Miles Davis
The Complete Blackhawk Sessions

By Michael Cuscuna
The 1961 Miles Davis Quintet has been relegated to footnote status in the trumpeter’s long and varied career. It has been said that this was one of Miles’ most popular groups on the club circuit. When you consider the degree of swing and compatibility that this group achieved, it is easy to see why.

This unit evolved over considerable time. Paul Chambers had been Miles Davis’ bassist of choice since the trumpeter first put together a quintet in 1955. Jimmy Cobb came in May 1958, shortly after his former boss Cannonball Adderley made the group a sextet. In early 1959, Wynton Kelly took over the chair that had been occupied by two very contrasting pianists Red Garland and Bill Evans, and he seemed to encompass Red’s swing and Bill’s intellect. This rhythm section clicked to such a degree that they remained musically and professionally inseparable until Chambers died in 1969.

Miles’ choices for tenor saxophonist leaned toward the more exploratory breed – Sonny Rollins, briefly, and then John Coltrane. When he added alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley to make the group a sextet, he couldn’t have squeezed two more contrasting saxophonists into his music. Adderley favored blues-based be-bop while Coltrane was focusing on mastering and expanding harmonic language. One can imagine a divided club audience – half routing for one saxophonist and the rest for the other. This made for exciting and unpredictable music and generated great ink in the jazz press.

When Coltrane left the band for the last time after a March-April 1960 European tour, Miles hired Jimmy Heath, who had travel restrictions and then the inveterate bebop master Sonny Stitt who stayed with the group to the end of the year. On December 26, Hank Mobley joined the group in Chicago.

With this line-up, Miles’ band reached a new level of simpatico. Coltrane, Adderley and Garland or Evans had wildly different styles. But as soloists, Miles, Mobley and Kelly spoke in melodic declarative sentences; they shared a sensibility and an aesthetic. Powered by Chambers and Cobb, they swung effortlessly, one solo seamlessly blending into the next.

They were a master class in the state of modern jazz in 1961.

Most likely the absence of tension or new ground or explosive unpredictability in their music caused them to be written off in the critical community. Mobley, particularly, got a bad rap as the weak link in the group. But he was always punished for a lack of flamboyance and never rewarded for being a singular, masterful artist. Even Miles would later say that Hank didn’t inspire him the way Coltrane did.

When the two resulting albums from the live appearances at the Blackhawk were issued, they were Miles Davis’ first live recordings. (His Newport and Plaza tapes had not yet been issued and the flurry of live radio broadcasts and bootlegs that flood the shelves today did not exist.) The absence of new material and controversial soloists probably made these recordings a failure in the ears of some. But now, we have almost every note this band played that weekend and none of it is less than sublime. We hear what they achieved on a nightly basis.
.  – Mosaic Records liner notes The Complete Blackhawk Sessions (6 LPs)


Miles Davis (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums).

Miles Davis
The Complete Blackhawk Sessions

Issue numbers with an asterisk indicate that the version on that LP or CD is edited. All performances on this set are heard in complete form and performance order.

Miles Davis (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums).
The Blackhawk, San Francisco, Friday April 21, 1961
Set One:
Autumn Leaves incomplete, rejected
CO 67467 Oleo CS 8470*/CJ 44425*
CO 67461 No Blues CS 8469*/CJ 44257*
CO 67462 Bye Bye (theme) CS 8469/CJ 44257

Set Two:
CO 67460 All Of You CS 8469*/CJ 44257
Neo (Teo) previously unissued
I Thought About You previously unissued
CO 67458 Bye Bye Blackbird CS 8469/CJ 44257
CO 67458 Walkin’ CS 8469/CJ 44257
CO 67463 Love, I’ve Found You (p solo) CS 8469/CJ 44257

Set Three
If I Were A Bell previously unissued
CO 67465 Fran Dance CS 8470*/CJ 44425
CO 69451 On Green Dolphin Street CS 8565*
The Theme previously unissued
Love, I’ve Found You (p solo) rejected

Miles Davis (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums).
The Blackhawk, San Francisco, Saturday April 22, 1961
Set One:
CO 67468 If I Were A Bell CS 8470*/CJ 44425*
CO 67466 So What CS 8470/CJ 44425
No Blues (theme) CS 8470/CJ 44425

Set Two:
On Green Dolphin Street previously unissued
Walkin’ previously unissued
CO 68866 ‘Round Midnight KC2 36472
CO 67464 Well You Needn’t CS 8470*/CJ 44425
The Theme KC2 36472*

Note: On KC2 36472, “The Theme” was incomplete and edited onto the end of “’Round Midnight”

Set Three:
Autumn Leaves previously unissued **
CO 67469 Neo (Teo) CS 8470/CJ 44425
Two Bass Hit previously unissued **
Bye Bye (theme) previously unissued **
Love, I’ve Found You (p solo) previously unissued **

Note: The tape recorder did not start until a few notes into “Autumn Leaves” requiring a fade up.

Set Four:
I Thought About You previously unissued **
Someday My Prince Will Come previously unissued **
Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (trio) previously unissued
Bye Bye (theme) (trio) incomplete, rejected

* indicates an edited version of the music

** a primitive sounding tape of these selection was released on an unauthorized bootleg CD from Luxembourg entitled Transtion (Magnetic MRCD-125).

Album index
CL 1669/CS 8469 In Person, Friday Night At The Blackhawk
CL 1670/CS 8470 In Person, Satruday Night At The Blackhawk
CL 1765/CS 8565 Who’s Who In The Swinging Sixties
KC2 36472 Directions
CJ 44257 In Person, Friday Night At The Blackhawk
CJ 44425 In Person, Saturday Night At The Blackhawk

CK 44257 In Person, Friday Night At The Blackhawk
CK 44425 In Person, Saturday Night At The Blackhawk

Produced by Irving Townsend
Recording engineer: Harold Chapman
Recorded live at the Blackhawk, San Francisco on April 21 & 22, 1961
Reissue produced by Michael Cuscuna and Bob Belden
Remixed from the original three-track masters by Mark Wilder
Mastered by ————————————-
Tape research: Stacey Boyle

Design Direction: Richard Mantel
Design Production: InkWell, Inc.
Cover photograph by Leigh Weiner
All other photographs by Chuck Stewart

© 2003 Sony Music Entertainment Inc./This compilation (p) 2003 Sony Music Entertainment Inc. Manufactured By Sony Music Custom Marketing Group/ 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211/”Columbia” and “Sony” Reg. U.S. Patent & TM Office Marca Registrada/WARNING: All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. Printed in U.S.A.
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