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Favorite Disc in the Miles Plugged Nickel Box

Which is your favorite disc?   49 members have voted

  1. 1. Which is your favorite disc?

    • 1
      1
    • 2a
      0
    • 2b
      5
    • 3
      0
    • 4
      0
    • 5
      2
    • 6
      2
    • 7
      0

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39 posts in this topic

I've had this set for a long time, and while I think it's pretty good, I've been a bit surprised that it has fared so well in the "what's your favorite Miles box?" poll. So, I think I need to hear others' opinions on this set. What's your favorite disc in this box? What should I be listening for? Should I be pulling out studio albums and comparing them to particular tracks/discs? Thanks in advance for the help!

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The 3rd set from 12/23 is my favorite, but then, it all depends what mood I'm in when I answer. I have spent many years listening to these recordings, and everytime I listen, I have a different reaction. It's just hard to put into words this set, how to listen to it, and what it means to me, but when I listen to it -- I hear music differently afterwards.

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Jump in anywhere!

I agree that this set hits me differently almost every time. But the rewards are there, you just may not hear them on first listen...or second...

B)

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I totally agree with Scott and Matthew. I would also observe that individual songs don't really matter in the conventional sense - yes, the group uses the melodies and structures as springboards for improv, but they go way beyond those confines. One of the ways I go "in" to this music is to listen to the interplay between Miles and Tony Williams and then what Wayne Shorter lays over and around that. Those are the three pillars that I think this music was built upon. Ron Carter adds some nice harmonic and rhythmic twists and Herbie plays nicely and with truly amazing restraint, but to be honest I often feel those 2 are peripheral to the main drama in this set (NOT superfluous, but secondary). That is definitely NOT the case on contemporary studio recordings by this Quintet, which is interesting.

Finally, I know some find the harshness of Miles' trumpet sound on these recordings a bit off-putting. A little on the brittle bright side, some due to his chops and a lot due to the recording. But if you can get past that minor blemish, the recordings are magic.

Edited by DrJ

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I've often wanted to call this set "Live at the Plugged Nickel: The Death of Jazz", because, often after I listen to PN, I ask: "Where could jazz go after this?" It just seems as if there is a sumation of the evolution of the small jazz group -- from Louis Armstrong to Parker/Diz to the "First Great Quintet" to what is being laid down at the Plugged Nickel. The form has been reduced to it's bare bones; there is really no unison passages, just the solo order: Davis, Shorter, and then Hancock. It's strange, but one the emotions I often feel after listening to PN is sadness. It's like I'm listening to the end of an era in music, and after this Quintet, nothing could go back to the way is was. It's not too often you get such a clear musical demarcation in a recording, but you have one here.

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It's strange, but one the emotions I often feel after listening to PN is sadness.  It's like I'm listening to the end of an era in music, and after this Quintet, nothing could go back to the way is was.

I'll agree that nothing could go back to the way it was (well, it COULD, and has, but how honestly is another issue entirely), but that doesn't make me sad at all. It's exhillirating to hear the music opened up to the degree this band did it. To me, it's inspirational to know that there need not be an imprisonment of "style" by "material", that you can STILL play the old songs and not have to be restrained by/to the old ways. If there's a lesson to the PN set for me, that is it.

As for Carter and Hancock being "secondary", I guess it depends on the individual listenng perspective, how each person "hears" the music, and how one priorotizes the various inputs one receives, but I just don't hear it that way at all. This was very much a GROUP group, and you couldn't, WOULDN'T, have had the same results with other players. Herbie's comp was crucial to the direction the music took - it could be said that in a very loose sense that he provided the color, texture, and diversity of a Gil Evans orchestration at a fraction of the price. :g Herbie didn't just accompany and follow, he very often LED through his accompaniment, both harmonically and rhythmically. If the raw drama of this band came from the Davis/Shorter/Williams triumverate (and I believe it did), it was the ability of Hancock to instantaneously read those individual dramas and immediately provide them with a context that gave them relevancy to both the moment and the material. I'll not even get into how crucial Herbie's harmonic developments were to expanding the pallates of the frontline soloists, Wayne's in particular. The importance of the role of context creator/provider might not be readily apparent, but if you hear the MUSICAL (as opposed to the human) story of this band as a constant expansion of the possibilities inherent in song-form music, an expansion that perhaps never breaks but just evolves into something else, then Hancock's contributions throughout, especially when he's dialoguing with the soloists, probing and prodding their minds to see where tey want to go, how they want to go there, and even offering suggestions along the way (the guy would have made a GREAT care salesman!), are anything BUT secondary - they virtually define the nature of the group, because context is what gives individual ingredients coherency, right? It's a TOTALLY different dynamic at play in the strolling passages that it is when Herbie's in there, and listening to how and when he decides to lay out and when to jump in is a study unto itself. If anything, it's his SOLOING that is "secondary", and that's not a dis or even damning with faint praise. It's just recognition that his accompaniment was of the VERY highest level, and, really, quite often, "accompaniment" is an innaccurate term for the level and degree of interactivity he provides.

