on 8 March 2002
In 1967 Miles Davis recorded what was to be the last album before venturing into his electric period. Soon he would be using the Fender Rhodes and the Fender Bass, so it could be seen as his last truly acoustic album. Many jazz purists see Miles Smiles as his last true jazz album because of the above. However beneath the superficial details, it can also be seen as rhythmically one of the trumpeters most explorative works. One has only to listen to Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter work on the multi-tempo track Footprints to hear this. There are so many subtle rhythmical implications within this piece that it leaves me feeling this was my favourite Miles rhythm section, as much as I love Miles fifties Columbia band. Being a rhythm section player myself, I can constantly find enjoyment and inspiration within this track alone.
Miles himself plays out of his skin throughout and stretches out in a manner far different than what I have heard previously or since. Whilst never being known as the most technically dazzling of trumpeters, he produces some absolutely mind-boggling solos, which leaves me wondering if some critics sat down and listened to this album instead of panning his technically weaker work with Parker, they might give him more credit than he's been allowed for. Tone wise it's generally conceded that Miles was beautiful and Miles Smiles is no exception. Circle showcases some of his most intimate and pleasant moments.
The writing is mostly Wayne Shorter's. Wayne, one of Jazz's most gifted writers never allows the arrangements to inhibit the soloists. In fact it inspires them to greater heights, his own playing included.
If I was to name my top five jazz albums of the sixties, I would like to think this would be in there. I would certainly say to someone who wasn't into Miles in a big way, like some of my colleagues in the industry, check it out. There's something in this album for everyone, whether it be the advanced rhythmic explorations, Wayne's compositions or Miles stronger, busier lead work.
I hope my review does Miles Smiles justice anyway. Happy listening.
on 6 April 2012
Although widely acknowledged by many as the greatest small group of all time in the history of jazz, it is still surprising just how good this collection of single takes by Miles' second quintet is. I understand that these records did not sell as well at the time as his earlier work and perhaps the fact that themes such as "Dolores" and "Gingerbread boy" are almost limited to motifs made the records less appealing than the records he put out in the 1950's. With the passage of time, it is possible to see that the "Downbeat" readers who voted this the best jazz record of 1967 were the ones who were correct as there is a density of "real" music on "Miles Smiles" which surpasses nearly all other groups.
It is difficult to single out any particular track and all five performers are at the absolute peak of their game. There is an aggression with Miles' trumpet that marks this out as one of his finest performances in the studio and I feel that Herbie Hancock's piano is stunning on the record throughout even though his solo on "Circle" is rightly singld out for praise by critics and scholars. Elsewhere, Wayne Shorter is hugely compelling both as a soloist and composer (particularly "Orbits") and Tony William's crashing symbol work engulfs the band with an intense level of energy. The unsung hero for me is bassist Ron Carter whose playing is shown on this record to be pivotal to the overall success of the quintet . Check out the album's best track "Freedom Jazz Dance" which slips in and out of various grooves, at one time popping out a really funky line against the tsunami of William's symbols.
Rightly praised, this record represents the conclusion of a 2 year hiatus for the quintet in the studio after their debut "ESP" and shows just how much they had grown as a band. This represent a little under quarter of their studio work with the band changing it's line up by the time "Filles de Kilamanjiro" was recorded. For me, "Miles Smiles" catchs the band performing at an extremely high level and is a record that yields more with each listen. More than the over-familiar "Kind of Blue", "Miles Smiles" demonstrates why Miles Davis was one of the towering figures in 20th Century music and presents a line up whose contributions still seem fresh 45 years later. Probably the best album Miles produced with a small group. Essential.
on 4 November 2006
I'm a massive Miles fan and i think this ranks right up there with his best albums. Every member of this hugely important quintet plays there ass off on this album creating music which shows how free and abstract this style of jazz can get while still being immediately and viscerally attractive.
Buy this album!.
Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams. That's some line-up. You would expect musicians of such a calibre and pedigree to produce something rather wonderful. Funny, but that's exactly what they did, on half a dozen superb, eloquent albums between 1965 and 1968.
This one from '66 is a beauty. Shorter - the 'quiet man` among jazz sax players - composed the suitably circular opener Orbits, the thoughtful Footprints, and the excitable Dolores - I bet she was, too.
Miles wrote the excellent Circle, while the expansive Freedom Jazz Dance is an Eddie Harris number, and the terrific closer Gingerbread Boy is by sax player and Miles's exact contemporary, Jimmy Heath.
This is well-titled, though Miles seemed to be smiling quite a lot in his music around this time. Who wouldn't, having gathered together such a perfect band of like-minded musicians?
This is just about my favourite period of Miles - after the early years, including 1959 classic Kind of Blue, and before the funk and fusion set in.
Miles Smiles was recorded nearly two years after its predecessor, the immaculate E.S.P. It's just as great a set, and perhaps flows even more pleasingly than that benchmark LP.
There are so many felicitous moments on these six longish tracks: a soft caressing solo from Williams or an inspired journey up and down the piano keys courtesy of Hancock. Miles and Wayne are on the ball throughout, as indeed are the whole band.
Shorter worked better with Miles than he was ever able to do with Weather Report. (Hear his solo LPs too!)
This is expressive, gloriously listenable music from one of the finest bands, in any genre, of the last century, all in beautifully remastered sound with excellent booklet included.
Warm and wonderful.
This minor masterpiece is the second album from Miles' great second quintet: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter (composer of many of the tracks on `Smiles'), Ron Carter and the very young and very talented drummer Tony Williams, only 17 at the time he started working with Miles and 19 when this album was recorded.
