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Miles Davis - Milestones CD (album) cover


Miles Davis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.15 | 165 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars Miles from prog, or...?

A Beginners Guide to Proto-Prog, pt. 1:

In February-March 1958 at a time that Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis were topping the single charts on both sides of the Atlantic with Great Balls Of Fire and Jailhouse Rock, respectively, Miles Davis went into Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City under the supervision of producer George Avakian (who signed and produced Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong and became manager of Keith Jarrett) and engineer Harold Chapman (who worked with Ray Charles, Art Blakey and Tony Bennett) to record the album Milestones.

Also on both sides of the Atlantic, 1958 was dominated by soundtracks (South Pacific) and musicals (My Fair Lady, The Music Man) only championed by Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra on the Billboard 200 year end album chart and The Everly Brothers (All I Have To Do Is Dream), Elvis (Don't), Nat King Cole and Johnny Cash on the other Billboard charts. In fact, Miles followed the trend and soon after Milestones returned to record music for the musical Porgy And Bess.

The recording of Milestones took place only 7 months after The Quarry Men (pre-Beatles) were accidentially captured on tape on 6 July 1957 at St. Peter's Church Garden Fete playing Lonnie Donegan and Elvis on what would become the most expensive recording ever sold at auction. It was the same day and location that Lennon was introduced to McCartney. The two, with Harrison, would record their first unofficial single (evidenced on Beatles Anthology 1) a few months after the Milestones recording.

Anyway, Milestones was selected by ProgArchives members as one of the earliest inspirations to proto- prog. Earlier inspirations selected include Leadbelly (Goodnight, Irene, 1932), Woody Guthrie (This Land Is Our Land, 1944), Raymond Scott (1940?s), Les Baxter (Out Of The Moon, 1947), Ahmet Ertegun's Mess Around (1953) and Louis And Bebe Barron (Forbidden Planet, 1956).

So what does Milestones offer proto-prog? Well, attention to detail/virtuosity of the individual players (the album is all instrumental); focus on one instrument (here, Davis' trumpet) similar to the focus on the keyboards in some of the earliest proto-prog; Jazz influenced drummers; long tracks (here, two tracks exceed 10 minutes); Davis teaches a progressive approach to the instrument by allowing himself more freedom to add texture and density. And of course, jazz is explicitly apparent in early proto-prog artists, most notably perhaps Soft Machine. John Coltrane who contributes alto sax on Milestones is often linked to proto-prog for his 1964 and 1965 offerings as a solo artist, Crescent and A Love Supreme, respectively

Apart from the one novelty and highlight of the album, Miles?s own title track that introduced modalism into jazz, Milestones offers bop-based jazz that takes you on a fast ride through the stressful streets of New York at night without stopping at the red lights chasing Sid and Billy Boy. But with Davis behind the steering wheel you can rest assure that you will arrive safely.

Davis later went on to make a major impact on prog rock by developing Jazz rock (a prog subgenre on PA) and enjoy much the same demand as rock groups as evidenced by concerts at e.g. Fillmore West (one concert in 1971, same year as Grateful Dead and It's A Beautiful Day), Fillmore East (three concerts in 1970, same year as Traffic, Derek & The Dominos, Grateful Dead) and Tanglewood (1970, same year as Santana), venues that attracted many followers of prog.

With only two original compositions by Davis the rest being covers (which I generally find lack the intensity of the originals, although here I don't know them) and with jazz not complying with my overall taste (I only own two handfuls of jazz CD's) Milestones is credited with 3 stars.

earlyprog | 3/5 |


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