Sunday, December 29, 2013



© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved

Chet Baker’s first American tour included stops in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. The appearances in major cities were at established jazz clubs where the quartet was booked for stays of a week or longer.  In between the major stops there were many one night performances such as the concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Ann Arbor concert on Sunday, May 9, 1954, was organized by local jazz promoter and disc jockey, Ollie McLaughlin, who arranged to tape the concert which was presented at the Masonic Temple, 327 South Fourth Avenue, just a few blocks from the University of Michigan campus.  McLaughlin had presented the Dave Brubeck Quartet at the Masonic Temple in March and portions of that concert were recorded and released by Columbia Records on their “Jazz Goes to College” LP, CL 566.

The concert was advertised in the campus newspaper, The Michigan Daily, and a record store near the campus featured three of Baker’s Pacific Jazz LPs, Chet Baker Sings [PJLP-11], Chet Baker Quartet [PJLP-3], and Chet Baker Quartet featuring Russ Freeman [PJLP-6].

Earlier that week Marlon Brando’s THE WILD ONE had opened at a theater near the campus and ads for the film mentioned “jazzed-up hoods on a bust-up binge...” and the soundtrack featured Shorty Rogers and many of Chet’s musician friends as well as the pianist in the quartet, Russ Freeman.

Pacific Jazz released the Ann Arbor concert the following year as the third release in their new 12” LP format, Pacific Jazz PJ-1203.

Portions of the concert were also released in Pacific Jazz’s extended play series as EP 4-31 and EP 4-32.

The concert bill included another group as noted in the ads for the concert, The Four Robbins.  A column in the student newspaper mentioned “The Four Robins” only in passing and added that the two groups should “make this an eminently listenable evening.”  The proof can be heard in the Pacific Jazz album.  The audience reaction and applause was included for each selection played by the quartet, each drawing ample enthusiastic response from what sounds like a full auditorium.  In an interview with Russ Freeman he recalled that someone in the audience requested “In The Mood” and Chet’s response was also preserved in the recording, “We don’t play “In The Mood.”    

Ollie McLaughlin had a distinguished career as a jazz concert producer and disc jockey.  He passed away in 1984.

Pacific Jazz covers and labels
© EMI Capitol Music

Tuesday, December 17, 2013



© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved

Chet Baker expressed his admiration for the compositions of Bob Zieff in an interview with the Italian journalist, Francesco Forti, on July 25, 1959, that was published in Jazz di Ieri e di Oggi.  Chet stated, “There is a young composer who lives in New York, his name is Bob Zieff.  He writes music that is so advanced that nobody wants to buy it.  Some time ago in Paris I recorded some of his compositions for Blue Star (...) In that LP the pianist was Dick Twardzik, who died shortly afterword. The music on that album can give you an idea of what I intend to do in the near future.  I have this music at heart; it is very different from anything that has been played up to now.”

The Zieff compositions that Chet Baker recorded in Paris at the Pathe-Magellan Studios at 14 rue Magellan on October 11, 1955 [Rondette, Mid-Forte, Sad Walk, Re-search, Just duo] and October 14, 1955 [Piece Caprice, Pomp, Brash] were issued on a Barclay LP, 84009, in France.

Chet had recorded exclusively for Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz label and Bock requested permission from Eddie Barclay to reissue some of Chet’s French recordings for Barclay on a Pacific Jazz release.  Barclay sent four 10” studio reels, two contained compositions by Bob Zieff with Dick Twardzik on piano, and the other two tapes contained a series of standards with Gerard Gustin on piano replacing Dick Twardzik and Bert Dahlander on drums replacing Peter Littman.  Bock selected five of the latter for side one of Pacific Jazz PJ-1218 [Summertime, You Go To My Head, Tenderly, Autumn In New York, There's A Small Hotel], and five of the Zieff tunes for side two, [Rondette, Piece Caprice, Mid-Forte, Pomp, Sad Walk].

Seven of the Zieff compositions that Chet Baker recorded for Barclay had been performed by Dick Wetmore on violin with piano, bass, and drum accompaniment for Bethlehem.  An eighth composition, Shiftful, was included on the Bethlehem album but was not among the charts adapted for Baker as Zieff felt it did not lend itself to trumpet.  Baker’s recording for Barclay included an eighth composition by Zieff that was not on the Wetmore album, Mid-Forte.  It was not included on Wetmore’s Bethlehem session although it had been written and was around during the recording session.  It did not fit within the concept of a “suite” with the other eight compositions on the album and its inclusion would have exceeded the limits of the planned ten inch LP release.  


One morning a few weeks ago, Dick Wetmore and Bob Zieff came up to the offices of Bethlehem with some demonstration records they had cut in someone's basement back in Boston.  Bob told me that "a group of musicians (who weren't working together) started rehearsing for a record date.  I was asked by Dick to write some music for the rehearsing group. A mixture of passivity, antagonism and enthusiasm (among other things) helped and hindered this venture.  At least 'four and one' persons should be strongly aware of this."  

I would like to change that to 'four and two' persons since it was with the same sort of feelings that I sat down to hear the sides at first.  Not being particularly well-versed in some of the newer techniques of composition, I felt that at first hearing I would be left almost wholly in the dark and would not be able to form any honest opinion.  Admittedly, I as yet haven't been able to fully piece together all of the  compositional aspects of the pieces, not having had the opportunity to listen more than once or twice since the first day. At the very beginning, however, I could see that the deeper understanding was not prerequisite to the enjoyment of the music since the prime requirements were here in abundance.

