With a burst of breath through his trumpet, Miles Davis could steal your soul. A finicky curator of talent, he lured the finest musicians into his ensembles. And when they gathered in the studio, magic ensued. Davis and his band recorded “Kind of Blue”, his 1959 masterpiece, in just two days. It elevated the art of improvisation; some critics say it’s one of the finest albums ever recorded.
Only a small circle of collaborators ever saw Davis put music to tape. A new album gives a glimpse of genius at work. Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5 features a re-mastered version of “Miles Smiles” (1967) and two hours of exclusive session tapes mostly from that album. The compilation, which commemorates the 50th birthday of “Smiles”, showcases the quintet’s virtuosity. Davis shines on compositions such as “Dolores” and “Footprints”, and with his stellar sidemen – pianist Herbie Hancock, drummer Tony Williams, bassist Ron Carter and Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone – these musicians sound as if they were born to play together.
The session tapes also reveal the psyche and work ethic of a master bandleader with golden ears. Davis can be heard giving nuanced critiques of his players; he occasionally jokes and swears between takes. On “Blues in F (My Ding)”, a rare home recording, Davis plays piano for Shorter while sketching out a blues song he has in mind. This compilation allows you to eavesdrop without shame on brilliant musicians as they weave notes, chords and rhythms into enduring tapestries of sound. ~ PATRICK EDWARD COLE
Miles Davis Quintet “Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5”, out now
NEW YEAR, NEW TUNES
Growing up in 1980s Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel would listen to his father’s “scratchy” LPs of the Vienna Philharmonic and marvel at the “amazing, dark, glowing sound” of the orchestra. By 2007 the mesmerising maestro – affectionately nicknamed “the Dude” – was making his debut with them at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. On January 1st the 35-year-old will become the youngest person ever to conduct their legendary New Year’s Concert, arguably classical music’s most glittering engagement and typically watched by 60m people in 90 countries. He has commissioned a collection of Latin American works to play as a counterpoint to the standard waltzing fare for which a succession of Strausses are responsible.
A graduate of Venezuela’s groundbreaking music education programme, El Sistema, Dudamel dedicates an astonishing 25 weeks a year to the young musicians of his native country. In Vienna he will be using the New Year festivities to showcase Superar, a Sistema-inspired project which serves 1,200 children, many of them refugees. And he has already made his New Year resolution: to launch a “call to action” challenging adults everywhere to share the gift of music with a young person in 2017. ~ CLEMENCY BURTON-HILL
New Year Concert Vienna Philharmonic
Whatever your preconceptions about Swedish culture, Goat are unlikely to match them. In vivid robes and masks, they look like a macabre carnival band; their line-up includes two shrill singers, a demonic conga player and psychedelic-rock guitarists. And their official biography says they are the heirs of a mystical musical tradition from a tiny town inside the Arctic Circle called Korpilombolo.
Requiem, Goat’s third album, begins with an eerie acappella chant, and many of their pulsing songs use pentatonic and Phrygian scales that can recall anything from central European folk to Middle Eastern devotional music. Goat sound like the kind of discovery that gets world-music geeks frothing. But do some digging and you’ll realise the band may be fond of tall tales: they say their music was passed down to them by Korpilombolo’s ancient community of voodoo worshippers.
Some of this is tongue in cheek. Goat’s voodoo charade reminds us to take elaborate origin stories with a dose of salt. But what’s important is the music, and their sound is weird, wild and utterly compelling. In an age of relentless forward drive, Goat are harking back, to a mythical, globalised past. In doing so they’ve found a music without frontiers. ~ JAMES MANNING
Requiem out now
To listen to a selection of songs from these pages, search “1843mag” on Spotify