Miles Davis - Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk, Complete

Miles Davis
In Person: Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk, Complete


The Music Box's #2 specialty package for 2003

First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10

Written by John Metzger


Over the years, Miles Davis’ 1961 recordings made on subsequent evenings at the Blackhawk, San Francisco’s famed jazz venue, have been issued in various configurations as part of several different packages. Despite fans clamoring for the full suite of songs performed on both nights, the music has been edited, the shows incomplete. With the release of the four-disc collection In Person: Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk — both concerts are also available as individual two-disc sets — jazz enthusiasts now have reason to celebrate, for their wish finally has come true. For the record, there are still a few tidbits missing, but at least the reason — the recordings are incomplete — is justified. In any event, the results are absolutely remarkable.

On both nights, Davis and his band were positively on fire, carrying each song on its aural journey with supreme inventiveness. Both the juxtapositions of melody and rhythm and the twisting and turning of each musical theme were achieved with such gracefulness as to appear simple despite the compositions’ many nuances and complexities. On tracks such as If I Were a Bell from the Friday night set, for example, Davis, saxophone player Hank Mobley, and pianist Wynton Kelly took turns bending, stretching, and shaping phrases, virtually carrying on a descriptive conversation via their respective instruments. Each soloist picked up the thread of thought and mutated it into something new. Beneath it all, a second dialogue was intertwined within the perky rhythm laid down by drummer Jimmy Cobb and bass player Paul Chambers. Like all great jazz, none of the ideas stood on their own. Instead, they were passed among each member of the quintet — a clatter of percussion here, a carefully placed piano chord there, all bearing relevance to the global conclave.

As was the case with every ensemble that the brilliant trumpeter led, Davis surrounded himself with the finest talent he could hire, and he was a master at selecting those that had the most malleable chemistry. By the time of the Blackhawk shows, Chambers had been a part of Davis’ band for quite a few years, gelling flawlessly within the fabric of Davis’ exquisite tapestry. Mobley, Kelly, and Cobb, however, were relative newcomers to Davis’ scene, each having gained varying degrees of attention for their stints in Dizzy Gillespie’s group.

Indeed, each personnel change made by Davis was sparked by his constant search for something new, and Mobley provided the perfect stylistic bridge — while filling some rather big shoes — between John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. One listen to his solo from either of the versions of On Green Dolphin Street or Saturday evening’s brisk romp through So What proves he was a mighty fine player in his own right, capable of keeping pace with Davis, bouncing off his leads and spinning them furiously with dazzling displays of dexterity.

Likewise, Davis’ music always seemed to contain elements of both his past and his future directions. The Latin-tinged Neo from Friday’s performance alluded to Davis’ earlier classic Sketches of Spain while also exploring fresh terrain. While there’s little doubt that the quintet featured at the Blackhawk shows was far more conservative than those that came both before and after this incarnation of his band, it’s truly all relative in the grand scheme of things for the ensemble hardly contained itself within a narrow framework. From hard-driving swing to gentle, wistful ballads, the Blackhawk shows clearly demonstrate that although this particular era has long been overshadowed by Davis’ excursions with Coltrane and Shorter, it was all part of the master bandleader’s extraordinary and continuous evolution. starstarstarstarstar


In Person: Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk, Complete
is available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!



1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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