Although some of the compositions do not fall into the familiar four, eight, twelve or sixteen-bar patterns, and none (with the possible exception of Rondette) adhere to any commonly-used harmonic structure, there is no noticeable effect on the manner in which the quartet swings together.  There is none of the uncomfortableness here that accompanies most "experiments" of this kind, wherein the performers are unable to successfully overcome the obstacle of familiar patterns and venture onto unconventional ground without making the listener tensely conscious of it. There is none of the affected kind of blowing that creeps into the majority of these performances.  All four members are jazzmen first, Jimmy Zitano and Ray Santisi have worked with many jazz groups around the Hub and both are currently featured with trumpeter Herb Pomeroy's group at the Stable in Boston. Ray has previously recorded with Boots Mussulli.  Bassist Bill Nordstom has been doing studio work in addition to his jazz activities. Leader Dick Wetmore has been playing violin since the age of six and has worked around Boston  with jazz groups, including his own, for the past several years. Dick's record debut is rather a timely one.  The jazz scene hasn't had an important violinist since Eddie South and Stuff Smith and Dick could very well fill this gap.  

Bob Zieff, who is responsible for the eight compositions, holds a bachelor's degree in Musicology from Boston University.  His writing displays a firm knowledge of traditional techniques as well as the newer devices.  His pieces often show humor and wit and always an intimate feeling for the jazz idiom.  As an additional aid to the listener, I will include below a technological description of each piece, written by Bob at my request.

  1. Piece Caprice: A A' B A form. The A' section develops the A section.  The top and bottom parts are built around typical jazz-styled inner-voice parts.
  2. `Just Duo: a broken form consisting of the measure-grouping: 2+1+(2+2)+2.
  3. Pomp: of blues orientation. Its first four-measure phrase lacks the usual fourth measure; i.e., a measure order resulting: 1+2+3+5+6, etc. Its overall phrase grouping is: 3+2+(2+2).
  4. Sad Walk: A A' B A form as in Piece Caprice.  Now the B section is "free" for the performer to improvise upon.
  5. Brash: A A' B A form again.  Here used are less familiar harmonic progressions and melodic movement.
  6. Re-Search: A A B A form. The title alludes to its feeling of jazz in the '30's.
  7. Shiftful: phrases are abbreviated more noticeably   here than elsewhere.  The opening four-measure phrase is extended by a varied repetition of the fourth measure; i.e., 4+1.  The next four-measure phrase is "robbed" of its fourth measure.  The complete A section is: 4+1+3.  The last measure of the repeated A is at the same time the first measure of the bridge.  The phrase structure of the bridge is: 3+2+4+(2+2). This is thematically related to Just Duo.
  8. Rondette: a twice repeated twelve-measure section. This alternates with different B material.  B appears in the following order: original; inversion; original played simultaneously with the inversion (mirrored) and original followed by inversion forming one continuous phrase.

For various reasons, the above order of selections could not be followed.  However, Bob suggests that they be listened to in that order since they form a unit: the suite.

Tom Stewart

The eight compositions on the LP had to be presented out of intended listening order in order to fit the limitations imposed by the 10" LP format.  The total timing for Piece Caprice, Just Duo, Pomp, and Sad Walk is 19:24.  Brash, Re-Search, Shiftful, and Rondette total 15:25 (Zieff's preferred order of listening).  The excuse offered regarding the order of the compositions on the LP is curious as the tunes could have been ordered so that each side of the LP contained a little over 17 minutes.  The final presentation puts the four tunes on side one at 18:06 and the four tunes on side two at 16:43.

The circumstances behind the Bethlehem album of Bob Zieff’s compositions interpreted by the Dick Wetmore quartet are related in the following excerpt from Jack Chamber’s essay, REVENGE OF THE UNDERGROUND JAZZ COMPOSER, published in the 2004:2 edition of SIRENA, a publication of The Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA. © 2004, Dickinson College. 

Word spread that Zieff's music for the experimental quartet was "advanced," and rehearsals became public events in the Boston jazz community. Sometimes the rehearsals took place afternoons at the Stable, where Twardzik was working nightly as intermission pianist. Other times they took place at 905 Boylston Street, a rooming house around the corner from Berklee that had been taken over by jazz musicians. For two or three years, 905 Boylston was a legendary commune. One musician told me they had a saying: "When you get to the top floor at 905," he said, "you know you're getting high." There, under a potted tree growing upside-down from the ceiling and chickens pecking in the halls, Wetmore and his sidemen worked through the intricacies of the charts under Zieff’s watchful eye. His tunes "Rondette" and "Re-Search" move briskly over the scales, and "Mid-Forte" and "Piece Caprice" include rapid exercise-like sequences with occasional octave leaps. The moods are brooding on "Sad Walk," "Just Duo" and "Brash," and winsome with minor drags on "Rondette," "Sad Walk" and "Pomp." There is no sense in Zieff s writing for the ensemble that some instruments belong in the foreground and others in the background. Roles shift, and Zieff’s conception of the string bass is especially flexible, sometimes playing arco counterpoint with the horns and other times providing the basic walking rhythm. The ensemble writing is almost idealistically democratic.

For all its technical complexity, the main impression of the music is elegance. "Although some of the compositions do not fall into the familiar four, eight, twelve or sixteen-bar patterns, and none adhere to any commonly-used harmonic structure," says the author of the liner note on the Bethlehem recording that was eventually issued under Wetmore's name, "there is no noticeable effect on the manner in which the quartet swings together." Each note seems to be placed exactly where it has to be, and the musicians obviously relish the parts Zieff has assigned to them in the four-part invention.

