I came across some excerpts from Downbeat’s Blindfold Listening sessions with Miles Davis the other day. The gist of the blindfold listening session is that a musician listens to several cuts from different albums and comments on them without the benefit of knowing who they’re listening to or which recording they’re hearing.
The listener in me appreciates the quality of attention and precision that Davis brings to listening to other musicians’ work. The musician in me cowers at his decisive and resolute critiques of their performances.
Miles recognizes the musicians on the cuts he’s listening to with an amazing hit rate and identifies not only the soloists but in most cases the rhythm players, too. He is without forgiveness or tolerance for chops that are anything less than perfect. And that’s the rub. I mean, how the hell do you define perfection when it comes to chops?
Clearly Miles has some kind of hyper-sensitive internal measurement or gauge that he’s measuring with here and I am sure he was as critical of his own chops as he is of these other players’. I think that measuring device is just his sense of taste and you get a real sense in reading these in how refined and sensitive and calibrated his sense of taste was. In any case, enjoy these:
- 1st Blindfold Test, Sept. 1955 (early Miles, around the time of Walkin’)
- 2nd Blindfold Test, Aug, 1958 (around the time of the 1st quintet with Coltrane – Relaxin’/Cookin’)
- 3rd Blindfold Test, June, 1964 (just after Kind of Blue)
- 4th Blindfold Test, June 1968 (2nd quintet with Shorter, Hancock, Carter and Williams)