Following the quintet's debut `ESP' in January 1965, `Miles Smiles' was recorded in one take in 1966 with a spontaneity and energy born from virtuoso musicians who love playing together and exploring new ground. The cutting-edge music from this period in Miles' career remains acoustic but marks the transition between the melodic `modal' jazz from the classic KoB era with the longer free-form electronic pieces of `In a Silent Way' and `Bitches Brew' which defined the birth of `fusion' at the end of the 1960s.
`Smiles' has no weak tracks or fillers; it's deep, absorbing, clever and enjoyable to listen to. It's varied too - far more varied in style, for example, than the later epic `Bitches Brew' where the tracks all sound similar in tone (though equally brilliant). Listen to `Circle' on a lazy afternoon, or late at night to set the mood; or to Tony Williams' mastery of complex rhythms as he holds together `Freedom Jazz Dance'.
The only caution to the listener new to Miles' impressive body of work might be that this is not the best place to start. Try `Kind of Blue' first, then some of the early work, and maybe the Gil Evans collaborations; the ground-breaking music of `ESP' and `Smiles' will then become more accessible.
To the untutored ear some of the numbers on `Smiles' can sound formless, difficult, lacking in melody. This is real musicians' music: clever, experimental, writing new rules with constantly changing time signatures and freer forms of interplay which reveals itself through repeated listening.
`Smiles' is one of Miles' finest moments and possibly his greatest acoustic masterpiece, in a unique career with many high points.
on 25 November 2012
Whilst being a jazz fan and love Kind of Blue, I've not fully explored the repertoire of Miles Davis. A drummer friend of mine was lamenting the fact he had to learn the drum part of Footprints. It's become a 'bog standard' standard, in that it's a tune that will come up in jam nights, like Blue Bossa etc. So I thought, this part couldn't be anything spectacular - boy was I wrong! The switching of time feels is exemplary, an incredible band that have all become legends in their own right.
There are other reviews more articulate and more knowledgeable about this quintet than I, but I will put my recommendation to anyone who will read this to buy it and enjoy it!!
Superb compositions and I feel some of Mile's best playing, still thoughtful and careful note choices as he was famed for, but there's an added dose of virtuosity that leaps out.
A great album, arguably his best quintet line up ever.
I've only recent begun to appreciate Miles Davis and wonder how I never took notice of him for most of my life. I've quickly built up a collection starting with his late 50's works, for my money the most accessible stuff for beginners and slowly moved forward to the more complex sounds of Miles' Second Great Quintet. They are not called that for nothing, seemingly almost telepathically understanding where to take the tunes being improvised in the studio. Tony Williams in particular is a revelation - the complexity of his drumming leaves many of rock's big names trailing in his wake. That said, if I'd started in this mid-late 60's period I probably wouldn't have 'Got it', and I doubt you would too if you hadn't taken in at least some of what went before. A superb album but IMO needing a few reference points to be built on first.
on 26 October 2010
Along with E.S.P. this is one of the best jazz records ever and I think the best one the quintet recorded.
The empathy between Miles,Shorter,Hancock,Carter and Williams is beyond belief!
If you like your jazz on the deep and inventive side you will love this.
Recorded in October 1966, Miles Smiles features the second incarnation of the Miles Davis Quintet, which, in addition to Davis, featured Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums). This version of the quintet, which initially featured George Coleman on sax, followed Davis' classic 1950s quintet with John Coltrane and pre-dated his move to his 'electric period', which is generally regarded as having started with the classic album In A Silent Way, recorded in 1969.
Miles Smiles actually starts in relatively low-key mode with the Wayne Shorter composition Orbits (most notable for a great Davis solo) followed by Davis' own composition Circle, which, whilst containing some nice muted playing from Miles and some dextrous ivory tinkling from Hancock, is also, for me, a fairly middling composition.
It is not until we reach track three that the album really takes off with Shorter's superb (and renowned) composition Footsteps. This ten-minute masterpiece is somewhat reminiscent of the Davis classic All Blues, as Ron Carter's bass lays down the track's motif, over which both Davis and Shorter excel with outstanding solos. Of course, Footsteps was originally recorded a few months earlier in 1966 by Shorter with his own band (also featuring Hancock) and included on his Adam's Apple album (released the same year). Next follows the equally impressive Shorter composition Dolores, which, as well as virtuoso soloing from the two horns, also contains some superb playing from Hancock - Dolores is actually one of the three tracks on the album, along with Orbits and Gingerbread Boy, on which Hancock only played right-hand chords - these jazz players!
The final two compositions are non-band written tunes - both outstanding. The first, Freedom Jazz Dance was written by prolific Chicago-born tenor sax player Eddie Harris, and contains a brilliant and quirky motif, repeated in unison by the horns, followed by some top soloing. The final track on the album is the up-tempo Jimmy Heath composition Gingerbread Boy, which is where the band really do cook, probably more so than anywhere else on the album, with Tony Williams excelling on the kit, and Shorter soloing extravagantly.
An essential recording from one of Miles' most important periods.
The great trumpeter/composer/bandleader Miles Davis(1926-91) recorded the second album by his classic quintet in New York City on October 24/25, 1966.
With Miles(trumpet) were Wayne Shorter(tenor sax); Herbie Hancock(piano); Ron Carter(bass) & Tony Williams(drums).
The six memorable numbers include three Wayne Shorter originals and one each from Miles, Eddie Harris & Jimmy Heath.
Miles' quintet are at their peak and display a high level of empathy playing this emotionally complex and exploratory music.
'Miles Smiles' still sounds fresh and vital 50 years later and deserves a place in every modern jazz collection.