Recorded December 22 and 23, 1965 at the Plugged Nickel, Chicago, Illinois.
All digital engineering and mastering at CBS Studio, New York.
Tracks 2, 3: Alternate versions.
Never Before Released Material!
It is remaining material from the Plugged Nickel performances.
Digitally remastered direct from the original analogue tapes.
The third LP volume of music taken from the Miles Davis Quintet's stay at the Plugged Nickel in Chicago finds the young group (comprised of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams) stretching out on "If I Were a Bell," "Stella by Starlight," "Walkin'" and "Miles," whipping through the melodies quickly and then really tearing into the chord changes a la Ornette Coleman. Rarely again would Miles Davis be captured on record playing standards; the emphasis was shifting to continuous medleys full of original material.
-Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
The real ground that is broken in jazz doesn't happen in the study hall or the practice room. It's carved out slowly, a piece at a time, during the nightly jam sessions and club dates that are the proving grounds for jazz's innovations. Jazz is interactive music. When its at its best, the players are able to mold individual conceptions into a seamless and beautiful whole. This can certainly be achieved in the recording studio. But the truest and greatest moments in jazz usually happen during those once-in-a-lifetime live performances when everything finally fits together.
CBS staff producer Teo Macero understood this well and urged the record company to allow him to record live music as often as possible. 'T was always out there seeking to record Miles and various artists like Monk and Ellington. I didn't give a damn if it was on the road or in a concert, at a school or university. These performances are gonna be invaluable. You've got to take advantage of these rare moments in history." And on two successive late December nights, Teo Macero caught some of those rare moments at the Plugged Nickel.
The beginning of the 1960s was a difficult period for Miles, both personally and professionally. His spectacular quintet of the 50s containing Philly Joe Jones, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and John Coltrane had dissolved shortly after Coltrane's departure in 1961. During the six years the quintet had remained together, they had developed a level of intimacy and communication unrivaled by any other band in jazz. Without them, Miles was having difficulty finding a forum for his musical concepts. Miles was also suffering at the hands of the jazz critics. He had given several interviews that were highly critical of the avant-garde music being played by Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and Cecil Taylor. For the first time, Miles was beginning to look like a musical anachronism. Physically, Miles was having much more serious problems. His arthritis, which he had suffered from for several years, had worsened, inflaming many of his joints and making his hip extraordinarily painful. But by the second half of 1963, things started to change. Miles began assembling the players that would form a new quintet, a quintet that would stay together for five years and would eventually equal the quintet of the 50s in popularity and innovation. The first to join was bass player Ron Carter. Having received his masters degree at the Manhattan School of Music in 1961, Carter had earned a name for himself as a jazz player and a session musician when he got the call from Miles. Next was drum prodigy Tony Williams, who had exploded on the jazz scene at the incredible age of 17, drumming with alto legend Jackie McClean. The rhythm section was rounded out by Herbie Hancock, who joined from Donald Byrd's group. It would be another year, however, before the quintet would gain its final member. Wayne Shorter had been John Coltranes personal choice for his replacement as far back as 1959. But when Miles asked Shorter to join the band in 1960, Shorter had just begun playing with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and was reluctant to leave. When Miles returned from his Japanese tour in the summer of 1964, he was still frustrated by his inability to fill the tenorchair. A dazzling array of players had stepped in since Coltrane's departure including Jimmy Heath, Sonny Stitt, Hank Mobley, George Coleman, and Sam Rivers. But for one reason or another, none of them seemed to work out. Miles was actually thinking of touring as a quartet when he heard that Wayne Shorter had left the Jazz Messengers. A few phone calls later, the tenor chair was filled. The new band breathed life back into Miles' music. First of all, they were young, incredibly so. At the time they joined the band, Hancock was 23, Carter 26, Williams 17 and Shorter was the old man at 30. Along with their youth, they brought a fresh exuberance to Miles' music. Secondly, either because of their age or their individual preferences, all the players were particularly open to avant-garde forms of freejazz expression. This openness, when tempered with Miles' modal conceptions, created a whole different approach to jazz; an elastic, floating new kind of music that borrowed the best from both worlds.
This recording captures the band just as everything began to fall in place. On these four tracks you can hear the subtle changes that occurred in the rhythm section in order to accommodate their new musical approach. Williams plays a constantly shifting array of rhythmic textures, abandoning time-keeping in favor of an explodingly percussive pulse. Consequently, part of the traditional timekeeping role of the drummer falls to Carter, whose spectacular technique and unfailing rhythmic sense lock him in step with Williams like two pistons in a well-oiled engine. Hancock alters his piano playing to conform to the band's freer sense of harmony. He uses the piano more like a third solo voice, comp-ing infrequently, more to add rhythmic punch than to provide harmonic context. The rhythm section seems to operate like one man behind the soloist, repeating melodic phrases rhythmically, altering mood and dynamics, spurring the two solo voices of Shorter and Davis to new heights of brilliance.
This version of "Walkin" is a perfect example of the new quintet's effect on Miles' playing. Miles first recorded the tune in 1954, but it never sounded like this. Miles' trumpet playing had changed. Gone are the warm tones and carefully chosen notes of the 50s. Instead he seems to spit out notes with reckless abandon. His tone is harsh and brash, borrows from the oblique intonation favored by Ornette Coleman's side-man Don Cherry. Miles explodes after the theme with a series of crackling one note phrases. Williams smashes the pulse along on the ride cymbal. Carter, at first playing whole and half notes, begins to walk quarter notes in time with the ferocious tempo. When his solo intensifies, Miles' bop lines blur into bleating outbursts and tortured animal-like phrases. The band is with him every moment. As he trills upward, the piano picks up the ascending scale and meshes with the drums in a blinding crescendo. As he squeezes out a chorus-long slur, the band hushes to a whisper. It's a spectacular performance. It was a spectacular band.
The recordings that Miles made at the Plugged Nickel languished in the can for almost 17 years. At the time, Miles had released so many live recordings that CBS held these back. But Teos instincts proved correct. In 1982, CBS issued the first two-record set from the Plugged Nickel. Now, in 1987, we're getting to hear some more. So, lets set the scene. Its a cold, late December Saturday night in Chicago. The small club is filled to capacity. A line of people are waiting outside. Miles had cancelled two previous dates and the room is now bubbling with anticipation. The crowd watches as the CBS engineers make the final adjustments on the recording equipment. A hush falls over the audience as the houselights dim and the spotlight hits the tiny bandstand. Wild applause greets the band members as they pick their way through the crowded tables. Oblivious to the audience, Miles whispers to Wayne Shorter over near the piano. Suddenly, his fingers snap out the tempo...