Miles Ahead session details

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December 24, 1954 (7 items; TT = 56:51)
Rudy van Gelder Studio, Hackensack NJ
Commercial for Prestige
Miles Davis All-Stars

Miles Davis (tpt); Milt Jackson (vb); Thelonious Monk (p); Percy Heath (b); Kenny Clarke (d)

1 Bags' Groove (take 1) (M. Jackson) 11:06
2 Bags' Groove (take 2) (M. Jackson) 9:16
3 Bemsha Swing (T. Monk-D. Best) 9:29
4 Swing Spring (M. Davis) 10:41
5 The Man I Love (take 1 (fs)) (G. Gershwin-I. Gershwin) 0:20

Monk: "When am I supposed to come in, man?" Unidentified: "Oh, no.... Man, the cat's cuttin' hisself..." Monk: "I wanna know when to come in, man. Can't I start too? Everybody else..." Davis: "Shh... Shh... Hey Rudy, put this on the record -- ALL of it."
6 The Man I Love (take 1) (G. Gershwin-I. Gershwin) 8:04
7 The Man I Love (take 2) (G. Gershwin-I. Gershwin) 7:55

PRLP 200 includes this take, not take one, pace Michel Ruppli and some others


1 Bags' Groove (take 1)
10" LP: Prestige PRLP 196
12" LP: Prestige 7109, Prestige LP 16-3 (16-2/3 rpm LP), Prestige P-012 (12 LP), Analogue Productions AJAZ 7109 (45 rpm), Analogue Productions ARPJ 7109 (mono LP), Victor SMJ-6520, Victor VIJ-5090/5101 (12 LP)
CD: Fantasy OJC-245, Fantasy PRCD 7109, Prestige 8PCD-012, JVC XR 0046, Victor VICJ-23571, Victor VICJ-40225/32, Victor VICJ-60263, Victor VICJ-2035, Victor VICJ-61044, Victor VICJ-41027, Victor VIAJ-60016, Victor VICJ-41505, Universal UCCO-5008, Universal UCCO-9004, Universal UCCO-9208, Universal UCCO-9651

2 Bags' Groove (take 2)
12" LP: Prestige 7109, Prestige LP 16-3 (16-2/3 rpm LP), Prestige P-012 (12 LP), Analogue Productions AJAZ 7109 (45 rpm), Analogue Productions ARPJ 7109 (mono LP), Victor SMJ-6520, Victor VIJ-5090/5101 (12 LP)
CD: Fantasy OJC-245, Prestige PRCD 11004, Prestige FCD 60015, Fantasy PRCD 7109, Prestige 8PCD-012, JVC XR 0046, Victor VICJ-23571, Victor VICJ-40225/32, Victor VICJ-60263, Victor VICJ-2035, Victor VICJ-61044, Victor VICJ-41027, Victor VIAJ-60016, Victor VICJ-41505, Universal UCCO-5008, Universal UCCO-9004, Universal UCCO-9208, Universal UCCO-9651

3 Bemsha Swing
10" LP: Prestige PRLP 200
12" LP: Prestige 7150, Prestige LP 16-3 (16-2/3 rpm LP), Prestige P-012 (12 LP), Analogue Productions APJ 347, Analogue Productions AJAZ 7150 (45 rpm), Victor SMJ-6529, Victor VIJ-5090/5101 (12 LP),
CD: Fantasy OJC-347, Fantasy PRCD 7150, Victor VICJ-23542, Prestige 8PCD-012, Victor VICJ-40225/32, Victor VICJ-60281, Victor VICJ-2037, Universal UCCO-9017, Universal UCCO-5028, Universal UCCO-9228

4 Swing Spring
10" LP: Prestige PRLP 196
12" LP: Prestige 7150, Prestige LP 16-3 (16-2/3 rpm LP), Prestige P-012 (12 LP), Analogue Productions APJ 347, Analogue Productions AJAZ 7150 (45 rpm), Victor SMJ-6529, Victor VIJ-5090/5101 (12 LP),
CD: Fantasy OJC-347, Fantasy PRCD 7150, Victor VICJ-23542, Prestige 8PCD-012, Victor VICJ-40225/32, Victor VICJ-60281, Victor VICJ-2037, Universal UCCO-9017, Universal UCCO-5028, Universal UCCO-9228

5 The Man I Love (take 1 (fs))
12" LP: Prestige 7150, Prestige LP 16-3 (16-2/3 rpm LP), Prestige P-012 (12 LP), Analogue Productions APJ 347, Analogue Productions AJAZ 7150 (45 rpm), Victor SMJ-6529, Victor VIJ-5090/5101 (12 LP),
CD: Fantasy OJC-347, Fantasy PRCD 7150, Victor VICJ-23542, Victor VICJ-40225/32, Victor VICJ-60281, Victor VICJ-2037, Universal UCCO-9017, Universal UCCO-5028, Universal UCCO-9228

6 The Man I Love (take 1)
12" LP: Prestige 7150, Prestige LP 16-3 (16-2/3 rpm LP), Prestige P-012 (12 LP), Analogue Productions APJ 347, Analogue Productions AJAZ 7150 (45 rpm), Victor SMJ-6529, Victor VIJ-5090/5101 (12 LP),
CD: Fantasy OJC-347, Fantasy PRCD 7150, Victor VICJ-23542, Prestige 8PCD-012, Victor VICJ-40225/32, Victor VICJ-60281, Victor VICJ-2037, Universal UCCO-9017, Universal UCCO-5028, Universal UCCO-9228

