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Miles Ahead session details

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June 30, 1950 (16 items; TT = 86:59)
Birdland, New York NY
Audience recording (B)
Show chatter

Miles Davis (tpt); Theodore "Fats" Navarro (tpt); J.J. Johnson (tb); Charlie Parker (as); Milton "Brew" Moore (ts); Tadd Dameron (p); Walter Bishop Jr. (p); Dillon "Curley" Russell (b); Art Blakey (d); Chubby Newsome (voc); Pee Wee Marquette (ann)

1 Band warming up 2:39

Various noodling, then "'Round Midnight" into introduction of Birdland All-Stars by Marquette
2 Wee [Allen's Alley] (D. Best) 11:12

Dameron (p). Issued as "Rambunctious Rambling" on Alto 701
3 Ow (D. Gillespie) 11:09

Dameron (p). During Moore's solo Pee Wee Marquette yells "go, baby!" (9:25). Issued as "Brew's Blues" on BOMO 49-53
4 Band warming up 0:36

Various noodling, then "Cool Blues" theme into introduction by Marquette
5 September in the Rain (A. Dubin-H. Warren) 3:36
6 Embraceable You (G. Gershwin-I. Gershwin) 4:12

Johnson out; Dameron (p)
7 Introduction (Pee Wee Marquette) 0:17
8 Chubby's Blues (C. Newsome) 2:30
9 For You My Love (N. Lutcher-N. Cole) 2:20
10 Band warming up 2:04

Various noodling, then "All the Things You Are" into introduction by Marquette
11 Max is Making Wax (O. Pettiford) 6:27

Dameron (p)
12 Hot House (T. Dameron) 10:03

Dameron (p), add Navarro (tpt). Issued as "Miles' Midnight Breakaway" on Session Disc 101
13 52nd Street Theme (T. Monk) 0:07

Dameron (p)
14 Conception/Deception (G. Shearing-M. Davis) 11:06

Bishop (p). Issued as "Poobah" on Alto 701 and Cicala 8030
15 Eronel (S. Hakim-I. Sulieman-T. Monk) 13:03

Bishop (p). During his solo Johnson quotes "Cool Blues" (4:15-4:18). Issued as "Overturia" on Session Disc 102 and as "Ouverturia" on Cicala 8030
16 52nd Street Theme (T. Monk) 5:38

Bishop (p). Taken at very slow tempo. After opening theme, there are three solos: Davis (0:56-3:18), Johnson (3:21-4:48), and Navarro (4:50-5:38). Cut off during Navarro's solo. Issued as "Slow Broadway Theme" on Session Disc 102

2 Wee
12" LP: Alto AL-701
CD: Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401, Le Jazz CD 45

3 Ow
12" LP: BOMO 49-53
CD: Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401

6 Embraceable You
12" LP: Session Disc 101
CD: Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401

8 Chubby's Blues
12" LP: Alto AL-701

10 Band warming up
CD: Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401

11 Max is Making Wax
CD: Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401

12 Hot House
12" LP: Beppo BEP-502, Session Disc 101
CD: Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401, Le Jazz CD 45

13 52nd Street Theme
12" LP: Beppo BEP-502
CD: Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401

14 Conception/Deception
12" LP: Alto AL-701, Cicala BLJ 8030, Bird Box 01-22 (LP 7)
CD: New Sound Planet JUTB 3001/18, Sound Hills SSCD 8014/34, Philology Volume 7 (W 57), Ember/Fat Boy FBB-901, Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401

15 Eronel
12" LP: Beppo BEP-502, Session Disc 102
CD: Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401

16 52nd Street Theme
12" LP: Session Disc 102
CD: Ember/Fat Boy FBB-901, Jazz Music Yesterday JMY ME-6401, Philology Volume 51 (W 882)

Parker plays only on the closing chorus of "Conception."

There is a lot of uncertainty about the dating of this music. The Miles Davis-Stan Getz Sextet were booked at Birdland for a week in February (Feb 9-16), and some broadcast recordings have been issued.

Davis' own sextet, with Brew Moore replacing Getz and occasionally joined by vocalist "Little" Jimmy Scott, remained at Birdland (opposite Ella Fitzgerald and the Bud Powell Trio) through July 6th.

In the notes to the JMY CD, Enrico Merlin argues that these tunes are all from a single night, June 30. Ken Vail (Miles' Diary) claims that broadcast recordings were made over several nights during this period:

  • Wednesday, May 17: Max is Making Wax; Chubby's Blues; Conception/Deception
  • Thursday, May 18: Hot House; 52nd Street Theme (Davis was in Columbia's 30th Street Studios with Sarah Vaughan and the Jimmy Jones Octet for sessions on May 18 and 19.)
  • Saturday, May 20: 'Round Midnight; Embraceable You; Wee
  • Sunday, May 21: Ow; For Now My Love [sic]; September in the Rain; Eronel; 52nd Street Theme
  • Monday, May 29: 52nd Street Theme
  • Tuesday, May 30: Wee; Chubby's Blues
  • Friday, June 30: Hot House; Embraceable You; Eronel; 52nd Street Theme (Walter Bishop, Jr. replaces Tadd Dameron)

Vail's source is probably Boris Rose's "log," which lists many of these tunes with the titles under which they were first issued -- "Poobah," "Moo," "Mile's Midnight Breakaway," "Overturia," "Rambunctious Rambling," etc.

A second trumpet is audible on several tunes -- "Hot House," "Conception/Deception," "Eronel," and the long "52nd Street Theme" -- and this is usually identified as Fats Navarro, who died of tuberculosis on July 7. He's in sad shape here, and seems especially lost on "Conception/Deception." Davis avoids the bridge on "Eronel" (he apparently disliked the tune) and just improvises over the B-section of the melody. As far as I know, this is his only recorded performance of the tune.

In favor of the June 30 date, however unlikely it may seem given Navarro's death on July 7, Dan Morgenstern writes in the Columbia liner notes that "Ira Gitler, who saw Fats at Birdland in 1950, recalls him as a shrunken, pitiful figure, racked by coughing and playing feebly. But available clues have been checked and rechecked, and June 30 is the date that comes up." On the other hand, writing about some other recordings of Navarro, Gitler remarked, "I question the May 1950 dating of records made of his broadcasts from Café Society... His playing seems... too alive for the man who would be dead of tuberculosis on July 7" (Jazz Masters of the Forties, p. 101).

Ember/Fat Boy FBB-901 includes about two hours of Charlie Parker material from Birdland around this time (also included in Rose's log), as well as "Conception/Deception" and the longer "52nd Street Theme" listed above. In his notes, Robert Bregman offers a date of May 15-16. The varied personnel does suggest a Monday night, since Mondays were jam session nights at Birdland. Parker's working quintet at the time included either Red Rodney or Kenny Dorham, Al Haig, Tommy Potter, and Roy Haynes, and they were booked at Birdland through much of May. Both Navarro and the Bud Powell Trio were also booked at Birdland during this period.

I'm grateful to Leif Bo Petersen and Jay Becker for help with this session. Plenty of uncertainty remains.

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