmination of Davis's experiments with modes and melodic improvisation replacing the harmonic complexity of bop.
      5. 1969: Bitches Brew made fusion mainstream and shifted the music's focus from melody to rhythm and timbre.
    2. Throughout this twenty-year period, Davis forced a rethinking of harmony, melody, rhythm, and instrumentation, while his approach to trumpet playing remained pretty much the same.
    3. His persona was also influential: the archetypal jazz musician (cool, romantic) and civil rights black man (outspoken, self-reliant); charismatic, a symbol of his time, imitated for his dress and attitude; a mystery to many.
    4. Early Years
      1. Born in Illinois into a wealthy black family that moved to East St. Louis when he was one, he grew up self-confident.
      2. In 1944 he sat in with the Billy Eckstine band next to Parker and Dizzy (who advised him to learn piano and harmony). Later that year he went to Julliard in New York, before dropping out after a year to learn from Parker.
      3. In 1945, when Davis was nineteen, Bird hired him for his quintet. He soloed on a couple of pieces ("Now's the Time" and "Billie's Bounce") but lacked the chops for "Ko Ko." This event encapsulated Davis's dilemma while he was with this band: how to develop his own style in the shadow of Parker and Gillespie.
      4. In contrast to the high register and active playing of boppers, Miles preferred the middle register, longer and fewer notes, and a focus on timbre and melody. To compensate he composed harmonically complex pieces ("Sippin' at Bells").
      5. In 1949 he left Parker to experiment with the Birth of the Cool musicians and others. He also went to the first jazz festival in Paris, where he experienced the respect jazz and his own music enjoyed in Europe. At twenty-three, he had his own distinctive sound, characterized by restraint.
      6. Embittered by the contrast between his positive experience in Europe and the realities of race in the United States, he fell into heroin addiction for four years. During this time he completed Birth of the Cool.
      7. The year 1954 was a turning point. He beat his addiction and made five great recordings for Prestige Records with a rhythm section of Horace Silver (piano), Percy Heath (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums), and a number of other great musicians, thereby reestablishing himself.
      8. viii)Davis introduced a new kind of black masculinity in his music and look: tender but invincible. Two months after "Walkin'," with Sonny Rollins, he premiered three Rollins pieces that have since become standards. He also introduced the Harmon mute, which created an intense humming sound that augmented Davis's intensity.
    5. Star Time
      1. In 1955 Davis played Monk's "'Round Midnight" at the Newport Jazz Festival using the Harmon mute to great acclaim. He soon signed with Columbia Records, a major step up. But he was still under contract to Prestige for three years, so he made five albums in two marathon sessions to fulfill the conditions of the contract. The sheer number of albums released by Miles during the late 1950s boosted his reputation.
      2. His first Columbia album, 'Round about Midnight (1955), featured Davis's first great quintet: John Coltrane, Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Gil Evans did the arrangement for "'Round Midnight." The album cover photo was an iconic image of Miles.
      3. Three noticeable aspects of the quintet:
        1. The contrast between Davis's restraint and Coltrane's demonstrative virtuosity reverses the Parker/Davis disparity.
        2. The assertive rhythm section consists of Jones's strong attack and Chamber's time and harmonic skill.
        3. The repertory was diverse: originals plus pop songs from the 1920s or borrowed from Broadway.
      4. Sources for pieces came from Red Garland's encyclopedic knowledge of pop music and Frank Sinatra's simultaneous career revitalization. Davis opened up the jazz repertoire by using unlikely titles (considered "corny") like "Bye, Bye, Blackbird," "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top," and "If I Were a Bell."
    6. Gil Evans and a Night at the Movies
      1. Miles's Columbia producer wanted to do something completely different for the second album (1957) since all the Prestige material would be released annually. Miles Ahead was the result. Gil Evans arranged a nineteen-piece ensemble with Miles as the only soloist, composed transitions in between selections, and used post-production techniques to correct weaknesses due to inadequate rehearsal and recording time. It was a hit with the public and the critics.
