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Miles Ahead: 1957 mono LP and 1997 stereo reissue

Let's take a look on some details about the Miles Ahead album.

The original issued LP, Columbia CL 1041 (1957), comes from four recording sessions in May 1957 plus an overdub recording session in August 1957.

Miles Ahead was planned as a suite, with transitions between tunes written by Gil Evans.

Tunes and transitions had to be edited in a way that they result in a continuos playing.

Editing is used not only for transitions, but even on almost all tunes, in order to put together selected takes fragments, and on some tunes there are overdubs.

The original 1957 LP was a mono recording.

In 1997 Columbia released a box set "Miles Davis & Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings" containing some alternate takes and rehearsals from the Miles Ahead recording sessions.

Alternate takes give a new value to the work and, despite few imperfections, music does not suffer from time-fluctuating as in edited takes which put together different fragments from different takes recorded, in some cases, even on different dates, and running at slightly different tempos.

The Columbia box set included even a new stereo version of the original Miles Ahead which had to be faithful to the original 1957 mono LP.

The task to give a full stereo version of the original album was definitely not an easy thing to do, due to the large amount of postproduction involved in the original mono version (a previous attempt made in 1987 by Teo Macero led to a much different album, which can't be related to the original).

Here we focus on some little differences between the 1957 original mono LP and the 1997 stereo reissue and on a few little anomalies which in any case don't lessen value to this record which is one of the most influential work in the whole jazz production.

Doing this we'll leave out differences and little errors on the transitions between tunes which are less important, at least from a musical point of view.


Let's start with Springsville, a tune composed by John Carisi, which opens the album; this tune has a large amount of editing on it, and the final master is marred by the heavy tempo fluctuations due to different takes used.

As an example if we listen to this fragment from the 1957 mono master

or the analog from the 1997 stereo master
which both insert four bars from 1957-05-27 take 7 (running a bit faster) we feel a slight tempo fluctuation.

Tempo is definitely more fluent in the same fragment fragment from 1957-05-23 unedited take 8

despite the quality of the ensemble passage (which seems the reason for the insert from a different take)

But we won't focus on such problems, which can't be avoided when different takes are put together.

Let's listen at a fragment from Springsville, 1997 stereo master, where we find a missing beat:

here we have a fragment of Springsville starting on bar 64 (score refers only to rhythmic passages of the ensemble)

and the missing beat is the first of bar 72.

Perhaps it is not so easy to reveal it due to Springsville up tempo, but if we slow down it at 70% of original speed

and we try to tap two and four we'll find us reversed at bar 72 and following.

The same fragment was edited correctly in 1957 original mono master

, although tempo's fluctuating due to the splicing of a different take is udible at bar 71 (here is the same fragment
slowed down at 70% of original speed).

And just for compare this is the same fragment from unedited 1957-05-23 take 5

slowed down at 70% of original speed), and from unedited 1957-05-23 take 8
slowed down at 70% of original speed).

Miles Ahead

And now let's turn to the beautiful Miles Ahead.

The original 1957 mono master has a bad edit cutting first beat on bar 24; more it sounds a bit shaky on bar 29 (score refers only to Miles' playing, Bb transposed).

Fortunately this has been fixed in 1997 stereo master

which has complete bar 24 and sounds much better on bar 29.

And just to compare this is the analog fragment from unedited take 4

, from unedited take 12
and from unedited take 15

New Rhumba

Now it's the turn of New Rhumba, a tuned composed by pianist Ahmad Jamal and rearranged by Gil Evans.

Here is a fragment from 1997 stereo master: the last 8 bars section of the theme (an AABA 32 bar theme) into Miles' first chorus (score refers only to rhythmic passages of the ensemble)

clearly miss a beat; the segment starts on bar 25 and the missing beat is in bar 32, just before the beginning of Miles' first chorus.

Again, if we try to tap two and four we'll find us reversed at the beginning of Miles' solo.

This missing beat seems to have been inherited directly from analog error in the 1957 original mono master

, with same wrong edit on bar 32.

You can compare it with analog fragment from unedited take 2

and from unedited take 5

where bar 32 is complete.

By the way, the documentation present in the Columbia box set does not fit with this evidence: the second A of the theme and half of the bridge come from take 2, then take 12 (sic), but this could not explain a tape splice at the end of the theme, since solo comes again from take 12.

These are only few examples about the stereo remastering complying with the original 1957 mono LP, which comes with its errors (it was edited in 1957 on Ampex tape decks and 1/4" tape!)

But with the 1997 Columbia box set at last we can listen to unedited true takes (although some are still missing) and enjoy them as they are.

Here we list what is still missing (unissued) from the Miles Ahead recording sessions, considering only complete takes:

- Springsville piano remake, take 3, 1957-05-27 (without Miles Davis)

- The Maids of Cadiz, take 6, 1957-05-06 (all we can hear are two fragments

spliced into the master take, which form about an half of the master)

- The Duke, take 3, 1957-05-06 (all we can hear are six bars, bars 10-15 of Miles' solo

, spliced into the master take to replace bars 10-15
from take 1)

- My Ship, take 10, 1957-05-10 (master includes bars 1:24 from take 10, then bars 25-32 from take 7

, then again take 10 from bar 33 til the end)

- Miles Ahead: the eight bars

before the overdubbed section in the master do not come from any released take!

- New Rhumba, take 10, 1957-05-23 is unissued

- New Rhumba, take 12, 1957-05-23 (in master take, second A section and half of the bridge

come from take 2

- I Don't Wanna Be Kissed, overdubs 9 and 11, 1957-08-22 are unissued

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