Miles Davis: A Puzzle Of An Album
31st July 2019
Title: Miles Smiles
Label: Mobile Fidelity
Often thoughtful and sometimes brooding, you often had the feeling that Miles Davis self analysed while he played that famous, economical, ‘cool’, often muted, trumpet. As if he was making decisions on the fly. As if he might lift the entire jazz genre up and twist it into a brand new direction right there on the stage because he’d just come to some sort of realisation…right there on the stage. Listening to him live, I’m sure the listener believed the he was capable of anything.
Davis chopped and changed his support line-up on regular occasions. Forever searching. Forever pushing the envelope. This album was released in 1967 and featured Davis’ own quintet, the second incarnation of the quintet model. This time it featured Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums.
In mastering terms, this 2LP 45rpm cut is quiet and it really has to be too. Williams’ drums often set the canvas. For example, on Orbits, he forces a sheen of cymbal strikes to form a sort of constant undercoat to the middle and later parts of the track. That permanent shimmer can’t do its job as effectively on a noisy cut – Mobile Fidelity has ‘done good’, therefore. Similarly, without sufficient instrumental separation, the Carter bass can be masked. Instead, the Mo-Fi cut allows the bass to help form a sort of grammar to the music.
You need to keep your eyes and ears on this album because it never settles. It’s unexpected and keeps you on your toes. It’s an adventure that, you tend to feel, has been created for the benefit of the quintet, not necessarily the audience, as a series of challenges and puzzles and to force each other to stretch and move onwards.
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