3rd Blindfold Test Miles Davis, June 1964

by Leonard Feather
Down Beat Volume 58 No. 12, December 1991, p.69
first published by Down Beat, June 1964

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‘You have to think when you play; you have to help each other – you just can’t play for yourself. You’ve got to play with whomever you’re playing. If I’m playing with Basie, I’m going to try to help what he’s doing – that particular feeling.’

Miles Davis is unusually selective in his listening habits. This attitude should not be interpreted as reflecting any general misanthropy. He was in a perfectly good mood on the day of the interview reproduced below; it just happened that the records selected did not, for the most part, make much of an impression.

Clark Terry, for example, is an old friend and idol of Davis’ from St. Louis, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra has always been on Davis’ preferred list.

Davis does not have an automatic tendency to want to put everything down, as an inspection of his earlier Blindfold Tests will confirm (DB, Sept. 21, 1955 and Aug. 7, 1958).

The Cecil Taylor item was played as an afterthought, because we were discussing artists who have impressed critics, and I said I’d like to play an example. Aside from this, Davis was given no information about the records played.

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The Records
1. Les McCann-Jazz Crusaders
All Blues
(Pacific Jazz)
Wayne Henderson, trombone; Wilton Felder, tenor saxophone; Joe Sample, piano; McCann, electric piano; Miles Davis, composer.

What’s that supposed to be? That ain’t nothin’. They don’t know what to do with it – you either play it bluesy or you play on the scale. You don’t just play flat notes. I didn’t write it to play flat notes on – you know, like minor thirds. Either you play a whole chord against it, or else . . . but don’t try to play it like you’d play, ah, Walkin’ the Dog. You know what I mean?

That trombone player – trombone ain’t supposed to sound like that. This is 1964, not 1924. Maybe if the piano player had played it by himself, something would have happened.

Rate it? How can I rate that?

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2. Clark Terry
Cielito Lindo
(from 3 in Jazz, RCA Victor)
Terry, trumpet; Hank Jones, piano; Kenny Burrell, guitar.

Clark Terry, right? You know, I’ve always liked Clark. But this is a sad record. Why do they make records like that? With the guitar in the way, and that sad fucking piano player. He didn’t do nothing for the rhythm section – didn’t you hear it get jumbled up? All they needed was a bass and Terry.

That’s what’s fucking up music, you know. Record companies. They make too many sad records, man.

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3. Rod Levitt
Ah! Spain
(from Dynamic Sound Patterns, Riverside)
Levitt, trombone, composer; John Beal, bass.

There was a nice idea, but they didn’t do nothing with it. The bass player was a motherfucker, though.

What are they trying to do, copy Gil? It doesn’t have the Spanish feeling – doesn’t move. They move up in triads, but there’s all those chords missing – and I never heard any Spanish thing where they had a figure that went

That’s some old shit, man. Sounds like Steve Allen’s TV band. Give it some stars just for the bass player.

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4. Duke Ellington
Caravan
(from Money Jungle, United Artists).
Ellington, piano; Charlie Mingus, bass; Max Roach, drums.

What am I supposed to say to that? That’s ridiculous. You see the way they can fuck up music? It’s a mismatch. They don’t complement each other. Max and Mingus can play together, by themselves. Mingus is a hell of a bass player, and Max is a hell of a drummer. But Duke can’t play with them, and they can’t play with Duke.

Now, how are you going to give a thing like that some stars? Record companies should be kicked in the ass. Somebody should take a picket sign and picket the record company.

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5. Sonny Rollins
You Are My Lucky Star
(from 3 in Jazz, RCA Victor).
Don Cherry, trumpet; Rollins, tenor saxophone; Henry Grimes, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.

Now, why did they have to end it like that? Don Cherry I like, and Sonny I like, and the tune idea is nice. The rhythm is nice. I didn’t care too much for the bass player’s solo. Five stars is real good? It’s just good, no more. Give it three.

Continue reading the rest of the listening session here