Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Miles Davis So What|
Actor: Miles Davis
Genres: Music Video & Concerts
NTSC/Region 0. This DVD features two rare performances by the Jazz great: New York (1959) and Germany (1967). Seven tracks in all including 'Blues For Pablo' and 'Footprints'. 50 minutes. Salt Peanuts.
2 great shows - fair production values on disc
Watcher | 01/18/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This contains two different B&W television broadcasts, one from a 1959 American Television show called "The Sound of Miles Davis" produced by David Herridge, the other from Germany in 1967. The first broadcast is the same that's on Miles Davis - Cool Jazz Sound The show features the Miles Davis Sextet (or was supposed to - Cannonball Adderley was too ill to appear), with Wynton Kelly on piano, as well as the Gil Evans orchestra.
The small group plays "So What," with some support from the orchestra trombone section. It is a fairly long version, with good solos from Miles and Coltrane. Coltrane in particular gives a meaty performance, since this was his only solo of the program he gives it his all. Unfortunately, as is usual with these videos, the camera concentrates on Trane's face, rather than pulling back a little and allowing us to see his fingers too. The trombones play the head, then come back for a bit of arranged playing during Mile's second solo. It's one of the most interesting versions of "So What" I've ever heard, and I've heard a lot of them. The camera moves around quite a bit, occasionally getting shots of Miles on the side with the trombone section watching. We rarely get to see more than one band member in a shot, so that you can see the interplay between the musicians unfortunately.
Miles plays a number of tunes from "Miles Ahead" with the orchestra, which includes Frank Rehak, Jimmy Cleveland, Bill Barber, Ernie Royal, and Julius Watkins. It's a beautiful set of music, tho at times Miles hits a shrill tone - as many know, Miles had difficulty in the upper register, and even tho he can hit the notes, he sometimes loses that beautiful tone when he does. The sound of the big band in full throttle is not well contained by the television sound fidelity, but otherwise the sound is fine. The camera roams around the big band, as they are seated in two facing semi-circles. At times the camera will be on Miles when he is not soloing, which is odd. We do get shots of Miles playing so we can see his fingers. We also get some nice shots of Gil conducting. In general, for my taste, the camera is a little too active. I imagine when they taped it, they were more concerned with keeping the finicky television audience entertained, rather than creating an historical document for jazz aficionados.
The second broadcast is Miles's second great quintet before a live audience. They play a beautiful version of "Footprints," which is unfortunately cut-off after Wayne Shorter's solo (with no solo by Herbie). The band seems to still be playing, the video just fades. The creators of the original video get a bit cute with the production - at one point there is a nice long shot, with Miles on the left of the screen, Ron in the middle, and Tony middle right. It's a wonderful opportunity to watch the interplay between the three of them during Mile's incredible solo. Unfortunately, the video crew think they need to be "artists" rather than letting the artists on stage have the moment, and they plunge the band into darkness, leaving Miles in the spotlight. It's a pretty shot, with Miles lit on the extreme left, the rest of the screen in darkness - but the camera is too far away to see his fingers, and for those of us who buy jazz videos to see the interplay between our favorite musicians - as opposed to the artistry of some videographer - it is a disappointing moment.
They play three tunes and The Theme. There is a CD out Winter in Europe 1967 that contains music from this same show, but includes three other tunes, as well as a concert in Sweden. On the CD, "Footprints" cuts off in the same place - which isn't as jarring, because you can't see that the band is still playing. However, in both cases, it seems like a technical decision, rather than one made by Miles.
Tony plays an interesting drum solo on "Walkin'" in which he makes taffy out of tempo and time, using stops to create a solo full of tension and drama, that slows the time of the song imperceptibly. It is fun to watch Tony's facial expressions, which are quite animated. When Tony's done, he and Carter pick the pace back up to a blistering speed for Wayne's harmonically intricate solo. Herbie lays out, and eventually Ron and Tony do too, leaving Wayne the freedom to skip about merrily thru harmonic lily pads far and away from the original melody. Wayne ends his solo and walks away, leaving Herbie in the shot, with Miles watching in the background. Herbie begins his solo, unaccompanied, picking up on the harmonic hinterlands Wayne left him. The cameraman gets distracted by Miles, and focuses more on him, until Miles notices he is in the shot, and walks into the wings, forcing the director to call for a shot that focuses more on Herbie and his piano. Tony and Ron join in with Herbie, as he leads them back thru the harmonic wilderness toward the melody.
Next is a short version of "Gingerbread Man" at its usual cyclone pace. Herbie has his longest solo, working wonderfully off of Tony - and there is a creative shot with Tony's shadow on the wall behind Herbie as he plays. Throughout the video they use interesting lighting, and split screens. Sometimes there will be shot of the soloist from two different angles in the same picture. Sometimes the videographers creativity is distracting, at other times it adds to the experience.
The quality of the video for the European broadcast is so-so. Not as good as the Jazz Icons series by a long shot, but it is still watchable. The picture is clear enough, and there are no pixalations, but it hasn't been cleaned up much. The sound is mostly clear as well, only a few moments of static. The American Television footage is in better shape, and was very well produced originally. The play of shadows in the American show was done with the theatrical lighting in the studio, which does not shift during the music much, and there are no other technical fripperies.
The company, Salt Peanuts, that puts out these videos is from Spain. Their product is economically priced, takes advantage of some fluid copywrite laws in the EU, and they don't bother with much restoration. Dollar for dollar, the Jazz Icon series is a better value - extensive liner notes, beautiful restoration, and they make sure the families of even the sidemen get some payment from the sales of the videos. Considering all your getting with the Jazz Icons, I think they are a better deal, but these Salt Peanuts videos are the only place I've seen footage of the second Miles Davis Quintet.
Robert Herrrige 1959 show plus
William E Donoghue | Healdsburg CA USA | 04/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
Blues For Pablo
April 2, 1959 (between the two Kind Of Blue sessions
'60s Quintet at Karlshue Germany November 7, 1967