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Sublime Davis/Evans Collaboration
on 9 October 2012
This 1957 album was the first recording collaboration between Miles Davis and Gil Evans since the 1949/50 recording sessions which fed into Davis' legendary nonet recording Birth Of The Cool (also released in 1957). For the recording of Miles Ahead, the pair put together a 19-piece (20-piece with Davis) band (or perhaps jazz orchestra) and recorded 10 compositions which Evans arranged and edited into a single unbroken suite. Whilst paying tribute to the approach adopted by the likes of Duke Ellington and Claude Thornhill on their earlier big band recordings, the sound of Miles Ahead brilliantly mixes Davis' exquisite solo flugelhorn playing with frequent orchestral blasts from the assembled horns, via Evans' superbly judged arrangements.
Compositionally speaking, Miles Ahead is very much a mixed bag, and its extreme diversity in source material merely serves to emphasise the high level of skill displayed by Evans in pulling together what is a thematically consistent whole. Whether it be band member John Carisi's opener, the exuberant Springville, Evans' own dynamically rich and haunting Blues For Pablo, Dave Brubeck's lilting melody which underpins The Duke, Ahmad Jamal's superbly judged and swinging New Rhumba or Evans' inspirational interpretation of French classical composer Léo Delibes' song, The Maids Of Cadiz, Miles Ahead is a joyous listening experience. However, if I were forced to pick one moment from the album which cannot help but pull at the heartstrings it is Miles' exquisite solo on Kurt Weill's My Ship.
In addition, on the 1997 version of the album which was remastered in stereo by Phil Schaap, there are four additional tracks, essentially different takes of four of the existing 10 album compositions.
If evidence were ever needed (which I would suggest it isn't) of the worth of Davis' collaboration with Evans, and its relative position in the pantheon of Davis' work with the likes of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinal, Chick Corea, Marcus Miller, etc, then Miles Ahead demonstrates it in spades.