Friday, December 15, 2023

Miles Ahead in images

Some time ago, I put together Dennis Stock's photos from the first session for Miles Davis's Milestones record.

We now turn to one of the sessions for Miles Ahead, the first Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaboration for Columbia, a relevant LP in Miles Davis's career for its commercial success (the infamous change of covers was made easier by the speed at which runs of prints sold out). The photographs were taken in May 1957 at Columbia's studio on 30th St, Manhattan, and they come from Miles Davis's official website, where they do not carry information on location, date or personnel. From the credits in the Complete Miles/Evans Sony set, we know they were taken by Don Hunstein, Columbia's staff photographer.

Second and final LP cover (source)

The most significant image is the one showing the ensemble (except bass and drums), because it shows the positions of musicians and microphones (a grand total of four were used) to record an orchestra out of balance between the brass (one microphone in the middle for five trumpets, four trombones, two French horns and one tuba) and the "reeds" (one microphone for four chairs sharing alto sax/clarinets/flutes/oboe). As the (almost) only soloist, Davis has his own microphone, and I guess the fourth was for bass and drums, out of frame (click on the images to enlarge them).

Carisi, Evans, Miles, Konitz and Barber were in the Birth of the Cool nonet (1948-50)
Mucci, Evans and Barber were together in Claude Thornhill's orchestra (from 1942)
Mucci, Royal, Glow, Bank and Penque are present in every session with
Miles and Evans for Columbia between 1957 and 1960
(the albums Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain).

About these sessions, I have presented a couple of papers and have written extensively, here.

More images:

Miles Ahead has a few rare passages for two bass clarinets.
The main was Danny Bank (left), Romeo Penque would join as needed.

Romeo Penque, Miles Davis, Lee Konitz (only sax on the album).

Sid Cooper, Miles Davis and Lee Konitz.
Miles plays only flugelhorn (Martin) on this album.

Miles Davis with Sid Cooper and Lee Konitz behind.

Bill Barber on tuba, Miles Davis and Tony Miranda on French horn.

Bonus (this is from So What!, John Szwed's biography of Miles Davis), same people as above, with the addition of producer George Avakian standing next to Carisi):

PS (17Jan24): in the documentary about Miles Davis The Birth of the Cool (2019), more photos from the same session are shown. These are the most significant to my eyes:

From the top left, clockwise, with Miles Davis in the middle:
Jimmy Cleveland, Bernie Glow, Taft Jordan, (Ernie Royal and Louis Mucci partially hidden),
Johnny Carisi, Gil Evans, Sid Cooper making a note, and Lee Konitz

Same as above.
From the parts, they seem to be playing "Maids of Cadiz"

Gil Evans, George Avakian and Miles Davis (and Romeo Penque)

Gil Evans and Miles Davis

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