      2. Davis disbanded the quintet and went to Europe, where he was offered an opportunity by director Louis Malle to provide music for a film (Elevator to the Gallows). Malle asked him to improvise the music with some local musicians while watching the film. Davis improvised on scales rather than chords and used slow, drawn-out phrases. It was a eureka moment. He returned to the United States eager to explore this new way of playing.
      3. He first had to put a band together. He chose Cannonball Adderley (alto sax); former associate John Coltrane (recently recovered from drug addition); and his old rhythm section, consisting of Garland, Chambers, and Jones.
      4. Three weeks later he went into the studio with Gil Evans to record a version of Gershwin's 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The third Evans- Davis collaboration, Sketches of Spain (1960), was based on Spanish classical and folk music.
  2. Kind of Blue
    1. Between Porgy and Bess (1958) and Sketches of Spain (1960), Miles made his most celebrated album, Kind of Blue, an album that is the culmination of his work in modal jazz and one that influenced generations of musicians. Miles kept things fresh by keeping the compositions simple but unseen until the recording session.
    2. Bop was harmonically busy music. By 1959 improvising in bebop came to be an endlessly imitated task. Modal jazz went in the opposite direction by decreasing harmonic density so that melody became the focus. This was not new in jazz (blues, melodic paraphrase), but modal jazz provided a revitalization of the relationship between improvised melody and its harmonic foundation.
    3. Davis was not alone in trying to move jazz beyond bop. Mingus (minimal harmonies), Brubeck (oddnumbered meters), Russell (theoretical underpinning), and the avant-garde (breaking the rules) also contributed.
    4. Probably the best-selling jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue suited Miles's mid-range lyricism and reserved approach while, at the same time, providing a vehicle for Coltrane's exuberant style.
    5. Davis changed some of the rhythm section for this album. Adderley's drummer, Jimmy Cobb, replaced Jones because of Cobb's more restrained style.
    6. Hard bopper and bluesy Wynton Kelley played piano on "Freddie the Freeloader." Otherwise, Davis used Bill Evans, who had served as his pianist earlier in 1958 and who contributed the aural cornerstone to the album's success.
  3. Bill Evans (1929-1980)
    1. As a child he studied piano and violin and played in dance bands as a teenager. After his work with Russell he was invited to record with his own trio in 1956. New Jazz Conceptions introduced his "Waltz for Debby," which became a standard and showed him to be a promising composer.
    2. For two years Evans worked with Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Chet Baker, Gunther Schuller, and others. Then, in 1958, he led Everybody Digs Bill Evans, which included the improvised "Peace Piece."
    3. Nineteen fifty-nine was an important year for Evans. He recorded Kind of Blue and his third album, Portrait in Jazz. Drawing on his knowledge of classical music and modal jazz, he developed an original approach to chord voicings.
      1. Portrait in Jazz also marked a new approach to the jazz trio, a much more interactive approach especially on the part of the bass player.
      2. His trio was made up of Paul Motian on drums and Scott LaFaro on bass. The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings (1961) shows the group at its peak. LaFaro's death in a car accident derailed Evans for a while. But he continued to record and composed challenging pieces such as "Peri's Scope" and others.
      3. Evans's "Blue in Green" composed for Kind of Blue is a ten-measure chord sequence that is circular. His use of quartal harmonies adds to the modal quality of the album by not suggesting any specific progression (as on "Flamenco Sketches"). The piece that popularized the album is "So What."
    4. "So What"
      1. This has a standard AABA 32-bar chord structure with one harmonic change: from D Dorian mode in the A sections to E-flat Dorian on the bridge. Davis uses the basic notes of a D-minor triad for much of his solo.
      2. The introduction is thought to have been sketched by Gil Evans. Chambers's three-note phrase prompts a piano figure, which in turn leads to a piano and bass figure followed by some Spanish-style chords and the bass's introduction of the main theme. Later, Davis's solo had lyrics put to it, Russell orchestrated it for a big band, and Davis continued to record at ever-faster tempos. By the early 1960s the modal jazz exemplified here was everywhere.