By the time the musicians had mastered the compositions to Zieff’s satisfaction, the group had changed. "The quartet we put together was a fabulous group," Wetmore recalled with a sigh. "It really was an excellent group, but those things change as people move around." The original bassist, Jimmy Woode, accepted an offer to join the Duke Ellington orchestra, and Richard Twardzik had to leave Boston to avoid heat from narcotics officers. Only the principals involved can possibly know how much better the recording might have been with the original band members, but the recording that resulted, substitutes and all, was (and is) wonderful enough. Musically, it deserved a better fate, but the producers at Bethlehem were leery about its lack of commercial potential and held onto it for over a year before releasing it, almost apologetically, without publicity or promotion. To be fair to the producers, it fit no convenient niche. There were only 35 minutes of music, eight tracks of three to five minutes each, just enough for a 10" LP. It quickly went out of print and was not reissued for 45 years, when Japanese Toshiba brought it out in a kind of boutique virgin vinyl facsimile.

Richard Twardzik, having missed the chance to make the record, was full of regrets, but he found an ingenious way of making up for it. In fall 1955, he was invited to join Chet Baker's quartet for a tour of Europe, and even though he was almost completely unknown outside Boston he had the temerity to tell Baker that if he joined he expected the band to play something more challenging than ballads and jazz standards. A few months earlier, Twardzik had tried to persuade his previous bandleader, Serge Chaloff, to get hold of some Zieff scores. Chaloff was interested, but the only pay-off for Zieff was an oblique compliment. "Serge said I must be good because Dick (Twardzik) didn't seem to like anything," Zieff told me, and then he laughed and said, 'This surprised me because I found Dick much more open to things than I was!" Twardzik found Baker more receptive. He told Twardzik he would welcome some original music, and Twardzik turned immediately to Zieff and got him to re-arrange the Wetmore charts for Baker.

© 2004, Jack Chambers

The full essay is available online.

Chet Baker’s desire to record additional compositions by Bob Zieff was partially realized when he returned to the U.S. from Europe.  Two Zieff compositions, Slightly Above Moderate and Medium Rock, were included on PJ-1224, Chet Baker & Crew.  Four additional compositions by Bob Zieff were recorded in New York during a December 1957 recording session, Twenties Late, A Minor Benign, Ponder, and XTwenties Late was licensed to Playboy for a release on a record album promoting the Playboy Jazz Festival and Jazz Poll.  The other three Zieff compositions would languish in the vault until a 1993 CD release celebrating Chet Baker’s Pacific Jazz years. But Chet kept one Zieff composition alive during the twilight of his career, Sad Walk.  He would record it numerous times, and perform it in concert and radio broadcasts.

The Chet Baker Quintet [Jacques Pelzer, reeds; Michel Herr, piano; Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, bass; Alex Serra, conga] performed Sad Walk during a radio broadcast in Bordeaux, France on November 5, 1976.

The Chet Baker Sextet [Jacques Pelzer, reeds; Gianni Basso, Tenor; Bruce Thomas, piano; Lucio Terzano, bass; Giancarlo Pillot, drums] recorded Sad Walk for Carosello (Italy) in March of 1977.

The Chet Baker Quartet [Phil Markowitz, piano; Scott Lee, bass; Jeff Brillinger, drums] performed Sad Walk in a concert in Nürnberg, Germany, on November 15, 1978.

The Chet Baker Quartet [Phil Markowitz, piano; Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, bass; Jeff Brillinger, drums] performed Sad Walk in a concert in Stockholm, Sweden, on December 11, 1978.

The Chet Baker Quartet [Horace Parlan, piano; Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, bass; Aage Tanggaard, drums] performed Sad Walk at “Jazzhaus Montmartre”, Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 20, 1979.

The Chet Baker Trio [Doug Raney, guitar; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, bass] performed Sad Walk at “Jazzhaus Montmartre”, Copenhagen, Denmark, on October 4, 1979 and this performance was released on SteepleChase SCCD 31180, Someday My Prince Will Come.

The Chet Baker Quintet [Wolfgang Lackerschmid, vibes; Larry Coryell, guitar; Frank Tusa, bass; Alphonse Mouzon, drums] performed Sad Walk in a concert in Villingen, Germany, on November 17, 1980.

Chet’s next recorded performance of Sad Walk was with a trio [Michel Graillier, piano; Ricardo del Fra, bass] at the “Club 21” in Paris, France, on September 2, 1983.  The recording was released on Philology W56.2.

The Chet Baker Quintet [Nicola Stilo, flute; Michel Graillier, piano; Ricardo del Fra, bass; Leo Mitchell, drums] performed Sad Walk in a concert at Johns Hopkins University, Bologna, Italy, on October 26, 1983.

The Chet Baker Quintet [Phil Urso, tenor; Ruth Holloway, piano; Larry Holloway, bass; Nat Yarborough, drums] performed Sad Walk at a concert in the “Oxford Hotel”, Denver, Colorado, on March 9, 1985.

The Chet Baker Trio [Philip Catherine, guitar; Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, bass] recorded Sad Walk for Criss Cross, Monster, Holland, on June 6 & 25, 1985.

The same trio performed Sad Walk at the 7th Jazz Festival, Münster, Germany, on June 21, 1985.  It was recorded and released on Enja Records.

Chet’s trio with Michel Graillier, piano; Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, bass; was in Stockholm, Sweden, the following week, June 30, 1985, where Sad Walk was recorded for release on Sonet Records.

The cited performances of Sad Walk have been documented by Thorbjørn Sjøgren in his 1993 publication, CHET - The Music of Chesney Henry Baker, JazzMedia, Copenhagen, Denmark.  Gratefully acknowledged by the author.

© 2004, Bob Zieff, The Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA. © 2004, Dickinson College.

