1st Blindfold Test Miles Davis

September 21, 1955, by Leonard Feather for Down Beat

For a long time, Miles Davis and I had been trying to get together for a blindfold session. I was determined that when the interview did take place, it would be something out of the ordinary run of blindfold tests; and that's just the way it turned out.

Every record selected was one that featured at least two trumpet players. As you will see, this selection of material did not faze Miles.

Miles was given no information whatever, either before or during the test, about the records played for him.

The Records

1. Clifford Brown
Falling in Love with Love

Brown, Art Farmer, trumpets; Bengt Hallberg, piano.

That was Arthur Farmer and Brownie blowing trumpet. The arrangement was pretty good; I think they played it too fast, though. They missed the content of the tune.

The piano player gasses me - I don't know his name. I've been trying to find out his name. He's from Sweden. . . . I think he made those records with Stan, like "Dear Old Stockholm." I never heard anybody play in a high register like that. So clean, and he swings and plays his own things; but they had the piano up too loud in the ensembles. If there's anything that drags me, it's when they put the piano up too loud in the control room.

Aside from the trumpets, I didn't care for the other soloists at all . . . also I think that Arthur should improve his tone and that Clifford should swing more. Four stars, though.

2. Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie
Algo Bueno

Eldridge, Gillespie, trumpets; Oscar Peterson, piano; Herb Ellis, guitar; Louie Bellson, drums.

That was Diz and Roy. Sounded like Oscar Peterson on piano. Guitar messed it all up - and the brushes. And one of the four bars that Dizzy played wasn't too good. One of the fours that Roy played wasn't too good. They're two of my favorite trumpet players; I love Roy, and you know I love Diz.

I don't know why they recorded together . . . sounded like something of Norman Granz's . . . one of his get-togethers. It's nice to listen to for a while, but Oscar messes it up with that Nat Cole style; and that kind of rhythm section, with brushes.

It's not that kind of song. You can't play that kind of song like that, with those chords. There's another way to swing on that. It could have been much better. I'd give it three stars on account of Diz's and Roy's horns.

3. Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff
Love Is Just Around the Corner

Clayton, trumpet; Braff, cornet; Benny Morton, trombone; Steve Jordan, guitar; Aaron Bell, bass.

Sounded like Buck Clayton; the other sounded like Charlie Shavers. I don't know who was on trombone; sounded like Jack Teagarden. I don't know about that rhythm section.

Maybe they want to play like that, huh? But the bass and guitar - they always seem to clash when they play 1-3-5 chords that don't vary. You know - C, C, G, G, IV, IV, V, V, like that - seems to be some clash in there. When they play straight 4/4, I like it. I did think the guitar was too loud. Two stars.

4. Don Elliott, Rusty Dedrick
Gargantuan Chant

Dick Hyman, composer, arranger, piano; Dedrick, first trumpet solo; Elliott, second trumpet solo; Mundell Lowe, guitar.

Sounds kind of fine. Sounds like Howard McGhee and Ray Nance, but I don't know who it is. The arrangement was pretty nice, but not the interpretation. Piano, whoever he is, is crazy. That's about all I can say about it. Tow stars. Guitar was nice. I preferred the last trumpet solo to the earlier one for that kind of thing

5. Metronome All-Stars
Look Out

Sy Oliver, composer and arranger; Tiny Grimes, guitar; Flip Phillips, Georgie Auld, tenor saxophones; Buddy DeFranco, clarinet; Harry Edison, Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart, trumpets; Teddy Wilson, piano.

Gee, that sure sounded like an all-star record! Sounded like Teddy Wilson. I think I heard Harry Edison, Georgie Auld, Cootie Williams, Al Killian. Guitar player was nice. I don't know who that was. Sure was a funny arrangement.

I don't know who could have done that arrangement . . . pretty nice record, though. It kinda swings. I couldn't tell the clarinet player; I can't tell anybody but Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw and Buddy DeFranco. It was sort of a short solo . . . Give it four stars. I liked that.

6. Charlie Barnet
Terry Tune

Clark Terry, Jimmy Nottingham, trumpets.

That was Clark Terry and somebody; I don't know who the other trumpet was. Sounded a little like Willie Cook. I don't recognize that band. I know Duke didn't write these arrangements. . . . For a moment it sounded like Maynard; but I guess Maynard would be doing more acrobatics. He always does.

I like Terry. . . . I met him in St. Louis when I was about thirteen and playing in a school band. He was playing like Buck Clayton then - but fast, just the way he is now. So I started trying to play like Terry; I idolized him. He's a very original trumpet player; but I don't like to hear him strong-arming the horn just to try to be exciting.

He's much better when he plays soft, when he sounds like Buck. I like him when he plays down, instead up, always upward, phrases. . . . I don't like that arrangement, though. I know it must be Terry's tune, 'cause it sounds like him. I'd rate it three stars on account of Terry. I don't know who that other trumpet player would be.

7. Bobby Byrne - Kai Winding
Hot and Cool Blues

(Dixieland vs. Birdland, MGM).
Byrne, Winding, trombones; Eddie Shu, Mike Baker, clarinets; Howard McGhee, Yank Lawson, trumpets; John Lewis, piano; Kenny Clarke, drums; Percy Heath, bass.

Jeez! That was Howard McGhee, and Percy, wasn't it? Kai Winding. Howard played nice. I liked the contrast idea . . . but I just don't know what to say about that record; there's too big a switch when they go from that riff into the sudden Dixieland. . . . I like good Dixieland, you know. . . . I like Sidney Bechet. . . . Kai and Howard swing. I'd give the record a couple stars on account of Kai and Howard.

8. Louis Armstrong
Ain't Misbehavin'

Bobby Hackett, Armstrong, trumpets; Jack Teagarden, trombone.

I like Louis! Anything he does is all right. I don't know about his statements, though. . . . I could do without them. That's Bobby Hackett, too; I always did like Bobby Hackett - anything by him. Jack Teagarden's on trombone. I'd give it five stars.

8. Duke Ellington
Stormy Weather

Harry Carney, baritone saxophone; Willie Cook, Ray Nance, Cat Anderson, trumpets; Billy Strayhorn, arranger.

Oh, God! You can give that twenty-five stars! I love Duke. That sounded like Billy Strayhorn's arrangement; it's warmer than Duke usually writes. Must be Billy Strayhorn.

That band kills me. I think the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke. Especially Mingus, who always idolized Duke and wanted to play with him; and why he didn't mention it in his blindfold test, I don't know. Yes, everybody should bow to Duke and Strayhorn - and Charlie Parker and Diz. . . . Cat Anderson sounds good on that; Ray ALWAYS sounds good.

The beginning soloist wasn't in Duke's band, the band wouldn't be Duke. . . . They take in all schools of jazz. . . . Give this all the stars you can.

You can find this blindfold test reprinted in Bill Kirchner's Miles Davis Reader, a collection of articles about Miles Davis and his music by various authors, which is still available (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London, 1997)

TOP last update: November 7, 2001