  4. John Coltrane (1926-1967)
    1. Within the world that Miles Davis created through his choice of musicians and their lasting influence, none looms larger than John Coltrane. Coltrane fully explored the modal world and the cultural, musical, and ethical avant-garde of the 1960s in his short-lived and controversial career.
    2. Both Davis and Coltrane were dissatisfied with their music and resolved this issue by pursuing different directions later in their careers: Davis to fusion, Coltrane to the avant-garde. Both rested on modality.
    3. Born into a racist community in North Carolina, Coltrane lost his father at the age of twelve and became distracted from his studies while becoming obsessed with music.
      1. He practiced alto saxophone and took odd jobs to help support his family.
      2. He moved to Philadelphia, enrolling in the Ornstein School of Music where he became fascinated with scales that he practiced for hours.
      3. Once out of the navy, he joined the big band of his friend, saxophonist Jimmy Heath.
    4. While Hawkins emphasized chords, Coltrane tried to play every note in every chord—creating what Ira Gitler later referred to as "sheets of sound" in 1958, following Coltrane's recovery from heroin addiction and the subsequent rededication to his technique. (Coltrane was addicted to narcotics and alcohol when Davis hired him in 1955 for his first great quintet.)
    5. Awakening
      1. Davis fired Coltrane twice for drug dependency. After the second time, in 1957, Coltrane cleaned up his life after undergoing a religious experience that led him to devote his life entirely to music. He spent a year playing with and being educated by Monk, collaborating Modality: Miles Davis and John Coltrane | 73 with him at New York City's Five Spot. He freelanced, composed ("Blue Trane," "Moment's Notice"), and exhibited a facility with rapid tempos and romantic ballads.
      2. In 1959 he also recorded Kind of Blue with Davis and albums with Adderley and Milt Jackson. In May he recorded his landmark album Giant Steps with bebop pianist Tommy Flanagan, Davis's bassist Paul Chambers, and hard bop drummer Art Taylor. Coltrane composed all the pieces including three that became jazz standards: "Giant Steps," "Naima," and "Mr. P.C." This music extended modal jazz.
    6. Coltrane explored the relationship between chords and scales as he composed more complicated harmonic sequences. "Giant Steps" is an example. Harmonically busy and with a rapid tempo, it signaled his farewell to the strict bebop and hard bop idioms as well as a reply to the mood and modality of Kind of Blue.
    7. "My Favorite Things"
      1. Improbably, this fifteen-minute 1960 recording became a hit. It made Coltrane a jazz star while popularizing the use of modes.
      2. This version of the piece is underpinned by a persistent percussive vamp, and its pitch material is reduced to two scales, one major, the other minor, resulting in an incantatory quality.
      3. This is also the first recording of the definitive Coltrane quartet, which included McCoy Tyner on piano and Elvin Jones on drums. (Jimmy Garrison joined a year later.) This piece suggested an approach to other standards that Coltrane recorded including "Greensleeves," "Softly as the Morning Sunrise," "Body and Soul," and others.
    8. A Love Supreme
      1. Although Coltrane had played with first-rate bop pianists, he found that Tyner had the very combination of harmonic sophistication, partiality for vamps, musical economy, rhythmic strength, and the sense of dramatic purpose that he was seeking.
      2. Elvin Jones matched Tyner's intensity. He was a master of polyrhythm, and this sometimes led to duels between Coltrane and Jones, during which McCoy would often simply stop playing.
      3. Jones claimed that Garrison's aggressiveness lifted the whole band.
      4. "Chasin' the Trane"
        1. In 1961 Coltrane signed with a new label, Impulse—"The New Wave in Jazz"—and recorded a sixteen-minute blues live at the Village Vanguard in New York. It split his audience in two: those who thought it was "anti-jazz" and "musical nonsense," and those who thought it signaled a new hope for jazz.