Monday, December 16, 2013



© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved

George Hoefer’s closing comment in his Down Beat review from 1965 noted:

Jazz record buyers may have missed the boat back in 1949, but today there are many who listen to the Birth of the Cool with the same affection the old-timers have for the Louis Armstrong-King Oliver duets on Gennett.”

Hoefer, George. “The Hot Box - The Birth of the Cool.” Down Beat,  7 October 1965, 13, 40.

(© Down Beat, 1965, Maher Publications)

The same might be said today, forty-eight years later, for those jazz fans who embraced the Birth of the Cool sessions in the 1950s and now hold the same nostalgic regard for this music created over a half century ago.

The digital age has witnessed several reissues of these sessions on compact disc where the music continues to live and be available to new devotees discovering this music. 

The Birth of the Cool sessions have also seen numerous live performances of the music in concert halls. The Brad Curran Nonet presented the music in a live performance on December 13, 2003, in Princeton, Wisconsin. The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra gave several performances of the Birth of the Cool in April of 2010The Birth of the Cool was a major feature of the Miles Davis Festival in Chicago, Illinois, during a series of concerts in March of 2011. The Jeff Presslauf Nonet presented the music in a concert in Winnipeg, Canada, in May of 2012.

The Los Angeles Jazz Institute presented a series of concerts during their May 2013 four day festival that included a performance of the Birth of the Cool.

A google search for the Birth of the Cool will retrieve numerous references and reviews of the music.   Arthur Carvajal’s blog examines the concept of cool and be-bop. Jeff Sultanoff offers an appraisal of each of the charts that make up the Birth of the Cool. 

Fans can rest assured that the music will continue to be talked about, performed and available in the 21st century.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013



© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved

Andre Hodeir’s Jazz: Its Evolution and Essence was translated from the French and published in English by Grove Press in 1956.  Originally published in France in 1954 as Hommes et problèmes du jazz, It stands as the first extensive critical appraisal of Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool sessions.

The Grove translation includes footnotes and an illustration that I have preserved by presenting this text as jpegs. 

Alun Morgan and Raymond Horricks devoted a chapter of their Modern Jazz - A Survey of Developments since 1939, Victor Gollancz, 1956, to a discussion of the "Birth of the Cool" sessions. Their essay follows the Hodeir jpegs.

Andre Hodeir, the French critic and musician, devoted part of a chapter of his 1956 book, Jazz: Its Evolution and Essence, to this Davis band. He was greatly impressed by the arrangements, and in his summation of the band's importance he wrote, "Men like Evans and Mulligan seem to have understood that the principal objective of the arranger should be to respect the personality of each performer while at the same time giving the group a feeling of unity."

Hoefer, George. “The Hot Box - The Birth of the Cool.” Down Beat,  7 October 1965, 13, 40.

(© Down Beat, 1965, Maher Publications)

© 1956, Andre Hodeir, Grove Press, N.Y.


A Survey of Developments since 1939



VII  The Miles Davis 1948/49 Group

In September 1948 New York's Royal Roost presented a nine-piece modern jazz unit led by the young Negro trumpeter Miles Davis. In comparison with the familiar attractions at the club this group had a most unusual instrumentation. With a front-line of trumpet, trombone, alto and baritone-saxophones, French horn and tuba, it represented the first real step beyond the confines of the unison-ensemble small group. Collectively the musicians had achieved a unique orchestral effect; a confirmation of the many experiments which haphazardly had contributed to the evolution of the modern movement in jazz. Miles and his fellows had created a new sound, at last a satisfactory co-ordination of the ideas growing from the Minton theorists. Even today the group represents the highest artistic level ever attained by the modernists.

Miles made one of the worst financial flounders in the history of jazz. As a regular unit the group's duration can be counted in weeks. Its music was incomprehensible to audiences seeking only the frenzy of jazz, its appeal so esoteric that the superior musical policy was hardly appreciated outside a small circle of musicians. Yet through just three recording sessions for Capitol (supervised by Pete Rugolo) Miles achieved an orchestral cohesion never to be equalled since by a modern jazz group. Greater individual solos have been created.  Certain musicians have succeeded in expressing more drive, more abandon, more of the vital emotional inspiration so necessary to jazz. For a representation of collective modern jazz, however, and for imaginative scoring to assist and accentuate the soloist, there the group's style climbs worthily on to its historical pedestal. Without destroying the essential elements of jazz it took on the careful preparation normally found  only in  chamber and symphony music.

The thought of forming such a group was conceived by Miles Davis during the summer months of 1948. Meetings with Gerry Mulligan, then a little-known arranger and baritone player with the Claude Thornhill band, brought the opportunity to discuss the idea in practical terms. With a strong emphasis on the written aspect of jazz Miles would obviously require a concentrated pool of arranging heads. Men capable of exploiting the new group to its fullest extent. In turn Mulligan and the Thornhill staff arranger, Gil Evans, assured the trumpeter of the wide possibilities offered by such a band. Ideas for scoring were legion. With the right musicians the plan could certainly take shape.
Gradually the three men brought their blue-print to the reality stage. Through several discussions, test sessions and hours of burning the midnight oil on experimental writing, a concrete policy was laid. Basically the need was for a medium-sized group, capable of supporting soloists with scored backgrounds after the fashion of a full orchestra. They wanted to improve jazz in written form but at the same time maintain an atmosphere of relaxation for the individual. It meant the innovation of a new ensemble sound, of contrasting section voicings within the front-line. Yet these respective changes were skillfully introduced without impairing in any way the force of the rhythm section. The beat had to be preserved because it holds the key to every form of jazz. There was a conventional rhythm section, using of necessity written parts, but not restrained in its punch behind the ensemble.

