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Miles Ahead session details

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June 14, 1956 (1 item; TT = 17:15)
Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York NY
Commercial for Columbia

John Ware (tpt); Ted Weiss (tpt); Joseph Alessi (tpt); Mel Broiles (tpt); Carmine Fornarotto (tpt); Isidore Blank (tpt); Gordon Pulis (tb); Gil Cohen (tb); John Clark (tb); Joe Singer (frh); Ray Alonge (frh); Art Sussman (frh); Gunther Schuller (frh); John Swallow (bhn); Ronald Ricketts (bhn); Bill Barber (tuba); Dick Horowitz (tymp, perc); Dimitri Mitropoulos (cond)

1 Symphony for Brass and Percussion, op. 16 (G. Schuller) 17:15


1 Symphony for Brass and Percussion, op. 16
12" LP: Columbia CL 941 (= PC 37012), CBS/Sony 20AP 1480
CD: Columbia CK 64929, CBS/Sony 25DP 5328, Sony SRCS 5696


Schuller's Symphony comprises four movements:

  • I. Andante - Allegro (4:45)
  • II. Scherzo (4:05)
  • III. Lento (3:09)
  • IV. Quasi cadenza - Allegro (5:10)

In the liner notes Schuller describes the piece as follows:

The concept of the symphony is of four contrasting movements, each representing one aspect of brass characteristics. Unity is maintained by a line of increasing inner intesity (not loudness) that reaches its peak in the last movement. The introductory first movement is followed by a scherzo with passages requiring great agility and technical dexterity. The third movement, scored almost entirely for six muted trumpets, brings about a further intensification of expression. The precipitous outburst at the beginning of the last movement introduces a kind of cadenza in which the first trumpet predominates. A timpani roll provides the bridge to the finale proper, which is a sort of Perpetuum mobile. Running through the entire movement are sixteenth-note figures, passing from one instrument to another in an unending chain. Out of this chattering pattern emerges the climax of the movement, in which a chord consisting of all twelve notes of the chromatic scale is broken up in a sort of rhythmic atomization, each pitch being sounded on a different 16th of the measure.

Davis doesn't play on this session, although he was present in the studio. In the notes to Columbia Legacy CK 64929, George Avakian writes that Davis asked to be introduced to Dimitri Mitropoulos, then the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, who was conducting the performance of Schuller's piece. "Hey George, ask him if I could play with his band some time," Davis asked. Mitropoulos was non-committal and nothing came of the suggestion.

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