Miles Davis: Sorcerer

The Songs:

  1. Prince Of Darkness
  2. Pee Wee
  3. Masqualero
  4. The Sorcerer
  5. Limbo
  6. Vonetta
  7. Nothing Like You
  8. Masqualero (Bonus Track, Alternate Take)
  9. Limbo (Bonus Track, Alternate Take)

Personnel:

  • Miles Davis – trumpet
  • Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone
  • Herbie Hancock – piano (all except Track 7)
  • Ron Carter – bass (all except tracks 7 & 9)
  • Tony Williams – drums (all except track 7)
  • Bob Dorough – vocals (Track 7)
  • Frank Rehak – trombone (Track 7)
  • Paul Chambers – bass (Track 7)
  • Jimmy Cobb – drums (Track 7)
  • Willie Bobo – percussion (Track 7)
  • Buster Williams – bass (Track 9)

1967 was an important year in jazz. Two of jazz’s important figures died shortly after this album was recorded: composer/arranger Billy Strayhorn and the leading member of Miles’ first quintet, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. Classic albums were recorded by McCoy Tyner, Jackie McLean, and Gary Burton. For Miles Davis, it was also a busy time. He released the classic Miles Smiles and went on an extended European tour, documented on the recently released Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1. After three years together, the chemistry between the band members of the “Second Great Quintet” was at its peak, as they continued to push the boundaries of acoustic small group jazz to its limits.

Miles’ own playing was exceptionally strong and each member of the group had comfortably settled into their respective roles. Most of the pieces on this album were written by Wayne Shorter, including the classic “Masqualero,” which was the lone tune to make it into the group’s live sets. The album also featured Tony Williams’ beautiful ballad “Pee Wee” and the title track by Herbie Hancock, which he later released on his own album, Speak Like A Child. The oddball track is a vocal number from Bob Dorough that was arranged by Gil Evans and recorded at a much earlier session in 1962. The mood of this song is a stark contrast to the rest of the material and why it was included on Sorcerer is a mystery itself. The quintet’s performances are dark, powerful, and compelling. Even the album art, featuring Cicely Tyson (who would eventually become Miles’ wife) show the forward-looking direction the group had. The CD release contained two alternate takes, one of which was recorded with bassist Buster Williams in Los Angeles a few days before the main recording sessions. (Ron Carter, who had a very lucrative career as a studio musician in New York, often missed some of the shorter out-of-town engagements the group played.)

Coming between the quintet’s landmark recordings Miles Smiles and Nefertiti, Sorcerer is often somewhat overlooked. Nevertheless it is a masterwork on its own and reveals another great performance by one of jazz’s all-time greatest groups. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Walter Ellis. Prince Of Darkness. (Novel loosely based on Miles Davis.)

Suggested Viewing:

European Tour 1967

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