Carter is a musician that many, including myself, have often knocked & mocked mercilessly, and often justifiably so (or so it seems). But his work with Miles is beyond reproach. The role of a bassist in a music like this is difficult to describe succintly, becasue there are no succinct functions other than HOLD IT ALL TOGETHER, and when you're dealing with a music and musicians as mercurial as this and these, it's almost a joke to describe it that way. Let's just say that if Herbie was an architecht, then Carter was a foreman, an enforcer, the guy who kept the blueprints on the dable when the winds were b;owing at hurricane force. And - listen closely and you can hear him, Herbie, and Tony (musically) talking amongst themselves more often than you might think, plotting and planning in the corner between rounds, so to speak. If Tony was the "flash" of the rhythm trio, the star running back, then Herbie was the offensive coordinator, and Ron was the lead blocker. An inadequate analogy for a trio inside a quintet, a unit who more often than not is never really a trio but 3/4 or 3/5 of a group, but hopefully it rings true within its limited intent. Carter's contributions might SEEM "secondary", but their effects, their RESULTS, are anything but.

I must admit to having a somewhat "jaded" view of the PN material, in that it's been a key ingredient in my musical perceptions for 25+ years now, dating back to the first time I heard the original Japanese LPs and went TOTALLY apeshit, eepecially over Wayne & Tony. ESPECIALLY Wayne. But I can no longer hear this material as anything but a TOTAL group effort, and it's had a profound effect on my entire musical esthetic, how I listen, how I play, how I listen WHILE I play, what I like to play, how I like to play it, who I like to play it with, etc etc etc... The beauty and profundity of the music ultimately comes, for me anyway, from how PERFECTLY integrated a unit it was, how there were no "primary" or "secondary" voices in the overall scheme (from moment to moment perhaps, but that's all), how the whole band functioned as, to use a cliched but nevertheless accurate term, "a living organism", each component equally vital to the health and success of the whole.

Amazing music, amazing individuals, amazing band. But certainly not the death of anything, especially jazz-as-we-once-knew-and-loved-it. THAT honor might belong to the quintet that followed - the Davis/Shorter/Corea/Holland/DeJohnette "Lost Quintet" that followed and is only documented on private tapes, and a band that made the Plugged Nickel band sound as "yesterday" as the Plugged Nickel band made the FIRST Great Quintet sound. But if they were killing the music, it was a MOST glorious and euphoric murder, artfully executed and fully anticpating a new life after the old one got snuffed out, the death perhaps being a prerequisite to the creation of the new life, and the band being facilitators of life rather than cessators of it.

Nature's funny like that.

Edited by JSngry

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JSngry, how complete of a picture does "It's About That Time" paint of the "lost quintet"? I might have to spend more time with that set, as I'm afraid to admit that it underwhelmed me on my first couple of listens and has been shelved since.

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You mean the IASW "It's About That Time"? Nothing, NOTHING at all like the live band. Imagine Circle w/Miles & Wayne at their most obsessed/possessed, or the Plugged Nickel music simultaneoussly on acid and coke slowly but surely morphing into the BITCHES BREW music.Imagine "Masqualero" as a staple of live gigs rather than a miscellaneous album cut! A few boots of this band have made it to the "grey market" - Lon had one for sale here recently, and still may. Other tapes have been circulating amongst collectors for years now, and I've been lucky enough to hear some. Let's just say that NO Miles album of the time portrayed the live scene TOTALLY accurately between MILES SMILES and LIVE-EVIL, FILLMORE getting disqualified because of too intense editing. That's a 5-6 year period where Miles' music underwent numerous seizmic shifts, and the records only tell a very, VERY small part of the story of those years., which is a major reason why the PN box was such a revelation.

