Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 26, 1945 at Savoy Records

(Image from London Jazz Collector)
"Hen Gates" is actually Dizzy Gillespie


Monday, November 26, 1945. Just another day at the office for the small independent Savoy Records label from New Jersey, for which they booked WOR Studios in Manhattan. First on, Don Byas and his quintet

Benny Harris (trumpet) Don Byas (tenor sax) Jimmy Jones (piano) John Levy (bass) Fred Radcliffe (drums)
   S5845    Candy
   S5846    How High The Moon
   S5847    Don By
   S5848    Byas-A-Drink

Next up (note the consecutive matrix numbers), the quintet lead by Charlie Parker, in his first ever session as a leader

Miles Davis (trumpet) Charlie Parker (alto sax) Argonne Thornton (a/k/a Sadik Hakim, piano) Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet* and piano) Curley Russell (bass) Max Roach (drums)

WOR Studios, Broadway, NYC, November 26, 1945
   S5849-1  Warming Up A Riff
   S5850-1  Billie's Bounce
   S5850-2  Billie's Bounce
   S5850-3  Billie's Bounce
   S5850-4  Billie's Bounce
   S5850-5  Billie's Bounce
   S5851-1  Now's The Time
   S5851-2  Now's The Time
   S5851-3  Now's The Time
   S5851-4  Now's The Time
   S5852-1  Thriving On A Riff
   S5852-2  Thriving On A Riff
   S5852-3  Thriving On A Riff
            Meandering
   S5853-1  Ko-Ko * 
   S5853-2  Ko-Ko *

Listen to the music on YouTube or Spotify (below).

 

[2020-11-26 update]

But, who plays trumpet on "Ko-Ko"?

There has been a lot of speculation through the years about who played the trumpet on "Ko-Ko". Early convention was that it was Dizzy because Miles couldn't cut it, whereas current opinion seems to favour that it was Miles Davis who played on it. In my opinion, some of this pro-Miles drive sounds like a reaction against his presumed technical deficiencies, an argument which has indeed plagued discussions about Miles for ever. He was indeed less proficient than, say, Fats Navarro or Clifford Brown, and he did have problems in the studio (the recording of Miles Ahead is a well-known instance), but bear also in mind that he was on "Bird Gets the Worm" only two years after the recording of "Ko-Ko".

The deepest analysis of this I have seen is on Tomasso Urbano's excellent website, here. However, I have two objections to his account. One is his repeated assertion that the tale of Miles not playing trumpet on "Ko-Ko" is "absurd" (twice), a "strange tale", a "legend" (three times), and an "absurd legend" (twice, including one in the opening paragraph). Also, he sounds dead set against the idea of a musician switching instruments in the middle of a recording. Rare, yes. Impossible, not at all.

My second and main objection is what do we do with the witness accounts from both Sadik Hakim (listed as Argonne Thornton in the session) and Miles himself. Hakim said that it was Dizzy on trumpet at least once


and Miles at least three times, the first as early as 1955:
Ira Gitler's liner notes for The Musings of Miles (Prestige)

Again in an interview with Les Tomkins in 1969 (source):
On a lot of the records that were very successful, tracks like "All Of You" and "Bye Bye Blackbird", when you played with the mute close to the mike, you had what came to be known as the Miles Davis sound. 
—I got it from Dizzy. 
I don't remember hearing that sound from Dizzy. 
—Listen to "Ko-Ko".

And in Dizzy Gillespie's autobiography, published in 1979 (p. 234, here): 

Unless I've missed something (do let me know in the comments below), Urbano's main points are:
  • U1- On "Ko-Ko" (take 1), piano and trumpet can be heard simultaneously
  • U2- On "Ko-Ko" (take 2), piano starts right at the downbeat of Parker's solo (not enough time for Dizzy to sit at the piano)
  • U3- Generally, Miles did have the technique to play the intro
  • U4- There's a recurring lick on "Thrivin' on a Riff" (takes 1 and 3) and Ko-Ko (takes 1 and 2), which Miles plays in early 1946 on "Anthropology" and "Moose the Mooche" (take 3)
  • U5- On "Ko-Ko" (take 2), the pianist plays the same chord inversions throughout (there should be a single pianist, ergo, this would be Dizzy, ergo, he wouldn't be on trumpet).
So, taking Urbano's evidence and accepting Miles's and Hakim's stories, how implausible would this be? 

In November 1945, 19-year old Miles's trumpet model is 28-year old Dizzy, and he's coping licks from him (not vice versa) like everybody else worth their bebop salt [U4]. It's not that Miles is not able to play the intro—he's "so nervous" (Gitler, 1955) that he just can't do it then and there [U3]. After all, this is Davis's second recording session; it has been a long and difficult one, and it has run into overtime. Desperate solution: Dizzy takes charge—he's the most assertive person in the room, even more than the leader himself.

Dizzy is known to have told pianists and drummers what to play, especially around this time. Here, he tells Hakim what to play on "Ko-Ko". Hakim is heard on the intro to take 1 [U1], and on take 2 he comps the way Dizzy's told him to until Dizzy "quickly sat down beside [him] and took over" (Hakim, 1959) [U2, U5].

I'm more than glad to stand corrected, and I wouldn't have a problem if it is indeed Miles who played on "Ko-Ko", but I do think the outright dismissal of Miles's and Hakim's accounts is a step too far.

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