Friday, May 02, 2014

All That Jazz in the Armacost Library (Part 2)

Photo by Tom Palumbo

Are you interested in jazz? Did you know that the Armacost Library has an impressive music collection, encompassing many genres, including jazz? Whether you are new to jazz, or a long-time fan, you are sure to find many recordings that will enhance your enjoyment of this swinging, emotive, and unique form of musical expression in our library.

In my last blog post, I wrote about the beginnings of jazz and some of its innovators and pioneers, including Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker. One of the preeminent figures of jazz, who bridged the wide span of developments in the genre during the 20th century, was the renowned trumpeter, bandleader, and composer, Miles Davis. Davis, who was born in 1926, was known for his distinctive, clear, and haunting tone, and his phrasing and sense of space. He would say “I always listen to what I can leave out.” At the start of his musical career, he worked with many of the early innovators of jazz, including Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. Some of his first recordings can be found on Birth of the Cool (from 1949-50) and Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants (from the mid-1950s) with Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Milt Jackson, Red Garland and other prominent musicians. His most popular recording, and the biggest-selling jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue, was recorded in 1959 with the influential pianist Bill Evans, and the participation of John Coltrane, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb. In the late 1950s through the early 1960s, Davis frequently collaborated with the arranger Gil Evans. Among their recordings, the first is Miles Ahead from 1957, Porgy and Bess from 1958, is a jazz interpretation of the George Gershwin opera, and Sketches of Spain, which was recorded a few years later and became one of their most popular albums. An overview of the Davis/Evans recordings can be found on The Best of Miles Davis and Gil Evans.

Davis’s music continued to evolve throughout the 1960s, and he frequently collaborated with up and coming musicians, such as Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Wayne Shorter, and Chick Corea. The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel is a concert recording from 1965 that features Hancock and Shorter, and Miles Smiles is a studio album from 1967 with the same musicians. As the decade progressed, Davis was influenced by the rock and funk genres of popular music, and this combination of different musical styles that incorporated more electrical instruments became known as jazz fusion. In a Silent Way, recorded in 1969, and Bitches Brew, which was recorded later in the same year, are two of the earliest examples of jazz fusion. A series of live recordings from the end of 1970 are collected on The Cellar Door Sessions, and it features the musicians Keith Jarrett and John McLaughlin. A collection of recordings that Davis made between 1969 and 1981 can be found on the compilation, Miles Davis Electric.            

In the mid-1970s, Davis withdrew from recording and performing, partly because of exhaustion and health problems. Davis eventually returned to recording at the end of the 1970s and performing in the early 1980s, although at a more intermittent pace than in the past. His last significant recordings were Tutu from 1986 and Miles and Quincy Live at Montreux, which was recorded in 1991. Miles Davis died on September 28, 1991, thus ending one of the most illustrious careers in jazz, although his recorded legacy and influence will live on forever. A broad overview of his musical output can be found on the collection The Columbia years, 1955-1985.

The library also has several books about Miles Davis and his music, including his own autobiography Miles, the Autobiography, Milestones by Jack Chambers, The Miles Davis Companion: Four Decades of Commentary edited by Gary Carner, and The Blue Moment: Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music by Richard Williams.

If you are interested in further resources, including more recordings and books, consult the library’s catalog or ask a librarian for assistance. If you wish to check-out CDs or DVDs, simply bring a list with the Call Numbers of the titles to the Help Desk; the Student Assistant will retrieve the CDs or DVDs for you. Also, many recordings are available online via the Naxos Music Library Jazz collection.

Susan LaRose
Electronic Resources Department
Armacost Library

No comments :