[add edit]Oh shit - you menat the live thing that was just released last year, right? Ok, I dig the shit out of that one, but that's late in the game for that band - Wayne's last gig in fact, Airto already added, BITCHES BREW already recorded and released, next to no "old" material in the book. Partially representative but only partially.

Edited by JSngry

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Oh shit - you menat the live thing that was just released last year, right? Ok, I dig the shit out of that one, but that's late in the game for that band - Wayne's last gig in fact, Airto already added, BITCHES BREW already recorded and released, next to no "old" material in the book. Partially representative but only partially.

That's the one I was thinking of - thanks!

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I couldn't say. I usually just close my eyes and pull one out.

They're ALL good!

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JSngry Posted on Aug 2 2003, 12:33 AM 

As for Carter and Hancock being "secondary", I guess it depends on the individual listenng perspective, how each person "hears" the music, and how one priorotizes the various inputs one receives, but I just don't hear it that way at all. This was very much a GROUP group, and you couldn't, WOULDN'T, have had the same results with other players.

Can't say I disagree with you on pretty much all points, Jim. This is a true 5 man effort, par excellance. I particularly like your comments about Hancock's accompaniment - and agree on all counts.

I also KNEW you would chime in at the word "secondary" being used in my post - honestly, I predicted it. Stickler for semantics, that JSngry! ;)

As I pretty clearly tried to point out in my original post, I did not mean to use the word as in "less important" or "superfluous." I simply meant that I continue to firmly hear Shorter/Davis/Williams as the bedrock of MOST (not all) of the Plugged Nickel music - just as the traditional "rhythm section" forms the bedrock of much traditional hard bop. That of course does not make the other musicians "less important" - and in NO WAY does that mean that I am somehow saying I wish this had been the Great Plugged Nickel Trio...of course not!

But in honesty I do think the music would actually play QUITE well as just tenor, trumpet and drums - in NO WAY as well as it does with the whole Quintet, of course, and I for one would hate to miss all that great spare Hancock playing and some of Ron Carter's best ever recorded work, but nonetheless it could effectively stand on its own in that form while it would NOT play very well at all if you eliminated any one of those three foundation pillars. There may be examples in the box that are counter to this general rule, but not many.

And all THAT relates back to the original question posed - how can one BEGIN to "get in" to the music when listening? So I still say, listen to the pillars first, and then try and broaden your detailed attention to include what Ron and Herbie are doing. That's my guidance and I'm stickin' to it! -_-

As for this idea of sadness in hearing the Plugged Nickel box - I DO NOT not hear that. I hear anger maybe, and lots of sheer joy, but no sadness. To me, this music is about discarding jazz labels, categories, and poses and glimpsing the possibility of capturing a form of this great music that is both timeless and constantly on the edge of new frontiers. If you heard the music without knowing who had played it or when, you could easily believe it was recorded yesterday. My conviction is that we'll still be saying that in 50 years, and a lot longer. And yet the history of the music is there at ready reference without one moment ever sounding contrived or like the group is overtly "referencing" the past.

The Plugged Nickel music is, then, from the past, present, and future while (thankfully) ultimately belonging to no one.

Edited by DrJ

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Call NPR Tony, here we go again! ;)

As I pretty clearly tried to point out in my original post, I believe that "the raw drama of this band came from the Davis/Shorter/Williams triumverate", which is what I heard you saying. But although, as you say later, " the music would actually play QUITE well as just tenor, trumpet and drums - in NO WAY as well as it does with the whole Quintet, of course...but nonetheless it could effectively stand on its own in that form while it would NOT play very well at all if you eliminated any one of those three foundation pillars", I can say only maybe yes, maybe no, but either way it would be a TOTALLY different music, not "Plugged Nickel" music. The closest we get to hearing anythng like that is a few years later on parts of FILLES DE KILAMNJERO's "Tout De Suite", and even there, although the Tony/Soloist interplay is QUITE the defining feature of the piece, it's STILL more than that. It seems that this band was incapable of functioning as anything less than a REAL group. Gotta love THAT!

