Miles Davis – Basic Miles – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2018

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

We award this copy’s side two our very special Four Plus A++++ grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed.

We estimate that less than one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. As I write this there is not a single other record on the site that earned that grade on either side. You can’t get much more rare than that.

Kind of Blue

Want to know how good our Hot Stamper Kind of Blue pressings sound? Listen to this very record. If you play the tracks that were recorded in 1958, the year before Kind of Blue, you will hear practically the same lineup of musicians.

That means Stella By Starlight and Little Melonae on side one, and Green Dolphin Street and Fran-Dance (Put Your Little Foot Right Out) on side two. We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match.

The nine minute plus Green Dolphin Street that opens side two is nothing short of amazing, some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear it, on any record, at any price. With Fran Dance on the same side, that gives you about 17 minutes of great sounding jazz by Miles’ classic Kind of Blue lineup.

Side one has the same cats playing for more than 12 minutes. By my calculation that’s close to another album’s worth of material from the group. The rest of the material on this compilation is best seen as gravy; maybe not essential, but never less than interesting.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

A1 Budo
Bass – Paul Chambers
Drums – “Philly” Joe Jones
Piano – Red Garland
Tenor Saxophone – John Coltrane

A2 Stella By Starlight
Bass – Paul Chambers
Drums – Jimmy Cobb
Piano – Bill Evans
Tenor Saxophone – John Coltrane

A3 Sweet Sue, Just You
Arranged By – Teo Macero
Bass – Paul Chambers
Drums – “Philly” Joe Jones
Piano – Red Garland
Tenor Saxophone – John Coltrane

A4 Little Melonae
Bass – Paul Chambers
Drums – “Philly” Joe Jones
Piano – Red Garland
Tenor Saxophone – John Coltrane

A5 Miles Ahead
Orchestra – Gil Evans

Side Two

B1 On Green Dolphin Street 
Alto Saxophone – Cannonball Adderley 
Bass – Paul Chambers 
Drums – Jimmy Cobb 
Piano – Bill Evans 
Tenor Saxophone – John Coltrane 

B2 ´Round Midnight 
Bass – Paul Chambers 
Drums – “Philly” Joe Jones 
Piano – Red Garland 
Tenor Saxophone – John Coltrane 

B3 Fran-Dance (Put Your Little Foot Right Out) 
Alto Saxophone – Cannonball Adderley 
Bass – Paul Chambers 
Drums – Jimmy Cobb 
Piano – Wynton Kelly 
Tenor Saxophone – John Coltrane 

B4 Devil May Care 
Bass – Paul Chambers 
Drums – Jimmy Cobb 
Percussion – William Correa 
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter 
Trombone – Frank Rehak 

Kind of Blue on the Red Label

It is our considered opinion that many of the best sounding copies are pressed on the rather common domestic plain Red Label from the ’70s. We’re fully aware of just how outrageous a statement that may be to you jazz collectors out there, and even more outrageous to the audiophiles reading this, the ones who are still holding on to the idea that Originals Have the Best Sound.

But we’ve known about these amazing sounding Kind Of Blue reissues for more than two decades, and in all of those years, played back on many different stereo systems, we have yet to hear any early pressing that would make us change our minds.

What About The Early Pressings?

Having played scores of different copies of this record over the years, close to a hundred by now I would guess, we think we know Kind of Blue as a recording about as well as anyone can know it. The tube mastered original Six Eye Stereo copies have wonderfully lush, smooth sound. We’ve heard many of them. The 360s from the ’60s often (but not always) split the difference — less Tubey Magical, but cleaner and more true to the sound of live music. The Red Labels are all over the map, ranging from smeary and dull to out of this world.

If you cut the album with tubes it will bring out some qualities not as evident on this pressing. But there will be drawbacks as well. It’s a matter of trade-offs. There is no copy that will satisfy everyone, just as there is no speaker or amplifier that will satisfy everyone.

Now don’t get us wrong. We love tubey colorations as much as the next person. We say so all over this site. But there is no way that many of the specific qualities of this record exist on those early, tube cuttings. They simply didn’t have the technology. The technology they did have is wonderful in its own way. And this record is wonderful in its own, very different, way. This is the sound we prefer.

Unimpeachable Audiophile Credentials

We know we’re asking a lot of money for a record that any jazz record dealer would be embarrassed to charge more than $25 for. (Actually, these are starting to sell for $40+ pretty regularly on eBay and elsewhere. Apparently the word got out that these can sound incredible. Blame us!)

However, with all due respect, jazz record dealers don’t know anything about sound. They know about collectibility. They know about price guides. They know their market — jazz collectors — and I know mine: audiophiles. This record has unimpeachable audiophile credentials. It has the sound in the grooves like you have never heard before. And who else but your friends at Better Records are going to be able to tell you that?

Quick Listening Test for Side One

This is an easy one. Just listen to the trumpet at the start of Freddie Freeloader. Most copies do not fully convey the transient information of Miles’ horn, causing it to have an easily recognizable quality we talk about all the time on the site: smear. No two pressings will have precisely the same amount of smear on his trumpet, so look for the least smeary copy that does everything else right too. (Meaning simply that smear is important, but not all-important.)

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