Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop
Jeremy Yudkin
Trade Paperback; 161 pages
ISBN: 9780253219527
Indiana University Press

It would not be too far fetched to claim that trumpeter and bandleader Miles Davis was and remains the single most important figure in jazz history. While not saying as much, music educator and author Jeremy Yudkin supports such conjecture in his book Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop. Davis' recording career spanned the almost 50 years between his first recordings in April 1945 with Herbie Field's band (First Miles, Savoy, 2003) and his final recorded dates with his sextet at the Hollywood Bowl August 1991 (Miles Davis Live Around the World, Warner Brothers, 1996).

The period during which Davis lived had him at least on hand for, if not instrumental in, the births of bop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal, post bop, and fusion. Davis' recordings are cited as among the first recorded in each sub-genre.

Approaching his subject, Yudkin provides background information beginning with the seminal 1949/50 Birth Of The Cool dates with an emphasis on and analysis of the Davis composed/Gil Evans arranged "Boplicity." Yudkin then passes through the April 1954 recordings of "Blue 'n' Boogie" and "Walkin'" before introducing the Christmas Eve 1954 recording of "Bags Groove," which is addressed at length and considered by Yudkin to be among the first, if not the very first, hard bop recording.

The author discusses the first Davis quintet (pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, drummer Philly Joe Jones) and its expansion from 'Round About Midnight (Columbia, 1955) to the sextet with alto saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley on Milestones (Columbia, 1958). Discussed in passing is the sextet's interpretation of Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser" with regards to Davis' affinity for the blues. The Davis original "Milestones" (not to be confused with his 1947 recording of the same title) is presented as one of the trumpeter's first experiments in modal composition, a prelude to the recording of Kind Of Blue (Columbia, 1959).

Kind Of Blue assumes its necessarily important position in Yudnik's introductory discussion. By March 1959, Davis' group experienced flux with the firing of the heroin-addicted Garland and Jones. In the studio, the piano chair was shared by Wynton Kelly and the then newcomer, Bill Evans, while the drum chair was occupied by Jimmy Cobb. The sessions that would become Kind Of Blue were recorded March 2 and April 6, 1959. Between these dates, Davis and the Gil Evans Orchestra appeared on the The Robert Herridge Theater Show, April 2. The show included Kind Of Blue's "So What" and "The Duke," together with "Blues For Pablo," and "New Rhumba" from Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957).

With Kind Of Blue, Davis changed direction in composition. However, the change did not occur in a vacuum. From "Milestones" to Miles Ahead, Porgy And Bess (Columbia, 1958) and Sketches Of Spain (Columbia, 1960). Davis and Evans together experimented with playing over modes and scales as opposed to the fixed harmonic architecture of the 32 bar AABA song form. This experimentation was interwoven in Davis and Evans' big band recordings and Kind Of Blue. This experiment manifested in Kind Of Blue's "Freddie Freeloader" and "So What," the first two pieces recorded on March 2nd. "Freddie Freeloader" is a straight 12-bar blues while "So What" is the first fully conceived modal shot across the bow of the hard bop of Davis' first quintet. Yudkin proceeds to analyze in depth the history and sequencing of the original Kind Of Blue LP release, proposing an elaborate "arc" of album sequencing with Bill Evan's "Blue In Green" as the apex, and the palindromic solo order of "Blue In Green" placing Coltrane's solo at the apex.

This introduction sets the stage for Davis' second quintet, comprised of pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and drummer Tony Williams. This flavor of the Davis band is the most stable since the Milestones sextet. Active between 1965 and 1968, this new quintet was responsible for six albums that introduce the ill-defined jazz sub-genre post bop: E.S.P. (Columbia, 1965), Miles Smiles (Columbia, 1967),Sorcerer (Columbia, 1967), Nefertiti (Columbia, 1968), Miles In The Sky (Columbia, 1968), and Filles De Kilimanjaro (Columbia, 1968).

Yudkin chooses the second of these recordings, Miles Smiles, as his touchstone for his discussion of post bop. The author addresses each of the album's six pieces, using each to illustrate Davis' deeper exploration of modal performance mated with the brashness of hard bop in the up tempo songs and Bill Evan's introspective slower pieces. Yudkin argues effectively for the sub-genre post bop with Davis as the creator.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine Book Reviews Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and...
by Doug Collette
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend Book Reviews Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend
by David A. Orthmann
Published: November 15, 2017
Read Softly, With Feeling Book Reviews Softly, With Feeling
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 24, 2017
Read Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene Book Reviews Jazzing: New York City's Unseen Scene
by David A. Orthmann
Published: August 29, 2017
Read David Bowie: Behind the Curtain Book Reviews David Bowie: Behind the Curtain
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 20, 2017
Read "Man Of The Light: The Life And Work Of Zbigniew Seifert" Book Reviews Man Of The Light: The Life And Work Of Zbigniew Seifert
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 11, 2016
Read "Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth" Book Reviews Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 25, 2016
Read "The Free Musics by Jack Wright" Book Reviews The Free Musics by Jack Wright
by Daniel Barbiero
Published: May 10, 2017
Read "Nothing but Love in God's Water by Robert Darden" Book Reviews Nothing but Love in God's Water by Robert Darden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 25, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor