This rather fabulous animation of Miles Davis’ “So What” (1959) was done by writer/film maker Dan Cohen. It illustrates the sheet music parts for Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers. He notes in the video comments that he didn’t add the drum notations for Jimmy Cobb but we forgive him because, as I said, it’s fabulous!
Now comes the “magic” part. Watch while I fill this post about a lovely animation and a beautiful piece of music with eupemisms about the functions of my upper digestive tract. No need to thank me. It’s a gift.
Miles Davis was a musical genius. He was also, by many accounts, an abusive bastard. I hope all abuse survivors seek and recieve the help they need but I don’t think this is the forum for that sort of discussion. The only reason I bring it up is I’m currently sporting two black eyes. No I have not been punched in the face (or anywhere else for that matter). Not ever.
So here’s what happened: I have an intestinal “thing.” I’m not gonna discuss it in great detail. What it boils down to is that I have certain dietery restrictions and as long as I follow them it’s really not much more than a minor inconvenience. If I don’t follow the rules… let’s just say, one way or another, belly contents are downloaded at high speeds.
Here’s the problem: The things I’m not supposed to have are REALLY delicious! I’m not naming any names or assigning any blame but the other night at dinner, mistakes were made and cookies were tossed. I don’t mean to brag but I gotta say I am the Venus Williams of the technicolor yawn. So masterful was the jettisoning of the supper cargo that I burst all the tiny blood vessels around my eyes and I even turned the the white of my left eye a lovely blood red.
I felt just fine after the deed was done so I’ve had no choice but to come to work looking like this. They don’t let you call off for being unattractive after all. Since I work with the public, pretty much everyone who sees me does the shock then pity double take. One kind soul even went so far as to offer me an abuse hotline phone number. It’s doubly awkward when folks ask what happened because, in polite company, you can’t really tell people that the shiners are the result of a gastro geyser mishap. I hope it’ll clear up soon but in the meantime, maybe I should stuff cotton in my nostrils and start telling people I’ve had some “work” done.
The clip is from the 1958 French movie Ascenseur pour l’échafaud. It was called Elevator to the Gallows when it was released in the US. It’s a thriller about love, intrigue, and murder (’cause what else would a thriller be about). The beautiful woman in the clip is Jeanne Moreau playing the character Florence Carala. I haven’t seen the movie but I read the synopsis. I think this must be the part where she thinks her murdering boyfriend has run off with another woman so she’s sad. He hasn’t run off, he’s in the titular elevator but you’ll get no more spoilers from me.
The internet says Miles Davis improvised the soundtrack to this movie in 5 hours. He sipped champagne with Jeanne and director Louis Malle during the recording session. I believe this song is called “Générique” which Google translates to “Generic.” I’m thinking something is probably lost in the translation there.
And now it’s time for another tale from my misspent youth. My friends and I used to love to hang out at the Bonaventure hotel because we were broke and loitering was free. The well-to-do make for fascinating people watching! The other great thing about the Bonaventure is the elevators. They are glass and they run up the outside of the 35 story building. The view is spectacular plus, if you jump on the way down you get a millisecond of extra hang time. It’s not much but it still makes ya feel like Supergirl! (Your gender may vary.)
Sonny Rollins composed “Oleo” in 1954 and Miles Davis recorded the song on the album “Bags Groove.” Miles also recorded two of Rollins’ other compositions on that album and they have all become jazz standards. This video is from Denmark 1965 with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (NHOP) on bass, and Alan Dawson on drums.
“Oleo” got its name from oleomargarine the butter substitute. Apparently it was all the rage back then. Even though there are lower fat alternatives these days, I haven’t been substituting much butter this delicious holiday season. But the holidays are over now. I had generous visits from The Great Pumpkin, The Horn Of Plenty, The Sugar Plum Faeries, and Kwanzaa’s Dili of Soul Food (if that’s not a thing it should be). I also seem to have had a visit from some sort of evil mythical pants tightening creature because I know four months of near constant carbohydrate consumption could not possibly have done this much damage! So, in addition to my “Blog 100 Days” pledge, I’m starting a 100 day “Put The Friggin’ Cookie Down And Have A Salad Already” pledge… right after I finish this bag of cookies. What?? They’re Milanos!
Both of the videos today feature songs from the 1959 album “Kind Of Blue” which is the best selling jazz album of all time. The idea behind the recording session was to provide simple chord outlines as a backdrop to the solo performances of the musicians. Davis wanted to capture the spontaneous feeling of the first take on all the songs. For “Blue In Green,” the song in the first video, Miles apparently wrote the symbols for G minor and A augmented chords on a piece of paper and handed it to Bill Evans saying “see what you can do with this.” Clearly what Bill did was magic.