        2. This piece occupies one whole side of an LP. It is fast, relentless in its driving energy during Trane's eighty piano-less choruses, and uses multiphonics, squeals, cries, as well as free playing (although Garrison and Jones restrain Coltrane's freedom here by marking off the twelve-bar structure).
        3. The intensity of the performance makes it seem that there is no beginning or end, just a middle. This intensity, with no melody and rhythm that one can easily latch on to, left some listeners cold, but others invigorated.
      5. In December 1964 Coltrane recorded a fourpart suite and canticle called A Love Supreme. The reviews were good. Musicians and listeners saw him as a leader in the march to the new music.
      6. This piece refers to his 1957 conversion and liberation from addiction in four movements: "Acknowledgement," "Pursuance," "Resolution," and "Psalm." The music gradually moves from common harmonic practice to chromaticism. The public found this kind of avant-garde approachable, attracting both his old and new fans.
        1. "Acknowledgement"
          1. The liner notes for this album contain a description of his religious experience and a psalm written to God by Coltrane, the syllabic content of which inspired the fourth movement. The first movement is a culmination of his music up to that point using scales, pedal points, multiphonics, free improvisation, and shifting rhythms. A vocal chant near the end signals a key change.
          2. Coltrane's sound and use of pentatonic scales is distinctive. The four-note vocal figure is one of four themes for this movement that he uses to improvise. Throughout, Coltrane uses persistent motives that move to tonic chords.
          3. Some criticized Coltrane for abandoning musical coherence in favor of faith to guide the music. Nevertheless, this piece is strictly ordered.
    9. Ascension
      1. After A Love Supreme Coltrane formed a new group with avant-garde musicians Rasheid Ali, two or three drummers, and his wife, Alice, on piano. Garrison continued to play with Coltrane in a quintet that included tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. Coltrane's foray into the avant-garde was a product of its time (the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement), but it left a legacy of free improvisation and a broadened sound pallet.
      2. Coltrane's 1965 album Ascension consists of an improvisation by ten musicians on a minor triad and some ground chords. Though free solos alternate with ensemble improvisations, even here, there is some logic.
  5. Miles Davis's Second Quintet
    1. After Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, the future was not clear. Coltrane, Adderley, and Evans left to start their own careers, and Miles despised the avant-garde.
    2. Then, in 1963, he assembled a new quintet with younger musicians, creating his second great quintet. It included pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, seventeen-year-old drummer Tony Williams, and George Coleman on tenor saxophone. In 1964, Wayne Shorter took Coleman's place.
    3. Jazz at this time was beset by the avant-garde on the one hand and rock on the other. Before Davis entered his fusion phase, he adapted modal jazz and elements of the avant-garde in a postbop style that included harmonic ambiguity, original compositions with new kinds of harmonic frameworks, and a looser sense of rhythmic underpinning. Some of the original pieces encourage free improvisation.
    4. The rhythm section of this group acted with more freedom than most. They all seemed to solo at the same time. In this context, Davis became a more expansive trumpeter. He began to explore the upper register, faster tempos without regard to the occasional fluff, and jettisoned the older repertoire. Between 1965 and 1968 he made his own way to the avant-garde.
    5. "E.S.P."
      1. The 1965 album of the same name is the first studio recording of the new quintet and contains seven new compositions. The music is fast and audacious, a far cry from the jazz romanticism of the earlier Davis. This piece is 32 bars long but more complicated than "So What."
      2. The melody is based on fourths. The A section is built around an F scale; the second A closes with easily handled cadences. The solos are relatively free, rhythmically and melodically, as is the playing of the rhythm section.
      3. The younger public, musicians, and critics received this album and succeeding ones well, but none of them had the broad acceptance of Kind of Blue or Sketches of Spain. By 1965 rock and roll could no longer be ignored, and Davis would be forced to respond.

Chapter 14 Jukebox