Miles Davis: Seven Steps To Heaven

The Songs:

  1. Basin Street Blues
  2. Seven Steps To Heaven
  3. I Fall In Love Too Easily
  4. So Near, So Far
  5. Baby Won’t You Please Come Home
  6. Joshua
  7. So Near, So Far (Bonus Track, Alternate Take)
  8. Summer Night (Bonus Track)

Personnel:

  • Miles Davis – trumpet
  • George Coleman – tenor saxophone
  • Victor Feldman (Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 8); Herbie Hancock (Tracks 2, 4, 6) – piano
  • Ron Carter – bass
  • Frank Butler (Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 8); Tony Williams (Tracks 2, 4, 6) – drums

The early 1960’s were a  challenging time for Miles Davis. Rising tenor saxophone superstar John Coltrane left the band in 1960 to form his own classic quartet. (Alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley had left the previous year.) Miles tried out a series of saxophone players, including Frank Strozier, Jimmy Heath, Sonny Stitt, and Hank Mobley. Due to mounting health problems in 1962 that forced Miles to miss several club dates and concerts, Hank Mobley left the band, followed by his entire rhythm section, (consisting of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb), who formed the Wynton Kelly Trio. Miles quickly had to find new band members in order to fulfill other performance obligations. He recruited West Coast session player Victor Feldman and drummer Frank Butler, as well as bassist Ron Carter and George Coleman on tenor saxophone, and recorded the six tunes found on the original issue of Seven Steps To Heaven. 

The "Complete Seven Steps" box set

Feldman and Butler did not want to leave California, and were subsequently replaced by Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams, who formed the nucleus of Miles’ “Second Great Quintet,” (waiting only on the arrival of saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter in 1964 to complete the group). Miles loved the new rhythm section and re-recorded the three uptempo tracks with them for the album. (The period between the First and Second Quintet is thoroughly documented on the CBS/Sony box set Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1963-1964“.)

Although the album finds Miles in transition, it features great playing and includes several songs, such as the title track and “I Fall In Love Too Easily” that would remain in the band’s live sets for the rest of the decade. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Bill Cole. Miles Davis: A Musical Biography.

Suggested Viewing:

Miles Davis. Milan 1964.

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