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Miles Davis with Charlie Parker quintet, 1947-1948: studio and live performance

Let's take a look at some recordings that document Miles playing with Charlie Parker at the end of 1947 and in early 1948.

Previous live recordings document the Los Angeles period in early 1946, a set at the Finale Club with poor rhythmic and some Benny Carter Orchestra broadcasts.

From September to December 1948 there are good live recordings from the Royal Roost, with different rhytmics, mostly featuring Al Haig on piano, which document the last period of continued cooperation between Miles Davis with Charlie Parker.

Here we'll consider the period between these, say the end of 1947 and the first half of 1948, comparing some live performed tunes with studio recorded versions of the same.

The source comes from very fragmentary recordings, often edited and so only a few Miles solos survive.

More, audio quality is often poor and this is troublesome expecially for trumpet, which is a very directional instrument.

We experience something similar to a clavichord concert: at the very beginning you seem to hear nothing at all, then little by little hearing clears; like when you enter a very dark place and you can see absolutely nothing.

Neverthless, there are not better quality live recordings capturing this quintet featuring Duke Jordan on piano, Tommy Potter on bass and Max Roach on drums.

This make these recordings very precious and justifies a little hearing effort; I guess it is definitely worth enough, because they give us an insight on what we can call the 'daily routine excellence'.

On live sets tempos are faster than those of studio sessions and solos are longer, free from the 78 rpm time constraints.

At this time Miles has already recorded all Dial sessions and a great part of the Savoy with Charlie Parker. The last two Savoy sessions will come on December 1948.


The first document we'll consider is a live recording of Dexterity from Waukegan, on December 1947.

Although recording is not integral (it fades during the third chorus of Miles solo), this is really very interesting.

Dexterity (a Davis-style tune built on I Got Rhytm chord progression) was recorded for Dial on October 28, 1947 at the WOR Studios in New York for Dial, so this live recording may date just a month or little more later.

Let's listen to first A section of theme (Bb major) from second studio take:

and to the end of second A section (last A section is identical to second):

And this is the bridge, on [ D7 | G7 | C7 | F7 ] dominant chain chords:

The two studio takes have the same formal structure: theme (1x32), alto (1x32), trumpet (1x32), piano (1x32), theme (1x32)

In live version we hear: theme (1x32), alto (4x32), trumpet (3-4x32? - fades during third chorus)

Here we listen to Miles solo on first studio take

and on second one

And here is live version first chorus of Miles solo

, second chorus
and faded third one

If we listen accurately we find many similarities: this is a fragment from the A section from live version:

; it sounds very similar to this from first studio take:

And here is another example: compare this live version passage

with this from first studio take

And still short phrases on Bbmaj7 from live version

, from first studio take
and from second one

This is from the bridge, first measures, D7 | G7, compare live version fragment

with first
and second
studio take.

And again a passage resolving on Bbmaj7, live version

and similar on second studio take
, and still a phrase starting with a triplet, on Bbmaj7, here from live version
very similar to second studio take solo ending

The Way You Look Tonight

The second document is a live recording of The Way You Look Tonight, from the Dean Benedetti Recordings, at the Onyx Club, in New York on July 6, 1948 (the one numbered as #226).

Even this recording is not integral; anyway, it preserves the whole Miles solo, two entire chorus.

The Way You Look Tonight was recorded, omitting the melody for royalty payment reasons, with the title of Klaunstance on December 21, 1947 at the United Sound Studios, in Detroit, for Savoy label.

Song chorus is a sort of A-A-B-A with 16 bars A section in F major and 16 bars B section in Ab major. The last A section has 4 bars added at the end.

Studio version structure is as follows: alto (1x68), muted trumpet (1x68), piano (32 bars) + alto/muted trumpet 4 bars exchanges (16 bars), trumpet + alto masked theme (20 bars); listen to Miles solo


In the live version we hear: theme (trumpet (A1,A2), alto (B), trumpet + alto (A3)), alto (2x68), trumpet (2x68), piano (2?x68 - this is not complete), alto/trumpet/drums exchanges (1x68), theme (1x68)

Here is live version first chorus of Miles solo

and second chorus

We can find many similarities: compare this phrase on [ Gm7 | C7 | Fmaj7 ] here from live version

with this from studio version

Even on a longer fragment on [ Fmaj7 | D7 | Gm7 | C7 | Cm7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 ] we have this from live version

which sounds very similar to a fragment from Klaunstance

Yet a surprising similarity listening to this phrase on [ Cm7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 ]

; with a slight substitution it sounds very similar to this from Klaunstance
really same intention; and last sounds very similar to another fragment from Miles solo on Another Hair-Do, a fine Parker's blues (Bb blues)
where phrase starts on the beginning of blues last four-bars section (Cm7 | F7 | Bbmaj7), at a medium tempo, so that sixteens plays like eigths in Klaunstance.

Another Hair-Do was recorded on December 21, 1947, the same Klaunstance recording session, a standard "three hours/four side" session.

So it isn't so much surprising this pattern persistence in Miles' mind, just like a criminal who leaves fingerprints everywhere on the crime scene. It happens very often on same tune's different takes, and sometimes, as in this example, even on different tunes.

Very often Miles' live recordings reveal this subtle persistence, these fingerprints, and so we'll return again on this topic.

Out Of Nowhere

The third document is a live recording of Out Of Nowhere, (clearly a rehersal, and this makes things even more interesting) again from the Dean Benedetti Recordings, at the Onyx Club, in New York on July 10, 1948 (the one numbered as #249).

This recording is almost integral; it preserves an extraordinary Miles solo, two entire chorus, played often in double-time, during which Miles doesn't waste a single note, a single phrase.

It is just extraordinary 'routine playing', practicing on a melody, on its chord progressions. A deeper insight on this solo can reveal us how much care and focus there is in Miles playing. Here is Miles first chorus

(there is an alto note near bar 12, probably for balance adjustment of Dean Benedetti recorder), and here is second chorus

Out Of Nowhere was recorded (in three different takes) on November 4, 1947 at WOR Studios, in New York, for Dial label.

Song chorus is a sort of A-B-A-C with 8 bars sections in G major.

Studio takes are played at a much slower tempo and Miles uses mute.

Even here we find similarities, as on this E7 chord resolving on Amin, where we hear a typical statement on a diminuished scale: compare this phrase from live version

with this from Dial third studio take

Another interesting note: two phrases from live version playing E7 descending scale (starting from 9th, with chromatic inserts under 9th and 8th):


And let's listen how much similar they are to this fragment from Dial second studio take

where Miles is playing on Gmaj7 chord, and like a chameleon his phrase camouflages (this was a great feature of both Parker and Davis!)

List of referenced discography:

- Charlie Parker: The Complete Savoy Sessions

- Charlie Parker: The Complete Dial Sessions

- Charlie Parker: The Complete Dean Benedetti Recordings

- Bird's Eyes: Last Unissued, Vol. 1/4

Complete transcriptions of referenced Miles Davis solos are available on themusicofmiles

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