Featured Album – The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 – Miles Davis

Way back in 1965, Miles Davis was playing with his second great quintet which consisted of Miles on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. Each of these guys were outstanding A-list players. (As of this writing, Shorter, Hancock, and Carter are still very much with us.)

In a few short years, Miles would largely abandon acoustic playing to help invent the electric jazz sound known as fusion. But at this juncture, these guys were very much in the pocket with a traditional acoustic jazz sound. (Which, despite my dalliances with fusion, is still very much my favorite sound.)

In December of 1965, the quintet played at the now-defunct Plugged Nickel club in Chicago. From a website memorializing the club: “The Plugged Nickel Club in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood was a jazz hotspot between 1962 and early 1970’s. The top jazz artists of the day such as John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, Buddy Rich, Count Basie, and others performed regularly at the Club which was limited to an audience of 200 people.

Ultimately, the doors of the Plugged Nickel closed at a time when the live jazz scene in Chicago was drying-up. It seems that the clubs’ loss of their license to serve liquor and other factors contributed to its demise as well as changes in the Old Town area. The closing of the Plugged Nickel also ended a chapter of history of the once flourishing jazz scene in Chicago.”

The full CD set wasn’t released in 1995. I don’t think I knew about that version, instead picking up a copy of a single-disc sampler  Wikipedia says the full CD set is out-of-print but it (along with streaming and MP3 versions) is very much available (used) on Amazon.

According to the All About Jazz website, “All of the pieces performed at the Plugged Nickel were a look at the old stuff through radically different glasses, glasses that Davis had been working on since the dissolution of the first great quintet and sextet in 1958.

{This album} captured Davis at the absolute ground zero of his creativity. Miles was moving in a freedom direction with compositional discipline and restraint. The Plugged Nickel recordings represent Davis’ effort to return to the classics and recast them in the new mode he was creating. The results were—and are fantastic.”

No argument. Here’s “Walkin'”

Spotify link

This song, “When I Fall In Love,” originally came from an old Robert Mitchum Korean War-era film called One Minute to Zero. It’s since become a jazz standard. It’s not at all unusual for jazzers to take songs from movies, plays, etc, regardless of the source. This album includes “If I Were a Bell,” from Guys and Dolls and lest we forget, John Coltrane did an epic version of “My Favorite Things.”

Spotify link

The quintet made a few more excellent albums but as mentioned, Miles (and I think most, if not all of them) went electric by the late ’60’s.) Wayne Shorter, of course, had a multi-year run with the fabulous Weather Report.

If you’re into jazz, this album is a must-have.

18 thoughts on “Featured Album – The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 – Miles Davis

  1. Oooft. This sounds pretty remarkable (obviously). What’s that… 7 hours of music? Of glorious Miles… heck, yes! I’m away to investigate that, for sure…

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  2. I’m working my way through my Spotify list and I’m at the M’s and you go and post Miles. ‘Black Beauty’ is on deck. I listened to the cuts you posted. He had so many good bands and it doesn’t get any better than this lineup. They really do “cook”. The only problem is I get lost in Davis for a while and tend to stay lost in his music. All sorts of food for thought on this one Doc. Thanks.

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    1. Did you know this one? Seems to have fallen through the cracks. Plus, I wouldn’t spend any time worrying about whether you and I hit the same artist more or less at the same time. Bound to happen. Who gives a shit?

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      1. Yes I do know this one. This is all the stuff I went back to discover after I stumbled onto ‘Bitches Brew’. I think this one and a few others were released later from the archives (A Coltrane treasure was just released). I was listening to it this morning and you can hear hints of what was to come later.
        I have a neighbor who I exchange music with (mostly jazz). I took him over ‘Sketches Of Spain’ on the weekend. There’s a piece of his favorite music on it, ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’. He never heard Mile’s version. As far as Davis goes I had a buddy who’s dad was a MD freak so he was always playing me cuts.
        .

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        1. You’ll find this amusing but how I came to post about this was reading an article about guitarist Mike Stern. You may know he’s a Boston guy who played with Miles. He also went to Berklee and I used to see him play in small clubs where musicians play mostly to other musicians. (Which can be too technical and soulless sometimes as they are primarily playing to impress each other.) Anyway, he mentioned this album and I said, Oh I should listen to that because I don’t know it. Then I said, wait a minute, that sounds familiar. And I dug into my pile o’ CD’s and there it was. I had it but I’d forgotten about it. A lost treasure.

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  3. I love good jazz, so I’ll add this to my list (ever-growing, thanks to you and others). I don’t know much about this phase of Miles. Don’t care much for his fusion, but I love his 50s and early-60s stuff (I have “Kind of Blue,” “Milestones,” and “Round Midnight,” all of which are good, with the first being his magnum opus).

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    1. That whole second quintet was phenomenal. This album is from 1965 and so probably well before rock truly seeped into Miles’ consciousness. This one’s “live” (but jazz at its best is on-the-fly improvisation, yes?) so a bit more outside. But it’s rich listening for sure. Side note – I couldn’t have spelled the word jazz in 1965 and if you’d have asked me then if I would ever like it I would have said no way. An acquired taste, like a fine wine.

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  4. I discovered mainstream jazz in college via pop-jazz and fusion like RtF, Corea, Clarke, DiMeola, Lee Ritenour, Weather Report, Ronnie Laws, David Sanborn, etc. Also, via writer Jack Kerouac, who wrote so movingly about bebop in his classic “On the Road.” I was always trying to convert my dad to my music. He loved 1930s-’40s swing and Big Band. But the jazz (and rock) I listened to was too “wild” for him! My little brother had more success. One day I’ll tell you a funny story.

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    1. My jazz trajectory is similar to yours. However, it occurred to me not too long ago that listening to bands like Cream and the Allmans, who were doing long-form improv, paved the way for me to appreciate jazz.

      As to my own father, we were never particularly close until years later. But I cannot remember having anything remotely resembling a conversation with him about music. The exceptions were when he’d hear something on the radio that I might characterize as soft-rock or something that stood out to him like Billy Joel’s “Innocent Man.” Other than that, all my musical conversations in those formative years were with my equally music-besotted older sister and with my peers and especially with friends in high school in NYC where I achieved liftoff. I’m certain that my first jazz concert ever would have been Weather Report who we saw a number of times including once, oddly, in a college auditorium.

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