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Sidemen's Anger Fuels Miles' Set


The goal of most jazz studio recordings is to achieve the spontaneity and spark that are usually found at a live performance. Vice versa, it's the aim in a "live" session to capture the richness of sound and precision of execution that generally occur within a recording studio's confines.

"Miles Davis: The Complete Concert 1964," recently out on the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces line, succeeds on both levels. It's an in-person recording, made at New York's Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) on Feb. 12, 1964, and it has both tremendous musical heat and superb recorded sound.

Originally released as two albums--"My Funny Valentine" and "Four & More"--this two-CD set features one of the late trumpeter's best bands: George Coleman, tenor saxophone; Herbie Hancock, piano; Ron Carter, bass, and Tony Williams, drums. The musicians are in sublime form as they zealously interpret 11 classics, among them "My Funny Valentine," "Four," "So What," "All Blues" and "Stella by Starlight."

There was an added tension to these sessions, Chip Deffa's informative liner notes tell us. The evening was a benefit for the registration of African-American voters in Mississippi and Louisiana, and Davis volunteered to play gratis, and insisted that the rest of the band do the same--or leave his employ. Some of the sidemen were reported to be furious at this situation, and took that anger on stage.

"Everybody was mad . . . ," Deffa quotes Davis, from his autobiography, "Miles." "So I think that anger created a fire, a tension that got into everybody's playing, and maybe that's one of the reasons everybody played with such an intensity that night."

More 'Live': Though it lacks the audio clarity of the Davis set, "Birdland All-Stars at Carnegie Hall" (Roulette Jazz) is loaded with musical gems. Recorded in September, 1954, at the famed concert hall, the two-disc set features Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and the Count Basie orchestra--with guest soloists Lester Young and Stan Getz.

Young sounds youthful and zesty on "Pennies From Heaven," Vaughan's voice seems to float as if it were a huge balloon on "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," and the Basie band comes off sounding as strong as a bodybuilder after a good workout. Holiday is most poignant, but Parker, a few months from his death, sounds more like any old altoist rather than the founder of be-bop.

"Live at the Village Vanguard" (Blue Note) is a 1967-vintage two-CD package headlined by Dizzy Gillespie, who, while in splendid spirits, generously showcases his able associates--pianist Chick Corea, baritone saxman Pepper Adams, violinist Ray Nance and trombonist Garnett Brown. The seven cuts are all in the 10-minute range, allowing for lengthy, listenable solos.

More Past Blasts: Twenty tracks from Gillespie's classic 1944-46 period are found on "Shaw 'Nuff" (Discovery), with ace performances by Parker, Sonny Stitt and Diz's big band . . . Dinah Washington's "For Those in Love" (EmArcy), made in 1955, offers tender treatments of such romantic songs as "Easy Living" and "My Old Flame" . . . 1969's "Score" (Blue Note), trumpeter Randy Brecker's debut as a leader, accents jazz with rock elements as played by saxman Michael Brecker, pianist Hal Galper and others . . . Saxophonist-composer Bobby Watson's "Jewel" (Evidence) is a vibrant 1983 date that sports piano whiz Mulgrew Miller and vibist Steve Nelson investigating a half-dozen selections, including two lovely ballad originals.

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