“Flamenco Sketches” derives it’s name from the Flamenco style progression of chords which form the backdrop of the piece. I have no idea what a Flamenco chord progression is but I do know beautiful when I hear it!
I listened to both of these songs right before I went out for my walk today so I could listen to them in my mind as I walked. We are having yet another Indian Summer here in the great state of Illinois and the weather is gorgeous! Tomorrow we get back to our regularly scheduled coldness but for today the only blues we have around here are in the sky!
This is a clip from a concert in Sweden in October 1967. This show and another concert taped in November in Germany were combined to make an album called “Winter in Europe 1967” which was released in 2006. Technically October and November are not winter but I tend to call November “winter” anyway because it’s usually cold enough to count in my book.
The jazz here sounds pretty dang free to me but people on You Tube who seem to know what they’re talking about say the song “Footprints” is actually not free jazz. It’s a 12 bar minor blues. The quintet is simply “playing outside” and leaving the common path of harmonic structure. To that I reply: Blue is my favorite color. There were two versions of the song on the album but this one was not featured. Apparently it’s an outtake. I wish my bloopers sounded this good! I listened to a bit of the album version of this song and it does sound more harmonically structured… I guess. I do know that initially Miles was not a fan of free jazz. I remember reading Miles’ quoted response when he heard what Coltrane was doing but I couldn’t find it again. It was something along the lines of “Are you jiving me?” Whether it’s free or not, it’s still good music.
Nineteen sixty-seven was a very good year. It wasn’t such a great year for John Coltrane, Jayne Mansfield, or Bert Lahr because they all passed away. It was a great year for Will Ferrell, Pamela Anderson, Julia Roberts, and yours truly because we were all born. I sometimes quip about getting older. The passage of time is now evident in the lines around my mouth and the gnarly Bride of Frankenstein streaks in my hair. The other day, for the first time, I even caught myself holding a package at arms length to try to read the fine print. But honestly, I love the woman that 43 years of living has made me! I am far from ready for my dotage at this point but rest assured, when the time comes, I will make a fabulous little old lady!
“So What” is a Bill Evans composition and it’s the first track off the 1959 Miles Davis album “Kind Of Blue.” According to Wikipedia it is one of the best known examples of modal jazz. It’s 16 bars of D Dorian followed by 8 bars of E flat Dorian. The song is so nifty it even has a chord named after it in music circles! My extensive knowledge of music theory has led me to the following conclusion: Dorian is a pretty word.
How did any of us survive the 60’s and 70’s? Absolutely everything we did was deadly back then. All of our toys were pointy, explosive, and covered in sweet delicious lead paint. All of our buildings were stuffed with asbestos. We ate nothing but lard fried pork products and EVERYTHING contained sugar. We never wore seat belts and my only car seat was my momma’s lap! My grandparents smoked like chimneys through all of 8 healthy pregnancies between them. While I was watching this video I noticed that all of these men, whose livelihoods depended on their ability to breath, were either smoking or enjoying the rich satisfying flavor of second hand smoke and absolutely no one seems disturbed. Heck it never bothered me when I was a kid either. Now that we’re living in the germ free, bubble wrapped 21st century any prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke sends me into sinus purgatory!
PS Completely off the point but Miles Davis is the scariest looking man who ever lived. Period.
“Teo” is from the 1961 album “Someday My Prince Will Come” and it’s written in honor of Miles’ friend and producer Teo Macero. I listened to an interview Teo gave about working with Miles. You could hear the love as he talked about his quirky but gifted friend. Coltrane is featured in two songs on this album. This one and the title track. It was the last time the two men recorded together.
My friend says Coltrane’s face melting solo in this song predates mug melting electric guitar solos. With chest puffed out, gut sucked in, and arms akimbo I cry my haughtiest “No way!” Clearly my friend does not listen to the blues! Why, B.B. King’s electric guitar solos could give whole audiences the jowly cheeked basset hound look by ‘56. He was easily melting faces Raiders Of The Lost Ark style by ‘61. There are many artists who predate King by decades whose guitar licks could melt people from the knees up! Go to any blues festival and you’ll see that most of the audience is held together with duct tape and Spackle. I’ve a good mind to go to Twitter and write that man a scathing 140 character rebuttal for having a different opinion than mine! I’m not going to do it. I’m just saying I’ve got a good mind for it is all.