The final constitution of the band was determined by several important requirements. Without being a power-house group the front-line needed depth. Miles wanted a rich, full sound, mellow in its unison voicings, but prepared for definite contrapuntal designs within the arrangements. The baritone, French horn and tuba would increase the tonal depth, offering the arrangers an ensemble range of three and a half octaves. In the overall voicing the complement of light and deeper-toned instruments was perfectly balanced. Plenty of room was left for the arranger to stress light and shade while the melody instruments were not too unwieldy to be pushed and swung by the rhythm section. The tonal quality of the ensemble could be varied considerably by the distribution of the lead parts. Looking through the group's records one can distinguish marked changes in the arranger's attack on, say, Israel with a trumpet lead and Jeru with its two-saxophone lead. The richness of voicing remains common to both, but the former has a harder edge, a stronger impact which stiffens the entire ensemble effect.

In the main, of course, the orchestra reflected the subtle, devious approach originally advocated by Lester Young. The desire to occasionally leave the obvious road and explore the beautiful woods on either side. Yet as with Lester there was a certain natural warmth about the music. Its sounds were relaxed but never in the cold, detached sense that for several years was to envelop the younger white modernists. Miles might unconsciously have pointed a finger towards the cool style, yet the relaxation of his group was no mere affectation; it was only the logical outcome of the instrumental design being used. The ensemble was never allowed to drift listlessly through the orchestrations. Continually the arrangers were taxing its elasticity with complex scoring devices and new thematic material. Many jazz groups have developed a stereotyped style through the reins being completely in the hands of one arranger. Even the best musicians are very much at the mercy of their staff writers in this respect. (Exceptions, of course, are bands portraying the written work of truly gifted minds like Ellington, Carter and Redman.) Miles wisely avoided any possibilities of this pitfall, however, by having a varied panel of arrangers, each one able to present a different facet of the ensemble scope. The music never became a stagnant pool.

A group of this kind required an acute concentration from its musicians. The wide range of material naturally placed a limit on the men Miles was able to employ. To avoid becoming a precision machine, completely devoid of all musical emotion, the trumpeter aimed for musicians who from his own acquaintance he knew to be sincere. He sought sound technicians, alert to the increased complications of transcribed jazz, yet also men with a creative ability. There was no sensational collection of soloists. No high-priced stars to disturb the productivity of the group with their purple passions and egocentric gluttony for the spotlight. The musicians were competent readers, fully conscious of their role within the group. The recorded solo work was tasteful and free from exhibition. The fact that greater individual solos have been recorded is not meant as a derogatory remark about the group. Solo contributions maintained a high standard (Miles's own imagination in particular can hardly have been more vividly inflamed by a supporting group), and this aspect of the soloists is only pointed out to illustrate more clearly the make-up of the band. Virtuoso musicians of the Gillespie and Parker calibre had given way to the younger modernists, to musicians less matured in their outlook and therefore better suited to the group's pattern. Everything was calculated to place the most pliable material in the hands of the arranger. For the guiding light of the band unquestionably shone from its reservoir of scoring talent. If any solo weakness existed it was belittled by the collective produce of the band. No other modern jazz group has ever held such a strong writing staff.

At the outset the larger proportion of the scoring came from Gerry Mulligan. It was really the first definite step in the saxist's career. Previously he'd earned appraisal from musicians for his “Disc Jockey Jump” with Gene Krupa and a little scoring for Thornhill, but the seeds of his present reputation were sown through his work with the Davis band. Having taken an active part in the construction of the ensemble, Mulligan revealed a firm grasp of its value even on his earliest scores. He wasn't the most gifted mind ever to write for the group, but in the embryonic stage of the experiment he played the most vital writing part.

Mulligan's style represents a compromise between the extremes in jazz composition of Ellington and the white school of Bill Russo. He is basically a technical writer, with none of Ellington's racial romanticism or melodic invention. A composer concerned with strong group construction as opposed to sensitive material. Yet through this medium of technique he shares the Duke's gift for writing to offset the soloist. He keeps the musician at ease with his scoring; and although a far less talented creator his work seems to carry a conviction through to the soloist. There's a rhythmic pulse in his style which has defied all attempts to class him alongside the cold abstraction of Bill Russo. The arrangements of Mulligan carry a direct attack while those of Russo are moody and introspective. They have a swing which is often found lacking in the white arrangers.

At times the role of Gerry Mulligan's composition has been exaggerated in jazz. One cannot afford admittedly to discount the obvious qualities in his work with regard to precision and orchestral control. On the other hand, Mulligan as a composer is still only a miniaturist. He is gushing with ideas regarding presentation, the actual execution of his thoughts, but his themes are limited by their own purely technical make-up. As yet they have not provided a basis for written jazz in extended form. Instead of blending into a strong melody they remain a collection of technical phrases. They cater for the soloist through the strength of their harmonic changes, but they lack the melodic beauty necessary for a logical expansion. Mulligan composes for a certain group of instruments; it's not always easy to convert his themes to other jazz groups. He is in approach the complete arranger. Here lies his real strength. The ability to cope with technical problems as they arise; to perfect the actual executive work of a group. As a baritone player he can be excused his tendency to overscore the reeds at the expense of the brass.  This mannerism has its advantage. The slight melodic content of his writing is rather enhanced by the sleek run of the saxophone voicings. It certainly seems that Mulligan is really more the engineer than the sculptor. When examining his work the arranging strength appears to dominate the actual composition.

