Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sal Salvador, Miles Davis and the Jazz Guitar

Originally posted on October 26, 2007

As it is Friday, it is dress down time here at Gapplegate Music. Then again, every day is dress down day!

Sal Salvador was a jazz guitarist of some influence in the ‘50s. He did not record all that much, but I’m listening to one of his better ones. It is a compilation of a number of sessions he made with pianist-vibraphone player Eddie Costa from 1954-57. Costa was a very interesting pianist and a good vibist and unfortunately passed away in a traffic accident on the West Side Highway, NYC, in 1962. Salvador and Costa made a dynamic team. Sal had real facility putting together bop lines and this two-record CD on Lonehill is jam packed with nearly 80 minutes of music per disk. (Complete Studio Recordings Lonehill 10171). Salvador gets a classic fifties tone and they do a good job with some originals and a bunch of jazz standards and popular tunes of several decades. They are joined by bass and drums for all cuts, the last few add some horns. It’s worth checking out as typical of what a very good jazz guitarist was up to in that era.

I first encountered the music of Miles Davis when I rummaged out an old copy of Round About Midnight at a local junk shop on my adolescent sojourns. It was from 1955 and so was middle-early as far as his career went. It was, and is a stupendous record. Miles went on to be at the vanguard of new jazz styles throughout most of his career. Although some people don’t approve of it, his “jazz-rock” phase (1969-76) involved some of the most exciting and challenging music he ever created. He recorded a concert in Japan at the very end of that period, in 1976, and it was originally released on two, 2-LP sets—Agharta and Pangaea, for Columbia. Those eventually came out on twin 2-CD sets and I grabbed them a while back. I had to sell almost all of my records before graduate school in 1981; in 1985 I had to start over again for listening-collecting. So I rebought these disks.

What is notable about this concert is, as the last he recorded before retiring for a number of years, that it was as far as he would go with the “jazz-rock” style. It was a mid-size band, with reeds, drums and congas, electric bass, Miles on trumpet and organ, Pete Cosey on lead guitar and Reggie Lucas on rhythm guitar. They had been playing together in this configuration for a number of years and they had meshed completely in a rock-funk-psychedelic sense. Pete Cosey played some very nice guitar and Lucas had mastered a rhythm guitar style that complemented the lead. Listening back, I realize that they were what today you would call a jamband. It will still challenge your ears but there’s much to be gained by becoming familiar with this phase of Miles’ music.

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