Miles Davis Quintet: The Unissued Japanese Concerts
Words by Zach Zeidner
"Flying to Japan is a long-ass flight. So I brought coke and sleeping pills with me and I took both. Then I couldn't go to sleep so I was drinking, too. When we landed there were all these people to meet us at the airport. We're getting off the plane and they're saying, 'Welcome to Japan, Miles Davis', and I threw up all over everything. But they didn't miss a beat. They got me some medicine and got me straight and treated me like a king. Man, I had a ball, and I have respected and loved the Japanese people ever since"
- Miles Davis
This is the quote given on the newly released and previously unissued Miles Davis concerts in Japan that occurred on July 12 and 15, 1964. This quote speaks for itself with regards to how much these shows meant to Miles Davis at this point in his career. He admired the Japanese people for the way they treated him; Miles knew if that had happened in the U.S., he would never hear the end of it. As a result of this incident, Miles explains he loved the Japanese people ever since, and as a gift, he gave some of the greatest performances of his post-Coltrane career. This was a pivotal time for Miles Davis’ career. He had just formed what would soon become the second great quintet but was missing an essential player, Wayne Shorter. John Coltrane had previously left Miles’s side after Miles had confronted him on talking behind his back to reporters. Coltrane suggested Miles check out Wayne Shorter, and in a fit of rage (after losing his best saxophonist ever), he told Coltrane to take a hike, to say the least, and never tell him who to get for his band… ever. And without hesitation, Miles hired George Coleman and a couple of albums were recorded. Coleman then left, and Miles was left with no saxophonist. It was at this moment, in 1964, that Miles found himself hiring Sam Rivers to play these gigs with him in Japan. After these gigs, Miles would finally hear Shorter and immediately hire him to his band.
Three shows were played in Japan during this run with Sam Rivers performing on tenor saxophone. One of them was released during Miles’s career; the other two were recently released. These recordings are raw and intimidating. Sam River’s unique and flowing style, a precursor to his work in Free Jazz, complimented Miles’s evolution of sound. Miles had left the hard-bop realm of his work with John Coltrane and had delved into, with Wayne Shorter, a more rhythmic and groove-based form of progressive bebop known as post-bop. However, with the post-bop exploration occurring more rapidly with Shorter on Davis’s side, he was left amidst when both Coleman and Coltrane left him. These recordings seem like a “back to the roots” sound of Miles, something that would be more fitting to his Kind of Blue or Milestones era of flowing modality ripe with emotion. New Miles recordings are never a bad thing, and I highly recommend picking up this record.
Miles Davis - Unissued Japanese Concerts 1964