Similarly Gil Evans's real value sprang from his understanding of the orchestra rather than from the creation of original material. Years of scoring commercial music had coated his style with a strong melodic sense, a gift for blending attractive voicings in his arrangements. In this respect Gil remained a continual asset to the group for the scoring of standard melodies. He could make alterations to the melodic lines without destroying the intrinsic beauty; create an elastic interpretation of a commercial theme to suit the style of the group. This is doubly evident in his scoring behind a vocalist. On the occasions that Kenny Hagood sang with Miles it was Gil Evans who carved the supports. He used the voice as he would a solo instrument. Hagood appeared to be surrounded, rather than backed by the group. Gil's scores are not content to occasionally stress points in the singing. They must continually be portraying the melody with him, blending tonally with his voice and adding richly-banked harmonies to the overall sound.

Other musicians had also contributed to the band's repertoire. Since coming to New York, Miles himself had studied at the Juilliard Institute and he began writing originals for the group. Single compositions came from Bud Powell, Cleo Henry and Johnny Carisi. Carisi, a little-known New York trumpeter, wrote the futuristic “Israel.” Like Emily Bronte's novel this solitary score was a masterpiece. Carisi gained the utmost effect from the contrast of sectional voices in a contrapuntal design. He tossed the theme around the ensemble like a ball, using mainly a trumpet lead, though continually playing brass against reeds, one moment swelling, the next retracting the volume of sound. Johnny arranged the composition himself for the group and presented the melody in a most dramatic light, with unusual rhythmic accents behind the sharply-defined main phrases of the theme. It is indeed unfortunate that Miles didn't record any further material by Carisi.

The trump card of Miles's arranging, however, came shortly after the group's inception. The trumpeter gained his one truly great composer in the person of pianist John Lewis. For whereas Gerry Mulligan has a competent mind for orchestral jazz, Lewis has all the gifts of a composer. While being well-versed technically, he has the imagination and the natural inspiration to create music worthy of expansion. He is the first composer since Ellington to write real jazz in extended form. His thoughts are often simple, at times invoking the serene beauty of the French Impressionists, but they may be developed along logical lines. John's writing with Miles gave one of the earliest pointers to the later developments of Negro jazz in New York. He dispelled the theory that written jazz must eventually incarcerate the natural feeling of the soloist. Intelligent writing can be sensitive to the needs of improvisation; John's orchestrations will have a scored part for every musician in the group, even to the rhythm section, and in the resulting sound not one musician will appear strained. The acute orchestral sense of Lewis provides a backing suitable to the musician. His scores have the same sympathy for Miles or Clifford Brown that Ellington's impart behind Cootie Williams. Like the Duke, his deep technical knowledge serves only as a gilt to the expression of ideas. The propensity for correctness, the orderly form of presentation, the minute detail of his construction—these elements in the make-up of John's style are the tools to model his creations. Being a sound technician increases the power of his portrayal. It is employed to develop not to submerge jazz. Every group for whom John Lewis writes appears to be illuminated by his ideas. The Miles Davis unit was no exception.

When selecting the musicians for the group Miles made no distinctions regarding colour. The men were required for a band pattern, not a prolonged jam session.  Considering that most musicians are normally reluctant to join experimental units, the response to the trumpeter's venture yielded a good harvest of rapidly developing soloists. The band represented a strong racial co-operation; probably the final alliance of any importance prior to the movement of modern white jazz to the West Coast.

The white musicians again came chiefly from the Claude Thornhill band. Mulligan on baritone, tuba player John Barber, bassist Joe Shulman and the young altoist Lee Konitz were the first to cross over to the new group. French horn player Sandy Siegelstein joined from Thornhill shortly afterwards.

Mulligan had already developed into a confident soloist at this time. His soft intonation became a familiar solo sound with the group and minimized the absence of a tenorman. Actually Gerry handles this normally unwieldy saxophone with the facility one might expect from a tenor. He slides lucidly through each register with the structural perfection so typical of his writing. Although it would be hard to imagine him unleashing the full emotional force of a great Negro saxophone player he does play with a beat. In a way he suffers from the elegance of his expression. Rather than risk one badly-phrased note he will abandon the gutty impetus of a baritone player like Harry Carney. Restraint can be an aid to beautiful phrasing, but too much of it can also withhold the feeling from a solo. The inspiration remains within the musician instead of being communicated through his playing to the listener. Taste and technique remain Mulligan's gods. He impresses the intellect as a fine musician, but fails to arouse the same excitement as a gushing, forceful blower like Charlie Fowlkes, the less technically minded baritone player with Basie.

Joe Shulman, really a disciple of the Tristano school, produced a strong drive behind the ensemble. Barber and Siegelstein were sound studio musicians, chosen to play the difficult written parts, and on record they blend well with the various voicings. Lee Konitz was perhaps a less happy choice for the group. The altoist was already infatuated with the cold, almost abstract style of improvisation. His playing was fluent but concerned entirely with technique for its own sake. The ideas displayed no strong melodic content. On record, at least, their ring is shallow. Even the tone has the limp, dewy tracery of a water-lily. Beautiful yet so fragile. When Konitz joined the Kenton orchestra several years later his style underwent a rapid change of face. He began to blow with a piercing tone; to swing instead of merely moving mechanically with the beat. Obviously the altoist was passing through an awkward phase while with Miles. He seems unsure of his true position in jazz and only rarely does his solo work flicker with inspiration.

Miles opened with Kai Winding, the Danish-born musician on trombone. Later he brought in Jay Jay Johnson, the greatest technician of the younger Negro trombonists. As with John Lewis's composition, Johnson uses his technique to create jazz. He swings all the time. He has a very direct attack as opposed to the poetic, fanciful flights of Benny Green. For the easy swing and tonal beauty he is slightly outclassed by Benny, though for range and swift articulation he is ahead of everyone. Johnson handles his slide with the apparent ease of a valve trombone.

