Miles and Trane
The standard version of the tale of Miles & Trane, as they were called, goes like this. In 1959, Miles reached a pinnacle of innovation with Kind of Blue, breaking away from the tightly structured chord-based bebop of his late mentor, Charlie Parker, in favor of a cooler, more moody and lyrical music built around scales and freer rhythms. Right after the session, Coltrane goes off on his own search for new sounds—while Miles, having run out of ideas, reverts for the next five years to the bop-laden blues and show tunes that he’d perfected in the mid-’50s.
But The Final Tour—Volume 6 in Columbia Legacy’s “Bootleg Series” of Miles sessions, mastered in good sound from original tapes—exposes the tale as incomplete at best. It reveals that the way out of Miles’ self-imposed cul-de-sac was staring him in the face, that the future of jazz was churning in Coltrane’s emerging style on tenor sax, but that Miles—oddly contrary to his image as the music’s restless searcher and shapeshifter—resisted the change. He had been on the New York jazz scene for 15 years by this time, having taken part in, or led, several revolutions—the bebop of his years with Parker, the chamber jazz of Birth of the Cool, the orchestral collaborations with Gil Evans and Gunther Schuller, and finally the modal triumph of Kind of Blue—and, like many aging revolutionaries, he didn’t warm to acolytes bent on spawning their own rebellions.
From “When the Student Became the Master” by Fred Kaplan for Slate; Photo Illustration by Slate; Photos by Hugo van Gelderen/Anefo and Tom Palumbo
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