my favorite album (listening, day 5 – part 3)

…is a dead heat between Yo-Yo Ma’s first recording of the Bach cello concertos and Miles’s Miles Ahead.

I’m listening to MA tonight, as I have so many nights, and find an entire universe of feeling there. It’s an astounding, perfect record and that Miles went on to produce Kind of Blue is almost spooky.

Were I to rate Miles’ greatest recordings, it would be two pairs of two:

1.) Kind of Blue. You know this, and chances are you have read one of the books devoted to it. If you haven’t, (or even if you have one of the other ones), let me commend Richard Williams’ The Blue Moment, which – while chasing larger prey – has the most perfect writing on KoB I know. It’s chapter 8, 22 pages long, and like the album it celebrates, there is a glow about Williams’ work.

2.) Miles Ahead. Remember when the Beatles would put out singles that were so great, both sides became hits? I feel like that about Miles Ahead and KoB.

3.) Bitches Brew. Is it possible to undervalue Miles’ second most popular album? I suspect so; in recent years, partisans of Jack Johnson and On The Corner have made their cases for being the best of electric Miles. Don’t believe it; to my ear, BB was the last time Miles created a complete sound world that the ordinary person could inhabit. To this day, I don’t know why Pharaoh’s Dance isn’t more of a standard.

Yes, OTC is a sound world. Agartha too. But by then, you needed to be brave.

(Aside: I don’t think BB’s reputation was helped by the complete sessions box released a few years back. Unlike The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions, the BB sessions were fleshed out with much weaker material. Unlike the Jack Johnson and OTC boxes, none of the raw material from which BB was derived is present. Alone among the big Miles releases, this one can be safely passed over in favor of the remastered album by itself.)

4.) The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions. Again, a double sided hit. Imagine going from the spare stillness of IASW to BB in the space a few months, when other musicians would turn whole careers out of either.  Breathtaking, to this day.


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