Pianist Al Haig (like Kai Winding) only made the first recording session with the group. Shortly afterwards John Lewis took over the position. On drums Max Roach was reading the parts without difficulty. Nothing ever disturbed the precision of his playing. His beat remained a tower of strength behind the ensemble; light, relaxed, pliable to the rhythmic contrasts, yet swinging all the way.

Crowning the group was Miles himself, one of the most sincere soloists in modern jazz. A trumpeter whose artistic expression transcends all criticism of his technical shortcomings. It is true that Miles is dwarfed as a technician when ranked alongside the dynamic virtuoso Gillespie. He was quick to grasp the scored side of modern jazz and the new styles of phrasing, yet his trumpet lacks a powerful tone. His tone is soft, noticeably warm but clouded in comparison with the cutting edge of Gillespie's or Navarro's. This naturally reduces the impact of his top-register work. With continued practice Miles' technique today has improved beyond measure, as indeed his recordings with the younger New York school will show. At the time of the Capitol sessions, however, he found it difficult to blow a sustained high note. His phrasing was often clipped, staccato style as he avoided the longer melodic lines.

The group's arrangers recognized these drawbacks and avoided taxing his technique unduly. They conceived subdued backgrounds with organ-styled harmonies to cushion the natural relaxation of his playing. Given this support the trumpeter excelled himself. One can sense him feeling the expression of every note. The phrasing is precise but garnished by many beautiful ideas. Miles had a most fertile imagination. His logical development of a theme cannot be darkened by the technical faults. The inspiration given to him by the group greatly reduced the hesitancy of his early solos with Charlie Parker.

Miles first took the group into the Capitol recording studios on January 21, 1949. With him on the date were Mulligan, Konitz, Winding, Junior Collins (French horn), Barber, Haig, Shulman and Roach. They recorded four scores: “Godchild,” “Budo,” “Jeru” and “Move.”

“Godchild,” a composition of the modern pianist George Wallington, was arranged by Gerry Mulligan. From the opening bars of the theme the saxist draws back the curtains to reveal the complete ensemble range. The composition has an ascending main phrase and Gerry opens the score with the tuba, the deepest voice, leading the front-line, then moves the phrase to the lighter instruments so that the trumpet seems to fly upwards from the full ensemble. Miles must have been very impressed by this design, for he flows from the written line into one of his best recorded solos. A lyrical piece of invention, expressed with the normal subdued but feeling approach. It is interesting to note from the record how Mulligan has determined to obtain a maximum expansion of the composition. For the final thirty-two bars, instead of merely reiterating the opening chorus, he has conceived a new thematic statement, with an entirely different melody built over Wallington's chord sequence. This is a breach of jazz ethics which should occur more often. The imagination of an arranger ought not to be lazily curbed by the satisfaction of producing an original theme. If the composition is worthy of further development then the material should not be wasted.

The moody “Budo,” as its title implies, was officially composed by pianist Bud Powell. Bud also recorded the theme himself under the alias “Hallucinations.” Actually the piece has more structural tissue than is normally found in his pretty piano compositions. This bears out his own admittance that Miles helped to write the piece. With the exception of “Tempus Fugit,” Bud's piano themes have never really lent themselves as features for a group. We think Miles took a major part in composing this one. “Jeru,” on the other hand, can be easily identified as a Gerry Mulligan composition. This is one of the baritone man's typical swingers with its light reed voicing and smoothly-riding phrases. The supple movement of the ensemble is fully demonstrated here. Underlined by Max Roach's superb open cymbal work, the whole band swings along in complete concord.
John Lewis scored the fourth title, “Move,” a composition by drummer Denzil Best. His close interplay of the reeds and brass immediately gives the impression of a much larger band. “Move” is not a theme of great melodic power. It gives itself to orchestral exploitation essentially as a piece of impact; the rather plain phrases flimsily cover a series of strong rhythmic accents. John's score, poised perfectly on the beat, seems to incite every member of the group to uncoil and blow with remarkable force. The punching ensemble is most impressive for a smallish jazz group. Nothing is strained about the sound. The effect has the freedom of a head arrangement. With records of this standard it becomes very difficult not to admire the abilities of John Lewis in modern jazz.

On April 22, 1949, Miles recorded four further scores. With a reshuffle of musicians the personnel read as follows: Miles (trumpet), Jay Jay Johnson (trombone), Sandy Siegelstein (French horn), John Barber (tuba), Lee Konitz (alto), Gerry Mulligan (baritone), John Lewis (piano), Nelson Boyd (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums). Nelson Boyd had played with the Gillespie big band in 1948. He joined Miles from Charlie Barnet. Although preferring a four-string bass to the more commonly accepted five strings, Nelson generates a powerful force behind the ensemble. His sure-fingered accuracy is yet another case to point of a fine musician playing in an artistic, but completely unappreciated group. Kenny Clarke, of course, was the foremost pioneer of the modern drumming system. In joining the band he renewed a long-standing musical association with John Lewis. Whilst in the Army Kenny had been the first modernist to recognize the pianist's writing talents. Later he'd introduced him to Gillespie. At the end of Dizzy's European tour of 1948 the drummer had stayed on in Paris to teach and record with some of the younger French musicians. This record date was his first important engagement after returning to the New York scene.

