2nd Blindfold Test Miles Davis

August 7, 1958, by Leonard Feather for Down Beat

The last time Miles Davis took the blindfold test, in the issue dated September 21, 1955, the feature bore the headline "Miles and Miles of Trumpet Players." Each of the nine records played for Davis featured at least two trumpet soloists.

This time, by way of contrast, I avoided this emphasis: in fact, a couple of the records played had no trumpet at all, and others used the horn only as a secondary instrument.

However, just for laughs, I retained one record out of the previous test, the Elliott-Dedrick "Gargantuan Chant." In 1955 Davis thought it sounded like Howard McGhee and Ray Nance, said the arrangement was nice but not the interpretation, considered the piano great and liked the guitar, and rated the record two stars.

Davis won't know until he reads this that he was played the same record twice, three years apart. Now, as then, he was given no information about the records played.

The Records

1. John Lewis
Warmeland (Dear Old Stockholm)


I'll give it ten stars. . . . On top of that, John loves Sweden, you know. I like John . . . his interpretation of a song is too much. Last night, Lennie Hayton played something for me from this same album, and like Lena Horne says, "All I do is sing the song like the man wrote it." That's how John plays the piano. I don't go for guitar at all, and John complemented him there. . . . All the stars are for John.

2. Tiny Grimes and Coleman Hawkins
A Smooth One

Musa Kaleem, flute.

"A Smooth One." We used to play that in St. Louis. I don't know who that flute player was, but if he was up to the Apollo Theater when Puerto Rico was living, he would have blown the horn on that whole record. The guitar player was terrible. . . . I really can't say anything about it. Give it half a star just because Coleman Hawkins is on it.

3. Buddy Collette

Collette, arranger, tenor saxophone; Gerald Wilson, trumpet; Red Callender, bass.

You know what that sounds for me? It sounds like Gigi Gryce arrangements with Oscar Pettiford, but I don't know - all those white tenor players sound alike to me . . . unless it's Zoot Sims or Stan Getz. It must have been Ray Copeland on trumpet. . . . I don't know for sure, but I don't like that type of still trumpet playing.

That's a very old kind of modern arrangement - like an old modern picture with skeletons. I'd rate it two stars.

4. Sonny Rollins with Thelonious Monk
The Way You Look Tonight

Tommy Potter, bass; Arthur Taylor, drums.

I know that's Sonny Rollins, but I don't see how a record company can record something like that. You know the way Monk plays - he never gives any support to a rhythm section. When I had him on my date, I had him lay out until the ensemble. I like to hear him play, but I can't stand him in a rhythm section unless it's one of his own songs.

I can't understand a record like this. I don't know who the drummer and bass player are. Is that "The Way You Look Tonight"? That's what I used to play behind Bird, only we used to play it twice as fast, I'll give this 2 on account of Sonny.

5. Eddie Condon
Eddie and the Milkman

Rex Stewart, cornet.

It's Don Elliott. . . . No, I don't know who that was on trumpet. In fact, Leonard, I don't know anything about that at all. It has a nice beat, but it sounded like Don Elliott to me, imitating somebody, but I know it wasn't him.

I like the piece, but you know Don is always "da, da, da, da, da." I know it isn't him because he doesn't have that much feeling. I'll give this four.

6. Don Elliott and Rusty Dedrick
Gargantuan Chant

Mundell Lowe, guitar; Dick Hyman, piano.

I don't know who that was, Leonard. Sounds good in spots, but I don't like that kind of trumpet playing. The guitar sounds good in spots, and the piano player sounds good. It's a good little number except for that interlude and that tired way of playing trumpet. I'll give that three stars. Who were those two trumpet players?

7. John Lewis and Sacha Distel
Dear Old Stockholm

Lewis, piano; Distel, guitar; Barney Wilen, tenor saxophone; Percy Heath, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums.

I like the tune. I'll give it four stars, especially for the rhythm section. I think it was John Lewis and Kenny Clarke, but I'm not sure. Whoever they were they were very sympathetic and very swinging.

I know the two other fellows - I like them very much. I think I can speak better about the guitar than the saxophonist - Sacha Distel is the guitarist, and I believe if he continues to develop, he will be very good. . . . I don't think he has too individual a voice yet. I'll give this four stars for the swinging rhythm section.

8. Bobby Hackett

Dick Cary, E-flat horn; Ernie Caceres, baritone.

I'll give it five stars. . . . I like that. The trombone player knocked me out. Who was that playing baritone? . . . That trombone player gassed me. The trumpet? It sounded better than Ruby Braff. I don't understand Ruby at all. In that style I like Red Allen, Louis, and Bobby Hackett plays nice, but I can't tell anybody else.

8. Shorty Rogers
I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore

Bill Holman, tenor saxophone.

I know it's a West Coast record. Right? Shorty playing trumpet and I've never heard James Clay, but I guess it must be him. I don't know anything about that. I'll give it two stars.

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 8, 2001