Sunday, December 4, 2011
Miles Davis - In Person, At The Blackhawk, San Francisco Volume I & II (Columbia - P 17383 & 17384)
Blackhawk club in San Francisco had a well earned fame with exquisite and cozy performances. Miles Davis is among the many legendary artists who has taken the stage in this club which was explained to be close to ruins even in its heydays. Nothing was as important as the music.
Maybe the true success of the club lied in this standardness. There was absolutely nothing special about here. You just came, listened and went out. Nothing fancy, nothing to distract you apart from the smokey atmosphere. They took no reservations, there were no special arrangements for anyone. They had a teenage section where they only sold soft drinks and this was closed down by the city mayor. After huge protests from the artists, jazz lovers and the media, they reopened it. This shows how crucial the club has been to the people of SF.
Many recordings have been made here and Miles Davis's is among them. Ahmad Jamal, Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, and Thelonious Monk are all there. However, these sessions were the first for Miles Davis to record live. The recording setup was prepared at the club next door called 211. It is clear that even he felt home there and this reflects on his performance. He is known to wander around the club while his band were into their own solos. It doesn't get more intimate than this.
Coming back to the records, it is also self explanatory since the records have been a story of success since their first release. The sound is totally raw and real. Miles Davis is trying to touch your heart and brain with his solos and guess what, he damn well does it. If you cramp up the volume which I advise feverishly, you just need to close your eyes and picture yourself there with Miles smoking, sipping champagne and throwing out one of his solos in between. His solos are even showing all signs of this character. Sometimes extremely talkative, telling long stories, sometimes sharp as his tongue can be, hitting fast and then retreating. Yet it all comes down to one thing only. You listen Miles Davis without any corrections, any studio hanky panky. Pure Miles, pure music.
There is one thing I need to add before ending this. In 2003, Columbia records released the full version of the performances of these two nights, Friday and Saturday. However, the guys in Columbia were only wise enough to release them as CDs. It takes 4 CDs to cover the whole nights and unfortunately we don't get the privilege to listen them on vinyl. This is one of the dumbest things I've seen, I'm sorry to say. They are reissuing tons of old releases and missing this one out has been a blast. I hope they'll come to their senses soon. These performances are meant to be on records.