Tag Archives: records

The most important Miles Davis record (for me).

During my last few years in college, I’d occasionally housesit for a professor and his wife. These jobs provided opportunities to escape my stressful home life and for me to catch up on reading and cable television. During one of my stays at their River Market loft, I watched a documentary on sixties’ psychedelia. I don’t remember much about that VH1 show, except a closing montage of classic psychedelic albums. Taking its place among the famous British invasion albums was Miles in the Sky. At that point, I knew nothing about Miles Davis, except that he played trumpet. But the cover was so cool that I knew I needed to locate it right away.

When I found the CD, I was shocked by what I encountered. The drums in stereo sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. Perhaps, more precisely, Tony Williams’ cymbal playing was unlike anything I had heard before. At times, it almost sounded like the band had two drummers.

While not my favorite Davis record, it’s certainly the most important for me. It propelled me into his and his bandmates’ catalogs. It also introduced me to long songs; this was at least two years before I discovered progressive rock. Unlike most albums, the surprising thing about Miles in the Sky is that I can listen to it today and have some of the same impressions as when I first played it.

The first track, “Stuff,” was my first encounter with jazz fusion. It was also Miles’ first real foray into fusion, with electric keyboard and bass. Wayne Shorter’s tenor saxophone sounds so distant, so cold and harsh. (Later, I’d learn he was playing through an amp.) Ron Carter’s bass playing on this track still blows my mind. Playing more in the mid-range of the instrument, he often implies the groove instead of explicitly stating it.

“Paraphernalia” was my first dive into the deep pool of Wayne Shorter compositions. Now, it sounds to me like so many of his other great compositions. Back then, however, its floating, esoteric melody just seemed weird. Inviting, but still weird. I believe too much ink has been spilled debating whether he’s a better writer or improviser; this song proves he’s great at both. I think his solo may be as memorable as the head. Of course, it helps that he uses the old trick of restating bits of the melody in his solo, which helps ground his improvisation.

The most swinging cut on the album, “Black Comedy,” inspired me to play drums. I’m sure I’ll never play like Tony Williams, but I sure can pretend. I was immediately taken by his overuse of the high-hat and weird turnarounds. Probably the most accessible (or short) track on the album, this track found its way onto numerous mix tapes in college.

The last song, “Country Son,” is so weird. Without any discernible melody, the master and alternate takes included on the CD sound completely different. The meandering feel of the composition seems emphasized by Davis and Shorter, who sound like they’re wandering around the studio as they play.

All that said, maybe Miles in the Sky sucks and you should check out Kind of Blue or Bitches Brew first. I just feel too close to the record to be objective. Because it was in constant rotation around the time my parents split, it just sounds to me like their divorce. I feel a longing in its grooves and an aching transcendence in its melodies. And that’s why, after amassing most of his catalog, it continues to the most important Miles Davis record for me.

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Third Annual Black Friday Record Store Crawl

For the third year in a row, I will make the rounds procuring records on Black Friday.  This year, however, I’m inviting anyone to join.  (And trust me, if you think I’m giving out trade secrets, I could give you a running start and still beat you to the choice records.)

I’m giving you my itinerary, so you can meet up at any point along the way.

  1. We will start at Benetti’s Coffee Experience at 6:00 for caffeination.  We’ll leave for Half Price Books in Westport.  Although it opens at 7:00, we”ll arrive around 6:30 because there was a really long line last year.  The store hands out bags with $5 gift cards and coupons.  The store has a 20% off sale the entire day, and one lucky person in that first 100 gets a gift card for $100.
  2. Next, we’ll stop at Mama’s 39th Street Diner for breakfast.  They have the best omelettes and pancakes in town, so we have to go.  I might even get some of their amazing carrot cake, too.
  3. After breakfast, we’re going to Streetside Records.  The store has been selling used records for a while now, but I got wind that it’s fallen into a serious stash of music that will be “priced to sell.”  It opens at 9:00.

So yeah, see you bright and early on Friday!

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Sunday Spin Setlist (10/11/09)

katy with headphonesI am playing some records at Benetti’s Coffee Experience on Sunday, to kick off the store’s weekly Sunday Spins.  I will have a sign-up sheet for you to bring an album next week, so will hopefully I will be providing fewer records each week.

Most of the time at these events, I will play entire sides of albums.  To keep things mixed up, I have chosen only to play one side of each album.  I’ll occasionally break from this and play an entire album if warranted, like when I play A Love Supreme in a few weeks.  (I already anticipate people’s criticisms about only playing half of these albums, but trust me, you will still get plenty of deep album cuts and non-singles.)

Since album sides usually run about 20-25 minutes, you can plan on a different side about every half hour.  I’ll start at 6:00, so plan accordingly, if you want to hear a particular record.  (I’ve included links describing the albums, so do your homework.)

  1. Duke Ellington – 70th Birthday Concert (side 1)
  2. Ray Charles – Greatest Hits (side 1)
  3. Oscar Peterson – Night Train (side 2)
  4. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go (side 1)
  5. The Kinks – Kinkdom (side 2)
  6. Buddy Miles – We Got to Live Together (side 2)
  7. Yes – Close to the Edge (side 2)
  8. Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters (side 1)
  9. Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come (side 2)
  10. Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model (side 2)
  11. XTC – Black Sea (side 2)

Oh yeah, and I’m going to post the next episode of Radio Free Raytown tomorrow morning, making your Friday even better!

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