I understand that you did not mean "secondary" to mean "less important" or "superfluous". My point, though, is that I don't hear Hancock and Carter as "secondary " by ANY definition, not at this point in the game, and that's what I was offering as advice as to how to (better?) "get into" this music. The Davis/Shorter/Williams (re)action(s) is/are the most OBVIOUS element(s) of it but I can't equate "obvious" with "primary", not having SOME first-hand knowledge of how an interactive improvisational band operates, how ideas that most listeners hear as coming from a soloist might have actually had their genesis way back in something that the bass player played that the drummer picked up on, the pianist shaded, and the soloist began to build upon and finally refer to explicitly (ocassionally not until a few songs later!). If you want to hear the way the PN band REALLY played, that's how you gotta listen to it - wholistically, because that's how the music was made.

I don't know if that advice is too "esoteric" for the "average" listener or not, but I believe in humanity (the truly jazz loving portion of it anyway, not so sure about the rest of it... ;) ), and I believe, TRULY believe, that they have the capacity for, to quote a Sonny Fortune title, "seeing beyond the obvious", which as I'm sure that ANY practitioner of ANY craft/art/whatever will agree, is an essential step to accquiring an ACCURATE appreciation of whatever it is that is being attempted to be appreciated. So I offer these comments based on real-life experience, just as others have done for me. (A KEY turning point in my understanding of listening to music (and playing it) wholistically happened back in 1976 or '77, when this Monster Bassist (now THERE'S a show I'd like to see The Discovery Channel do) named Jim Stinnett stopped off at a hang on his way home from a session. Miles' MY FUNNY VALENTINE album ("the slow one" :g ) was playing, and I commented on how I dug the rhythm section's shifting style. Well, Jim, for no reason at all, pulled out his bass, started the record over, and literally played along with it verbatim, stopping quite frequently to point out how and when Ron was directing traffic, Herbie was, Tony was, etc., and how/when the soloists were leading the rhythm section and vice versa, on and on. It was a Master Class for the cost of a few bong hits, and it wasn't even my crib! I literally never heard music the same way again after that. It took a long time to sink in (hell, it's STILL sinking in), but what the cat taught me that evening was, and is, real. It needs to be shared, and if ti takes a while to sink in, so be it. Good things come to those who wait. Supposedly...)

So if I seem to quibble over a word like "secondary", it not because I'm a stickler for semantics (God, the way I mangle syntax and spelling...), it really is because I DON'T hear it that way in ANY fashion. I can dig where you're coming from, but that's just not how I hear it. Not now.

Edited by JSngry

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Finally, I know some find the harshness of Miles' trumpet sound on these recordings a bit off-putting. A little on the brittle bright side, some due to his chops and a lot due to the recording. But if you can get past that minor blemish, the recordings are magic.

I remember the first time I heard this set, I though Miles must have been drunk!

As Tony said, once I got past those initial "blemishes" it really opened up for me.

Endless possiblilites in this set...

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I don't think this one's NPR-worthy, Jim - 'cause we're much closer together from the start! B)

OK, I think I understand your point a little better now, but I would only point out that as a seasoned listener (not only to the Plugged Nickel but to music in general) AND a musician, your vantage point is going to be dramatically different than that of someone who's trying to find a way "in" to these recordings. As you say yourself, you have "firsthand knowledge of how an interactional improvisational band operates," while I'm pretty certain the gentleman who posted the original question doesn't - thus, his original question, which is what I had firmly in mind when I posted. I am a hack amateur musician but dedicated listener; I can only speak from personal experience, which was that I did what I'm advising when I first began listening to the Plugged Nickel stuff, then broadened my vistas so that now I do in fact "listen holistically" and you're clearly right, you get a lot more from the experience by doing so. But sometimes you need to start with "baby steps" - I couldn't absorb it all up front, and focusing on the central triumvirate helped my listening brain get oriented.

So I personally DON'T think most people coming from that place are going to be able to do what you're asking them to do right up front. Sure, SOME might, but I suspect (and could be wrong) that most won't be able to do it. That's where my advice came (and comes) from. I definitely realize that others, wired differently, may find other ways in even if they are not trained musicians.