7 The Man I Love (take 2)
10" LP: Prestige PRLP 200
12" LP: Prestige 7150, Prestige LP 16-3 (16-2/3 rpm LP), Prestige P-012 (12 LP), Analogue Productions APJ 347, Analogue Productions AJAZ 7150 (45 rpm), Victor SMJ-6529, Victor VIJ-5090/5101 (12 LP),
CD: Fantasy OJC-347, OJC-6017, Fantasy PRCD 7150, Victor VICJ-23542, Prestige 8PCD-012, Victor VICJ-40225/32, Victor VICJ-60281, Victor VICJ-2037, Universal UCCO-9017, Universal UCCO-5028, Universal UCCO-9228


This session, the fifth Prestige studio session of the year, is the subject of much legend. These were the "Modern Jazz Giants," an all-star group in which Davis was joined by three-fourths of the Modern Jazz Quartet and also the High Priest of Bop. Each of the stars brought a tune -- "Bags' Groove" (Jackson), "Bemsha Swing" (Monk), and "Swing Spring" (Davis); Gershwin's "The Man I Love" made a fourth. The session did not go smoothly, but many would agree with British critic Raymond Horricks, who described these titles in 1959 as "four of the most inspired jazz performances of the decade." The session began mid-afternoon, but by dinner time not much had been accomplished and nerves were frayed. Monk was upset at Davis's insistence that he not play while Davis was soloing, and things come to a head in the exchange captured at the beginning of the first take of "The Man I Love."

What Monk objected to is on display from the opening minutes of the first take of "Bags' Groove": after the melody is stated, Davis solos for three choruses, accompanied only by Heath and Clarke; Jackson begins his three choruses at 3:36, and Monk quickly falls in behind him with irregular angular chords. The contrast is striking. Monk's three-chorus solo is one of his best on record -- the first chorus contains the wonderful sequence of Cs and Fs followed by an F# (at 6:59) that critic André Hodier described as "one of the purest moments of beauty in the history of jazz." Davis returns with one chorus (Monk again drops out), and the theme is re-stated. The shorter second take of "Bags' Groove" has a similar structure: melody, then three Davis choruses (sans Monk); Jackson enters at 3:41 (with Monk close behind) and takes two short choruses. Monk plays another fine solo (also two choruses), followed by another Davis chorus sans Monk, and the closing theme.

"Bemsha Swing" is the one tune where Monk accompanies Davis throughout. At several points during Davis's three-chorus solo, Monk's odd chords seem to confuse him. Toward the end of his solo he quotes some Monkish phrases; when (following two choruses of Jackson) Monk gets his turn, he picks up these phrases and builds a striking solo from them.

"Swing Spring" is an early modal composition -- Davis told Nat Hentoff, "It was meant to be like an exercise, almost. It was based on a scale... I got that from Bud Powell; he used to play it all the time." After the ascending-descending melody is played, the solos are by Davis (0:21-2:18), Jackson (2:18-4:25), Davis again (4:25-6:32), Monk (6:32-8:34), Jackson again (8:34-9:56), followed by a reprise of the melody.

It's during the two takes of "The Man I Love" that the tension between Davis and Monk comes to a head. After the famous exchange that Davis insisted be included on the record, Jackson introduces the tune and Davis states the melody and plays two slow choruses (Monk offers some conservative accompaniment during the second chorus). The tempo doubles for Jackson's ebullient four-chorus solo. Monk's solo begins at 5:25 at the same tempo, but his first chorus (to use a phrase of Alun Morgan) "spread[s] the melody over twice the number of bars" -- so the melody is played at the pace Davis played it at the outset. Monk's second chorus is more typical, but the solo is another striking example of Monk's inventiveness. Davis returns for one chorus (backed aggressively by Monk, and at the doubled tempo), and then the tempo slows and the plaintive melody is stated again. The second take is, if anything, more memorable. The structure is the same, and Monk's solo begins at 4:54 with the same melody-dilating device, but near the end of the first 32 bars (ca. 5:25), he pulls up -- leaving Heath and Clarke to walk unaccompanied for twelve seconds (which must have seemed much longer). Davis steps in to fill the void, beginning with the opening notes of the "Four" theme, but Monk returns and completes his turn with an animated solo. (Why did Monk stop where he did? It's very unlikely that he was lost, since he pulled off the remarkable melody-dilating trick in the previous take. Was he just messing with Davis?) Davis's final chorus begins at 6:04, and halfway through he inserts his mute and completes the chorus. The tempo slows again at the bridge and the melody is re-stated.

Davis was booked for an extended stay (August 14 through mid-October) at the Blue Bird Inn in Detroit, where he played with a local group including Tommy Flanagan and Thad and Elvin Jones. Later he may have sat in with the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet, booked at Detroit's Crystal Lounge from November 30-December 12. Davis returned to Detroit on Christmas night, and participated in "Frank Brown's Biggest Battle Royal" at the Arcadia Roller Rink. Other artists included Gene Ammons, Big Maybelle, and Wynonie Harris.

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