The scores used on the session were Gerry Mulligan's “Venus De Milo,” Johnny Carisi's “Israel,” John Lewis's “Rouge” and Cleo Henry's “Boplicity.” Lewis had also arranged the last-named composition. Mulligan again incited the leader to conceive a really fine solo with his “Venus De Milo” tribute theme. The piece has an attractive melody and the later trumpet improvisation does it full justice. In turn “Rouge” must have bubbled into a fountain of inspiration for Lee Konitz, because his sixteen-bar solo here is without question the happiest thing he ever recorded with Miles. The thirty-two bar opening theme portrays a well-balanced contrapuntal design between the deep and lighter toned instruments. It is a clever statement, every instrument being expertly woven into the complete tapestry. Even the middle-eight is a perfect fit. Instead of standing as a passage of sharp relief it traces in its final two bars a logical reintroduction for the main melodic line. The relaxation only arrives with John's subsequent piano solo—a simple, unruffled half chorus over light background harmonies from the front-line. Konitz follows, flashing into double time, then relapsing in favour of easy, legato phrases. Apart from the solo interest of the succeeding chorus by Miles it's worthwhile noting how John builds up the ensemble strength behind the trumpet, gradually stacking the instruments in preparation for the final theme statement. A closing point of interest is the skillful key modulation in the coda.

In contrast the rich tonal shading in the melancholy “Boplicity” reflects the sensitive touch of Lewis. Employing a thick voicing, dominated by the deeper sounds of the ensemble, the pianist succeeds in creating a mood of ultra-relaxation. His impression of serenity and shadows has been faithfully captured on the score-sheet. Towards the conclusion he takes a piano solo and even as an active band musician he continues the pattern of his mood. There are no thoughts of a technical flag-waver. Obviously he has deeply considered the atmosphere of the piece and constructed his solo in agreement with its solemnity.

The third and final Capitol session took place on March 13, 1950; organized in the aftermath of the band's complete financial failure. Throughout America modern jazz groups were trying to imitate the voicings and complex scores propagated by Miles, yet the public refused to appreciate the fountain-head. An ironic gesture. So typical of the crave for sensationalism in jazz. Musical value is ignored. Anything bizarre and pretentious is automatically swallowed. This session was Miles' swan-song as a leader, but still a tribute to his sincere ideals.

With him in the studio that day were Jay Jay Johnson, Gunther Schuller (French horn), John Barber, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, Al McKibbon (bass) and Max Roach. McKibbon, another fine bassist, plays with a full, clean tone. He'd played on and off with Gillespie since 1947. Like Nelson Boyd he imparted a definite drive behind the group. Again four scores were used at the session: the two standards, “Darn That Dream” and “Moon Dreams,” Miles's “Deception” and Gerry Mulligan's “Rocker.” “Darn That Dream” has an impressive score built by Gil Evans around Kenny Hagood. It proves a most intelligent setting for the voice within a jazz group. While Kenny's expression of the melody remains the focal point of attention it appears to ride lightly with the ensemble in the manner of a solo instrument. “Moon Dreams” may also be a Gil Evans score, yet in parts one senses the methods of John Lewis again. There is that same blending of the deeper voices that John introduced with “Boplicity.” Principally it remains an orchestral feature. The solo work is limited to four bars from Lee Konitz and four from Mulligan. (Miles's trumpet is used sparingly as a lead instrument, occasionally playing accents to the wistful melodic line.) One central passage strongly recalls the Lewis touch. From Mulligan's solo the instruments assemble for an ascending phrase, then are one by one peeled away until only a sustained high note from Konitz remains; a thin, watery sound, quite the extreme from the rich ensemble which moments later engulfs it. “Deception” and “Rocker” use faster rhythms. The former has a complex interplay of instruments but reveals a chord sequence based on Shearing's “Conception.” Mulligan's tune is a thirty-two bar, with the main-eight revolving around a reiterated three-note phrase. For this score the saxist again built a second theme over the chord sequence. He features it in a central ensemble chorus, then breaks the pattern in eight bars of solo baritone to reintroduce the original melody.

Perhaps the most unfortunate feature of the band's dissolution lay in the section of its score-book which remained unrecorded. Several items like “Broadway Theme” (a Max Roach feature), John Lewis's “S’il Vous Plait” and another Evans-Hagood collaboration, “Why Do I Love You?,” were privately recorded during Royal Roost concerts. Yet part of the repertoire has presumably been shelved for ever. While so much musically sterile material was being recorded at a prolific rate by commercial groups the precious Davis book received only a coating of dust.

One of the most significant qualities of true jazz is its durability. The records we have by this short-lived band even today do not appear in the least dated by the latest developments in jazz. No one can claim to have advanced upon the Davis formula and yet still be creating jazz. Certain musicians have introduced new technical devices, but the frantic search for fresh sounds has not innovated a modern voicing to out-class the nine-piece unit of Miles. And while the band as an active force may have been silenced, its individual musicians have continued to infiltrate their ideas through to the newer experiments in jazz. Konitz, after having absorbed much of the Tristano influence, turned to a big band and stamped the cool alto style of the younger white modernists. Mulligan, via arranging for Kenton and Elliot Lawrence, made his way to the West Coast, where he innovated the designs for a piano-less quartet and a ten-piece group which partly followed the path of Miles' band. John Lewis laid the foundations for the written side of the New York school. Miles, Jay Jay and Max Roach began to shape the solo styles of the younger New Yorkers. The nine-piece unit was the last real act of co-operation by the white and coloured factions of the younger modernists. These factions have now gone their separate ways. As a result the racial affinity of ideas which came through the Minton movement has been torn asunder. The younger Negro modernists feel unable to participate in the trends of white technical development now growing on America's Pacific Coast. They are guarding more jealously the emotional elements of jazz in their search for advancement. In consequence the same separation of white and coloured jazz which existed with the swing era of the thirties has now returned.