If we still disagree at that point, no problem, let's shall - and of course he'll end up doing whatever he does, so all this "sage advice" is probably moot anyway! :winky:

Edited by DrJ

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of course he'll end up doing whatever he does, so all this "sage advice" is probably moot anyway! :winky:

Dude - print those words and frame them. You're going to need them in about 13-14 years, REALLY need them. Trust me. ;)

As far as my perspective being different and perhaps more difficult, well, maybe so. (and it feels REALLY wierd to even talk about "my perspective", because I view myself as a perpetual STUDENT! But I guess time passes, and if SOMETHING doesn't eventually sink in, then you're REALLY fucking up your life...) I've had some people grasp it relatively easily, some slowly but surely, some not at all, and some are outright hostile to it, all of which is, I'd think, normal enough. C'est la' vie eh? It's like the time somebody pointed out to Cecil Taylor that 75% of the audience at a particular gig had left early on. Cecil's response was, "I don't play for the people who leave. I play for the people who stay."

I've always liked that quote. :g:g:g:g:g

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As for this idea of sadness in hearing the Plugged Nickel box - I DO NOT not hear that. I hear anger maybe, and lots of sheer joy, but no sadness.

The sadness is not in the music, but it is an entirely personel response to what I'm hearing. JSngry is right, it's great that the music did go on and develop into new forms, and thankfully, Davis did help to take music to new places. Still, music hits each person differently, and that's how PN hits me, and that's what goes through my mind sometimes when I listen.

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Cool, Matthew, you are so right that everyone's response to music is intensely personal. Hopefully my post didn't come off as "disagreeing" with you, since your response is perfectly valid, rather just wanted to say I respond a lot differently! B)

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While I have yet to hear this set, only a couple chance radio cuts, the interplay evident within this thread is what it's all about.

This morning I clicked over from trying to discern something good from the overtly ubiquitous political forums and lurked onto this.

Choice stuff, beautifully written and well beyond par (actually below par would be better;)) of anything one reads when venturing into the expansive journalistic criticism of music.

You guys are good! Still trying to refine my visualization of a bong hitting monster bass player.

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Still trying to refine my visualization of a bong hitting monster bass player.

It was the 70s - they were everywhere.

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A monster bong:

mdb33m40.jpg

+ a monster bass:

monster%20bass%20small2.JPG

equals:

lg-219302.jpg

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About seven minutes into "I Fall in Love to Easily" (1st set, 12/22), it sounds like Wayne is quoting his own "Yes or No". Or am I just imagining things?

Guy

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Re-reading this thread again (and Sangry's posts especially), Jim - I'd be really interested in hearing your thoughts about the live recordings of this band in 1967 (on that fall tour of Europe), and how they compare --- AS A BAND --- with the "Plugged Nickel" band. (And anyone else's thoughts too.)

More specifically, Jim, does everything you've said above apply equally to the '67 band??? --- or do you somehow hear the 1967 band in a different light??? I know I do.

I know I can't articulate it as well (not by a long shot), but the 1967 band seems so much more refined to me, but still every bit as fiery as in '65 (I'm only talking about live recordings from both years, not studio work) .

I like the Plugged Nickel material, don't me wrong. Some of it I even love!!! But I feel much more at home with the live 1967 band, like THAT'S the Miles band that I'm closest to, in my heart. I've got about three or four hours of material from that '67 tour (from Oct. and Nov. of 1967), and I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China ---- where I'm not nearly as "wildly enthusiastic" about the Plugged Nickel recordings.

I don't think it's just that they're playing more contemporaneous material either (Masqualero, Riot, Footprints, Gingerbread Boy, etc...). Maybe that’s part of it, but even the standards have a much different feel in late '67 (to my ears), than they did at the PN in '65.

What’s your take on the ’67 band, LIVE, Jim??

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By the way, the fact that Columbia sat on this music for a decade (and on the complete shebang for 3 decades!) is incomprehensible. I guess we should just be grateful they didn't burn the tapes.

Guy

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I've been listening to this set a lot for the past week. A couple of things that stood out:

  • "So What" (disc 5) is one of the best performances on the entire set. Miles has a great solo, and Wayne's explosive interchange with Tony Williams is one of the top 10 moments of the entire box.
  • Herbie's solo on the second evening's "Milestones" (disc 6) is absolutely smoking! One of his best solos, IMHO.

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