Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Artist’s Choice: Mike Stern on Miles Davis & More

The guitarist chooses his favorite Miles tracks

Mike Stern

To me, almost everything Miles played was beautiful, mainly because he played with so much soul. It’s really hard to pick just five tracks from someone whose music you dig so much. Also, what do you say about music? My usual philosophy is, just listen to it, it speaks for itself. Anyway, my selections were pretty random. The only thing that guided me in my choices was to pick five selections from a couple of different periods of Miles’ career, to show how open he was to all kinds of music. I also picked tracks by two other incredible trumpet players, Wynton Marsalis and Randy Brecker.

Miles was a pretty complicated person, but he had a great sense of humor. One time, he flew me out of New York to record with him in L.A., and I stayed at his house in Malibu. He cooked dinner-chicken with lots of hot sauce-and after we ate, I put the dishes in the dishwasher and started the machine. About two minutes later, there were soap bubbles leaking everywhere and the whole kitchen was getting soaked. I turned the machine off but it was still leaking, so I yelled, “Miles, we gotta do something! Do you know how to fix this dishwasher?” Miles looked at the mess, then looked at me kind of puzzled and said, “Mike, ask me about a chord or a scale or somethin’.” Then we got into his car and went to the studio to record. I think the dishwasher was still leaking all over the kitchen floor.

1. “Oleo”
In Person Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk, Complete (Legacy; rec. 1961, rel. 2003)

This is a fast tempo and Miles tears it up! So does everyone else on the record. 15 trillion stars! (If stars were dollars, we could pay off the U.S. budget deficit with this record.)

2. “Stella by Starlight”
The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 (Legacy, 1995)

Another amazing live recording from Miles. Obviously a more modern conception than anything in the Blackhawk set. No matter how loose and modern Miles sounded, no matter how far out the music got, he was always able to bring it back home. He could play pretty out but also stay on the ground at the same time. He never seemed to get too far away from the blues.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published