Artist: Miles Davis.
Title: In Person: Friday Night at the Blackhawk, San Francisco.
Label and Catalogue Number: Columbia CS 8469.
Personnel: Miles Davis (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums).
Side 1: Walkin’; Bye Bye Blackbird.
Side 2: All of You; No Blues; Bye Bye; Love, I’ve Found You.
Recording Date: 21-22 April 1961 at The Blackhawk, San Francisco, California, USA.
Selection: Bye Bye Blackbird.
My Miles Davis plan for 2015 had been to round out my collection of Columbia two-eye label records of the “second great quintet”. Not a particularly arduous target, yet I find myself well past the mid-point of the year with no progress on that specific front having had my head turned by some earlier Davis records that I encountered along the way. In this case, a rare foray into eBay “buy it now” territory: an excellent pressing at a good price that I rushed to snap up before anybody else found it.
This is by way of a two parter: part one now to look at my copy of In Person: Friday Night at the Blackhawk and, coming next, part two about my copy of In Person: Saturday Night at the Blackhawk. Immediately, we’re into controversy because now that I own both records I’ve been doing some research and I’ve come across several sources that describe how Davis and Teo Macero edited the performances in preparation for release across these two records. Now the first part of the editing story is perhaps not too surprising. I was able to compare track lengths on my records with those published for the Mosaic box set of the complete Blackhawk recordings and it turns out that some of the former are shorter. For example No Blues lasts around nine minutes on the original Columbia six-eye pressing but stretches out to over 17 minutes for the unedited version on the Mosaic box set. Such editing wasn’t uncommon – not least because there’s only so much room on any given side of vinyl.
But there’s a deeper level of manipulation to this editing that some sources claim happened. The assertion being that some cross-pollination occurred between versions prepared for the Friday Night record and those prepared for the Saturday Night record. In other words, Friday Night includes some snippets from Saturday Night and vice versa. I don’t know if it’s true but it would be of academic interest to find out. Perhaps those of you lucky enough to have either the Mosaic vinyl box set or the Columbia CD box set of the complete Blackhawk recordings can review the accompanying booklets for clues?
In the end, though, it matters not because both records are a treat for the ears – especially as original six-eye pressings.
This particular Davis line-up was reputed to be his most popular with live audiences and that may have been a factor in Davis’ consent to these, his first ever officially released live recordings. It’s easy to see why this band hit the sweet spot with the paying public in the clubs: Messrs Kelly and Mobley add a genuine warmth and accessibility to Davis’ otherwise austere approach. Each, in their own way, make sections of these two nights of live performance their own. On Friday Night, Mobley takes the laurels for his deep and emotional solo on Bye Bye Blackbird which garners audible words of praise from the excitable audience. Yet Davis almost seems to push Mobley out of front line on other tracks. In the gaps (and with Davis there are plenty because he knew better than anybody else when not to play) we can can glimpse through to Kelly but more of that when I write about Saturday Night in the next posting.
The Janus-like band line-up and set list look both backwards and forwards. From the past we get the Kind of Blue rhythm section plus a selection of Davis’ regular themes like Walkin’. Looking to the future, we can begin feel the influence the growing partnership with Teo Macero and hints at Davis’ search for a new direction with No Blues (also known as Pfrancing). My sympathies lie with Mobley who, like other capable players (Stitt, Rivers, Coleman), got caught in the crossfire between Davis losing Coltrane and finding Shorter.
However, whatever the material, this personnel aces it and this is one of those records that just seems to get better and make me smile more each time I listen. On that note, I’ll leave you until I cover Saturday Night in part two of this brace with an encouragement to read Ralph J. Gleason’s sleeve notes. He was quite a character and these are probably the last coherent (and incidentally rather entertaining) set of notes he wrote for a Davis LP. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the dodgy doggerel on the back of ESP!
For Collectors Only
Side 1 is deep groove with a Columbia six-eye label and matrix number “XSM53550-1A” stamped in the deadwax. Side 2 is also deep groove with a Columbia six-eye label and this time the stamped matrix number in the deadwax is “XSM53551-1B”. So almost the much coveted 1A/1A! However, given that Columbia used multiple pressing plants across the USA at the same time, I feel confident that this still qualifies as a first pressing. The vinyl measures 148g on my trusty kitchen digital scales.
The deep grooves are not as pronounced on these Columbia pressings as ones on, say, Blue Note or Riverside pressings so they don’t show up so obviously in the photography. But I know they’re there because I’ve felt them with my fingernails! By the way, did you spot the spelling error on Side 2’s label? Yes, we have a closing piano solo by Winton (sic) Kelly!
The condition of the sleeve doesn’t match up to that of the record and shows some wear, especially at the corners. But it’s still structurally sound, so it’ll do for me.
This posting marks a small incremental enhancement in the photography. For the first time, I’ve been able to successfully replicate Andy’s technique at LJC for capturing deadwax markings. This first attempt was rather painful but I hope to improve productivity for future postings, so please enjoy the fruits of my labour.