In a perfect world, in a Dig curated world, this weekend’s Four Generations of Miles Davis concerts wouldn’t just be two nights. If we were calling the shots, it would take up weeks and cover every track in the Davis catalog, from bop to fusion and beyond. But we don’t live in a perfect world and we understand that what we’re asking for verges on the impossible—but we can dream right?
And let’s be honest, the Four Generations line up—drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Buster Williams, guitarist Mike Stern and saxophonist Sonny Fortune—is a dream. While these four legends never played with Davis at the same time, such an epic assemblage of talent paying tribute to one of music’s most innovative artists is not to be missed.
In lieu of printing our top 1000 Davis tracks, here’s a sliver of what we’re hoping to hear.
“Maiysha” from Agharta
Sure the word “fusion” might incite eye-rolls from jazz purists and groans from rock fans, but we would argue it’s the pinnacle of American music. Hell, we’d argue that it is the most American of all music—the suspender-jockeys and their twirly nose hair don’t even come close. And when it comes to fusion it doesn’t get much better than Miles in the early 70s. Basically what we’re saying here is that Sony Fortune was there when the shit went down, specifically the last freaked out movement of this 1975 live cut.
“My Man is Gone Now” from We Want Miles
Besides the obvious reasons to love We Want Miles—it was Davis’ first recording post-retirement, it was recorded at KIX nightclub here in town, and features Berklee-educated native son Mike Stern— there’s this chord. About thirteen minutes into the twenty minute “My Man is Gone Now,” right before the breakdown and things get all weird, Mike Stern hits a chord that sounds like a robot getting punched in the stomach. Chords like that are why we listen to jazz.
“Limbo (Alternate Take)” from Sorcerer
While Buster Williams isn’t on a lot of Davis recordings we’re going to guess that was because he was playing on, oh, every other great jazz recording. Williams is one of the rare instrumentalists whose voice is entirely distinctive and immediately recognizable. You may recognize his bass playing from, oh, all of the hip hop records—the dude has been sampled. Even his samples have been sampled. He played with the Jazz Crusaders for crying out loud! Not to mention Dexter Gordon, Nancy Wilson, and The Fat Albert Rotunda, quite possibly our favorite Herbie Hancock record ever.
“Freddie Freeloader” from Kind of Blue
This was a tough choice, as Jimmy Cobb was with Davis through the late 50s and early 60s, appearing on all-time indisputable classics like Porgy & Bess, Sketches of Spain and Someday My Prince Will Come. And then, after picking Kind of Blue, we had to choose our favorite song on Kind of Blue and that is a five-way tie for first. So basically we just closed our eyes and pointed our finger at “Freddie Freeloader”. Well, we poked our cat in the head, and then picked “Freddie Freeloader”, but it doesn’t matter where our finger fell, it would have landed on a superior example of jazz drumming.
[FOUR GENERATIONS OF MILES DAVIS. REGATTA BAR. ONE BENNET ST., CAMBRIDGE. FRI 3.7 + SAT 3.8 @ 7:30, 10:00pm/$25. REGATTABARJAZZ.COM]