Miles Davis-Gil Evans: Once Upon A Summertime


Once Upon a Summertime


Miles Davis (trumpet) and Gil Evans (arranger)


Quiet Nights (Columbia 2106)

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Miles Davis (trumpet), Gil Evans (arranger),

Johnny Coles, Bernie Glow, Louis Mucci, Ernie Royal (trumpet); Dick Hixson, Jimmy Knepper, Frank Rehak (trombones); Paul Ingraham, Robert Swisshelm, Julius Watkins (French horns); Bill Barber (tuba); Danny Bank, Eddie Caine, Romeo Penque, Jerome Richardson, Bob Tricarico (woodwinds); Janet Putman (harp); Jimmy Cobb (drums); Elvin Jones, Bobby Rosengarden (percussion)


Composed by Michel Legrand


Recorded: New York, November 6, 1962


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Quiet Nights was a record that neither Miles or Gil wanted to have come out. And in a way, I understand that, as it doesn't have a cohesive whole that even comes close to matching their other collaborations. But, that being said, there are some absolutely gorgeous things on this album—and again, it's just so hard to pick one cut. But I have to say, this one I've chosen KILLS me! It begins with a fluttering harp along with the woodwinds. How about that sudden cup mute zinger chord at 0:17? It's just SO Gil. After that, the chords simply hover almost motionless when Miles comes in so gorgeously on the melody. You can hear the lyrics in every note of his playing! The harp fluttering keeps just a little motion passing through the air, as does the slowly descending line in the inner ensemble. That descent creates a powerful feeling of yearning as it presses against the slow passing of time. Everything really feels as if it's hovering in the air, keeping us almost holding our breath in waiting, not only because of the harp, hovering chords and descending line, but also because there's no bass grounding us yet. Only at 0:52, when the bass begins playing pizzicato, do we start to get more settled. How did Gil manage to foresee and coordinate all these layers that create such a deep, deep expression? Did he know what he was doing? How I wish I knew then what I know now. How many questions I would ask! Ha, and Gil probably would have run out of the room!

OK, going on: Listen to the lovely tuba and bass clarinet with the bass at 1:04—what laziness and beauty! Another absolutely magical moment is the perfectly executed harp ritard at 1:21 that sets us into an even slower waltz tempo. Oh dear, now my heart is really aching. The inner lines in the bassoon at 1:35 to 1:50 are so compelling. 1:58 is just searing! Check out to those high voicings moving in parallel motion! Wow. And how did he think to suddenly bring in such high trumpets? What a brave move! Then there's the shift he makes in the sonic universe at 2:07. This is genius! And how great they played it! Listen to the inner descent at 2:30. Now at 2:47 you'll hear the intro recalled. What was in the woodwinds on the intro is now in the French horns, also with the harp fluttering as before. If this piece doesn't doesn't send you to heaven, then I can't help you.

Looking back to 1988, I'm recalling the time when on the phone Gil asked me to come over and discuss my music. It was not long before he died. Well, we never got the chance for that. It's been one of the regrets in my life. Listening to this and all of the pieces I'm analyzing, I have to say, I'm getting getting my chance now, because just about any lesson to be learned about music of any kind—and certainly mine included—is here.

Reviewer: Maria Schneider

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