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Does it get cooler than this?
HT: Dave Stanoch
A “band” is a slightly different thing than an “artist.” This is mainly due to the way a group of people evolve together and make music in a way that wouldn’t be possible unless those specific people had spent a lot of time together. John Mayer has a live band, but it changes so frequently that he alone ends up having the only significant continuing influence on his music. Radiohead or U2, on the other hand, have the push and pull of the same 4 or 5 guys over the course of many years, experiencing life together and making music from that shared experience.
Miles Davis, one of my all time favorite artists, had many different live bands (like Mayer). But he also had the same lineup of musicians for years at a time, which formed mini “bands” (like U2 or Radiohead) within his overall career as an artist. The most notable of Miles’ bands happened during the mid-late 60’s.
This week’s “From The Archives” post is about the Miles 60’s Quintet, my favorite band of all time.
More Drummerworld video coolness. The legendary Tony Williams (one of my top 5 fav drummers of all time) would have been 67 years old today, had he not passed away in 1997. Happy Birthday, Tony.
HT: Jay Epstein
Tony’s full Zildjian Day performance from 1985 in Dallas. The word is that this video normally appears on Youtube for only a short while before it’s taken down for copyright violation or whatever. WATCH IT.
The video of Joey Baron that I posted the other day reminded me of how much I like that guy… which got me thinking about other jazz players I like. In typical geek fashion, I was soon formulating a “Top Five” list of my fav jazz players. Here’s what said list currently looks like:
1. Tony Williams
2. Elvin Jones
3. Jeff Watts
4. Joey Baron
5. Brian Blade
This is in order. Tony will always be my number one – BUT, this list leaves out David King (my former teacher), who is automatically tied for the number one spot, just by nature of his immense influence on my playing.
– Paul Motian
– Jack DeJohnette
– Jorge Rossy
– Roy Haynes
– Max Roach
– Ralph Peterson Jr.
– Billy Higgins
Now, I’m talking JAZZ here, but, in that category, my all time favs are:
5) Brian Blade, 4) Jack Dejohnette, 3) Jeff Watts, 2) Elvin Jones… and…
my number one: Tony Williams
I’ve posted about Tony before, and I’m sure I will again. In my opinion, there has never been a drummer with a more perfect combination of energy, creativity, technical ability, and discipline. I’m thinking about Tony again tonight because I just came across some footage of a clinic he did, filmed at a Zildjian Day in the 80’s…
It’s a six-part series of videos, and it covers quite a few topics. To be honest, I think clinics in general (even with great drummers like Tony), are always somewhat hit and miss, but this footage alone makes the clips worth watching.
HT: Matt Schiebe
I’ve mentioned before the huge influence that Tony Williams has had on my playing. This week’s featured album is the first recording I ever heard of Tony – Miles Davis‘ Complete Concert 1964. It’s a 2-disc set from Columbia records (Miles’ label at the time), and was originally released as two separate albums. The full album is hard to find in compact disc format, but the music is easily accessible on itunes.
Recorded live at New York’s Philharmonic Hall, Complete Concert 1964 has been hailed by Miles historians as “one of the best recordings of a live concert.” I bought this record at Down In The Valley during my sophomore year of high school, and it literally changed my life. This was the album that showed me what a true musician is… what real music is supposed to be like. And by that, I don’t mean to say that “Jazz” is the only real music. Rather, what I mean is that, because these particular musicians played with so much passion and emotion while simultaneously demonstrating incredible technical prowess and artistic sophistication, this recording immediately became the primary model for how I approach music.
There’s a lot to write about on this record – I’ll start with the personnel. Tony Williams is obviously on drums, with Ron Carter on bass and Herbie Hancock on piano. Then there’s Miles on trumpet of course, and the quintet is rounded out with George Coleman on tenor saxophone. Coleman was soon replaced by the great Wayne Shorter (in early 1965), completing the famous “Miles’ 60’s quintet,” which remained in place for the next 4 years. All the players except Miles were pretty young in 1964, with Hancock at age 23 and Williams at only age 19! Despite their young ages and limited experience together, the quintet plays just as cohesively as any of the later live recordings. The rhythm section is so patient and supportive, but just explodes with ideas as soon as the floor is open.
The performance benefits from the inspiration of the unusual circumstances that night. The Philharmonic Hall was in it’s debut season at the time, having been newly renovated from it’s former life as Carnegie Hall. This was the first large-room gig for the young rhythm section players, and everybody knew ahead of time that Columbia was recording the music for a live album. In addition, the players were all quite upset with Miles, having been told just prior to walking out on stage that the evening’s concert was a benefit (for various civil rights groups) and so they wouldn’t be getting paid. Rumor has it that the players were arguing with Miles even as they began playing.
Tony just kills it on this album. You can hear so much fire from him, and yet his groove is deep and comfortable. He floats effortlessly from ballads to up-tempo, brushes to sticks… and even picking some perfect moments to lay out entirely (like the tag on Miles’ solo on “All Of You”). The comping and interaction in “So What” are still some of my favorite Tony Williams moments, and his solo breaks on “Seven Steps to Heaven” are so musical and interesting.
Tony takes a full solo in track 2 on the second disc, “Walkin.” A story I often tell my students about this record is that, although this solo blew me away right from the first time I heard it, the real meat of the solo went completely over my head for the longest time. The phrasing ideas are so advanced that I was always under the impression that the solo was free-form. In fact, I thought ALL his solos were free, because I could never keep up with them. In 2002, after studying many of the complex concepts that Tony used in his playing, I bought a bootleg live recording of the quintet from around the same time period, and Tony had a solo on the first track (“No Blues”). I managed to not get lost in listening to that particular solo, and as I kept up with the ideas I heard some things that I recognized from the “Walkin” solo. I went back to the “Walkin” solo on Complete Concert 1964 (something I had listened to a hundred times at that point) and realized that the solo was not free, but very strict to the form. I heard the solo the “real” way for the first time, and I was totally blown away… again.
I just found this great article about Miles’ music in the 60’s. I mentioned that band and it’s influence on me a few weeks ago in a post about Tony Williams. This article goes a little deeper into the historical significance of Miles’ 60’s era, and specifically Tony’s presence in the music. It’s a good read if nothing else.
Last night I found some RAD videos of Tony Williams playing with the best band ever… the Miles Davis 60’s quintet (Miles, Tony, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter). Check this stuff out – you will love it. Seriously… thank goodness for Youtube. Live footage of this band is rare, and now because of Youtube we can just click and watch.
Tony was seventeen when he joined Miles’ band in 1962. Yep… seventeen. Miles was an international Jazz superstar at that point, and the drum chair in his band was the most coveted gig in the entire Jazz world (which was the center of the popular music world at the time). 17-year-old Tony took the gig and proceeded to play some of the most ground-breaking and inspiring music in the history of the drumset.
Watch these videos. Watch his ride cymbal. Watch his calm but powerful energy. Watch his control. And… seventeen years old.