12 February 2010

Four & More

Miles Davis made one of his most acclaimed recordings 46 years ago today. On February 12, 1964, Miles Davis and his quintet (then featuring George Colemanon tenor saxophone with the now-legendary Tony Williams-Ron Carter-Herbie Hancock rhythm section) played a benefit at Philharmonic Hall in New York's Lincoln Center for a coalition of civil rights groups including the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality, the recording of which (The Complete Concert 1964) is among his best. But it could have turned out differently:
We just blew the top off that place that night. It was a motherfucker the way everybody played -- and I mean everybody. A lot of the tunes we played were done up-tempo and the time never did fall, not even once. George Coleman played better that night than I have ever heard him play. There was a lot of creative tension happening that night that the people out front didn't know about. We had been off for a while as a band, each doing other things. Plus it was a benefit and some of the guys didn't like the fact that they weren't getting paid. One guy -- and I won't call his name because he has a great reputation and I don't want to cause him no grief, plus he's a very nice guy on top of everything else -- said to me, "Look, man, give me my money and I'll contribute what I want to them; I'm not playing no benefit. Miles, I don't make as much money as you do." The discussion went back and forth. Everyone decided that they were going to do it, but only this one time. When we came out to play everybody was madder than a motherfucker with each other and so I think the anger created a fire, a tension that got into everybody's playing, and maybe that's one of the reasons everybody played with such intensity.
...And that's just one of the qualities that earned Miles the French Legion of Honor.

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