second great quintet

Little One
Miles Davis
Little One

SUNDAY JAZZ BRUNCH: Little One by Miles Davis - In actuality, this slow burner of a tune is a Herbie Hancock composition released again a few weeks later on his groundbreaking Maiden Voyage.  But this version is more haunting and mysterious and free form.  It is so much of the vibe for this era of Miles as he launches his first official album of his second great quintet.

I love this cut of Little One.  Herbie’s version is great as well, but hearing Miles and Wayne Shorter on their winding, interlocking solos is superb and hypnotic.  Just the perfect music to unwind and unpack this low key fall weekend and simply chill for a while. Enjoy!

The second great quintet 1964-1968 - Miles Davis and Tony Williams 

By the late spring, Miles Davis had hired the core of the Second Quintet with Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and wunderkind Tony Williams on drums. Initially with George Coleman or Sam Rivers on tenor sax, the final piece of the puzzle would arrive in late 1964 with saxophonist Wayne Shorter.  (Source: Wikipedia, Jazzwise)

Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter during Shorter’s Speak No Evil session, Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1964

In the middle of his 6-year stint with Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter recorded several of his own albums. 1964 in particular was a busy year for this New Jersey born saxophonist. Fresh off the release of Night Dreamer and Juju, Wayne began recording the album Speak No Evil. Pushing away from the sound of Lee Morgan, and Miles Davis, Wayne decided to bring in Freddie Hubbard. What they recorded together on Speak No Evil is perhaps the greatest documentation of their work together. While Speak No Evil hints at the style of Miles Second Great Quintet, it has a sound that is truly authentic. With Elvin Jones, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter, this quintet recorded some of the most cohesive, playful, recordings of its time.

I Fall in Love Too Easily
Miles Davis
I Fall in Love Too Easily

SATURDAY JAZZ BRUNCH: I Fall in Love Too Easily by Miles Davis - The time between ‘62 and '63 were years of transition for Miles.  Coltrane had left the year before, then his rhythm section of Kelly, Chamber, and Coob left en masse.  Miles himself had taken ill. limiting his performance time.  By late spring of '63 however, Miles was back on track with a new band and two studio sessions that would eventually be released as Seven Steps to Heaven.

The album is really the melding of two bands.  The LA sessions featured pianist Victor Feldman and drummer Frank Butler and mostly consisted of ballads.  The NYC sessions featured Tony Williams on drums and Herbie Hancock on piano, which would eventually form the basis of the Miles’ second great quintet.  Of the ballads though, I Fall in Love Too Easily is one of my favorites, just Miles at his finest with the backing band.

Miles Davis at the Plugged Nickel, 1965

When Miles brought his second great quintet to the Plugged Nickel in Chicago shortly before Christmas 1965 for a two night engagement, the quintet had already been recording together for a number of years. 

If you’d been au fait with Miles Davis for the previous decade or so, you’d have become accustomed to the modernist ideal as a cogent and graceful thing expressed with absolute attention to those elements of style which give art purchase on the real world. In Davis’s hands, modernism wasn’t an aesthetic concept at all. It was his way of life.

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Herbie Hancock on Blue Note

Takin’ Off - 1962

My Point Of View - 1963

Inventions And Dimensions - 1963

Empyrean Isles - 1964

Maiden Voyage - 1965

Speak Like A Child - 1968

The Prisoner - 1969

Hancock received considerable attention when, in May 1963, he joined Davis’s Second Great Quintet. Davis personally sought out Hancock, whom he saw as one of the most promising talents in jazz. The rhythm section Davis organized was young but effective, comprising bassist Ron Carter, 17-year-old drummer Williams, and Hancock on piano. After George Coleman and Sam Rivers each took a turn at the saxophone spot, the quintet would gel with Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone.

While in Davis’s band, Hancock also found time to record dozens of sessions for the Blue Note label, both under his own name and as a sideman with other musicians such as Shorter, Williams, Grant Green, Bobby Hutcherson, Rivers, Byrd, Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard.

His albums Empyrean Isles (1964) and Maiden Voyage (1965) were to be two of the most famous and influential jazz LPs of the 1960s, winning praise for both their innovation and accessibility. Empyrean Isles featured the Davis rhythm section of Hancock, Carter and Williams with the addition of Hubbard on cornet, while Maiden Voyage also added former Davis saxophonist Coleman (with Hubbard remaining on trumpet). Both albums are regarded as among the principal foundations of the post-bop style.

Hancock also recorded several less-well-known but still critically acclaimed albums with larger ensembles – My Point of View (1963), Speak Like a Child (1968) and The Prisoner (1969) featured flugelhorn, alto flute and bass trombone. 1963’s Inventions and Dimensions was an album of almost entirely improvised music, teaming Hancock with bassist Paul Chambers and two Latin percussionists, Willie Bobo and Osvaldo “Chihuahua” Martinez.

During this period, Hancock also composed the score to Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blowup (1966), the first of many soundtracks he recorded in his career.