When it comes to Jazz, and probably in other parts of life as well, I am a conservative (let me add that originally that word did refer to perfectly sane people). The jazz that brings me most joy is early to mid-bebop, the music of the 1950s and 60s: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Mingus,…, and yes, Miles Davis. I tend to stick with what I like, trying only occasionally to listen to earlier music (scratchy old Louis Armstrong albums, or mono recordings of Art Tatum), and even less occasionally to more recent music, with its blend of traditional Jazz, rock, folk, electronic music etc. etc.
On the other hand, I always admired Miles Davis’ ability to renew his music, getting inspiration from ever more diverse sources. How easy it is to coast: just keep doing what you’re doing so well, the craft that made you rich and famous, that brings happiness to millions of people, the thing you do better than anybody else. Making the effort to get out of your comfort zone requires amazing determination, doing it successfully requires unique talent. That’s an inspiring story for anyone whose work requires certain component of creativity, mixed with long periods of learning and improving your craft, not unlike a scientist or a writer.
(To appreciate the risks in this total transformation, just follow Miles into the 1980s…).
In comparison to this amazing feat, it is fairly easy for me to make the effort to occasionally listen to something new. Miles Davis second quintet is one of the best discoveries I’ve had when getting out of my own comfort zone. I Started with the wonderful “In a Silent Way” (which incidentally, was my first choice for this blog’s name), and then it was hard to stop. The language of this group is so different from Miles’ previous sounds, even his own sound transformed so much, it does take some getting used to. But, it’s worth it, give it a try!
As a sampler, here is one of my favorite pieces from that period (unfortunately this cannot be embedded in the post), “Masqualero” from the album “Sorcerer”, which is probably my favorite of the group. The visual aesthetics leaves something to be desired, but the music is what counts…