A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.
Normally our notes for the sound of the records we are shooting out against each other fall into two categories: what the record is doing right and what the record is doing wrong. You’ll note that in this case there was nothing wrong about the sound to write about.
The secret is TUBES – they work their magic on this music like nothing else can.
I could have picked some nits, but when a specific pressing is so clearly superior to its competition, what’s the point?
Allow me to transcribe my notes:
The right sound — big, rich, tubey and real. No need to pick nits.
Transparent. Rich, smooth, balanced. Horn gets huge and loud the right way. Piano is full. Solid bass.
Over and out.
There are some very good sounding reissues from the ’70s that will eventually make it to the site. Again and again my notes made it clear that the sound could have used some tubes in the chain.
On this record, more than any other, the tubes potentially make all the difference.
Now keep in mind that we are talking only about 1961 tubes, not the stuff that engineers are using today to make “tube-mastered” records. Those modern records barely hint at the Tubey Magical sound of a record like this, if our experience with hundreds of them is any guide. We, unlike so many of the audiophile reviewers of today, have a very hard time taking any of the new pressings seriously. We think our position is pretty clear in that regard.
If you’ve ever heard a pressing that sounds like this one, you know there hasn’t been a record manufactured in the last forty years or so that has its sound. Right, wrong or otherwise, this sound is simply not part of the modern world we live in. If you want to be transported back to San Francisco circa 1961, you will need a record like this to do it.
Bye Bye Blackbird
All of You
Love I’ve Found You
The first of two sets recorded during a weekend in 1961 features the Miles Davis Quintet at a period of time when Hank Mobley was on tenor and the rhythm section was comprised of pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb.
What is most remarkable is the way Kelly fits into this particular blend of the Miles band. Kelly’s interplay with Chambers is especially brilliant, because his sense of blues phrasing inside counterpoint harmony is edgy and large, with left-hand chords in the middle register rather than sharp right-hand runs to accentuate choruses.
Davis himself has never played with more intensity and muscularity on record than he does here. He is absolutely fierce, both on the Friday night and Saturday night sets. Kelly plays more like a drummer than a pianist, using gorgeously percussive left-hand comps and fills to add bottom to the front line’s solos.
Mobley displays his bebop rather than hard bop and groove sides here, and reveals his intricate knowledge of the bop phraseology; he sounds free of the baggage and responsibility that he replaced John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley. His solos on “If I Were a Bell” and “No Blues” are simply revelatory.
This is an underappreciated group because of its relatively short life, but as evidenced here, the bandmembers swung fast and hard and never looked back. Hearing a dropped bassline, an out-of-time cymbal flourish, and a shortened series of phrases by Miles because he miscounted — you guess the track — adds to the charm of this being recorded as it was, without any cleanup. It is difficult to recommend this set over Saturday Night or vice versa; Miles fans will need both to fully appreciate how special this engagement with this particular band was.