The Beginners Guide To Miles Davis
In this episode and in celebration of his 85th birthday, I take on the nearly 50-year career of one of America’s all-time great artists bar none: Miles Davis. Following his path and making sense of the literally thousands of recordings available can be tough for a neophyte. In two packed hours, I pull out some highlights that will give some hints for finding your way in to Miles’ daunting catalog.
Here are some quick, dirty and sort of ridiculous rules for finding your way through the hundreds of CDs released under his name:
- You don’t really own a music collection until you have Kind Of Blue.
- Only buy albums on Columbia Records.
- If you must buy a Miles Davis album that’s not on Columbia, there should be a verb in the title like Workin‘ or Relaxin‘. Otherwise, forget it.
- All the Gil Evans albums are good, but Sketches Of Spain should be your first priority, Quiet Nights the last.
- Columbia studio albums with John Coltrane are all must-haves. The live ones weren’t released at the time and often there is good reason.
- Take studio albums over live albums. The live albums are tough listens, not recorded with the same fidelity and – particularly in the 1960s – Miles & band were more in the mode of tearing down their ‘hits’ rather than playing them straight.
- With the exception of Bitches Brew, prefer albums with a photograph on the cover. All the ones with paintings and cartoons are something of an acquired taste.
A suggested starter kit:
- The First Great Quartet – Milestones and Kind Of Blue
- With Gil Evans – Sketches Of Spain
- The Second Great Quartet – E.S.P. and Nefertiti
- Electric – In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew