Seven Steps to Heaven

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Seven Steps to Heaven
Studio album by Miles Davis
Released October 1963
Recorded April 16-17, 1963 (#1, 3, 5)
Columbia Studios, Los Angeles
May 14, 1963 (#2, 4, 6)
CBS 30th Street Studio, New York City
Genre Jazz
Length 46:08
Label Columbia
CL 2051
CS 8851
Producer Teo Macero
Miles Davis chronology
Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall
(1962)
Seven Steps to Heaven
(1963)
Quiet Nights
(1964)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
All About Jazz (favorable)[2]
Warr.org (favorable)[3]

Seven Steps to Heaven is the eighth studio album by jazz musician Miles Davis, released in 1963 by Columbia Records, catalogue CL 2051 and CS 8851 in stereo. Recorded at Columbia's 30th Street Studios in Manhattan, and at Columbia Studios in Los Angeles, it presents the Miles Davis Quintet in transition.

Background[edit]

After the unfinished sessions for Quiet Nights in 1962, Davis returned to club work. However, he had a series of health problems in 1962, which made his live dates inconsistent and meant that he missed gigs, with financial repercussions.[4][5] Faced with diminishing returns, by late 1962 his entire band quit, Hank Mobley to a solo career, and the rhythm section of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb to work as a unit.[6] The departure of Chambers especially was a blow, as he had been the only man still left from the original formation of the quintet in 1955, the only one never replaced.

With club dates to fulfill, Davis hired several musicians to fill in: Frank Strozier on alto saxophone and Harold Mabern on piano, with George Coleman and Ron Carter arriving early in the year.[7] For shows on the West Coast in March, Davis added drummer Frank Butler,[8] but when it came time for the sessions, Davis jettisoned Strozier and Mabern in favor of pianist Victor Feldman.[9] With a lucrative career as a session musician, Feldman declined Davis' offer to join the group, and both he and Butler were left behind in California.[10] Back in New York, Davis located the musicians who would be with him for the next six years, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams; with Carter and Coleman, the new Miles Davis Quintet was in place.[11] Williams, then only 17 years old, had been working with Jackie McLean, and Hancock had already scored a hit single with "Watermelon Man", done by percussionist Mongo Santamaria.[12]

Music[edit]

The assembled group at the April recording sessions finished enough material for an entire album, but Davis decided the uptempo numbers were not acceptable, and redid all of them with the new group at the May sessions in New York.[13] Two of the ballad tunes recorded in Los Angeles were old – "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" written in 1919 and a hit for Bessie Smith in 1923, while "Basin Street Blues" had been introduced by Louis Armstrong in 1928.[14] None feature Coleman; all are quartet performances with Davis and the rhythm section.

The uptempo numbers from New York in May include Feldman's "Joshua", which stayed in the Davis performance book for the rest of the decade. This is the last of Davis' studio albums with standards rather than band originals; they were gone by the time the quintet made its last change, Wayne Shorter replacing Coleman in late 1964.

On March 15, 2005, Legacy Records reissued the album for compact disc with two bonus tracks, both from the Los Angeles sessions in April. "Summer Night" had been previously released on Quiet Nights to bring that album up to an acceptable running time.

Track listing[edit]

Side one[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Basin Street Blues"   Spencer Williams 10:29
2. "Seven Steps to Heaven"   Victor Feldman, Miles Davis 6:26
3. "I Fall in Love Too Easily"   Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne 6:46

Side two[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
4. "So Near, So Far"   Tony Crombie, Benny Green 6:59
5. "Baby Won't You Please Come Home"   Clarence Williams, Charles Warfield 8:28
6. "Joshua"   Feldman 7:00

2005 reissue bonus tracks[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. "So Near, So Far" (alternative version) Tony Crombie, Benny Green 5:11
8. "Summer Night"   Harry Warren, Al Dubin 6:02

Personnel[edit]

  • Miles Davistrumpet
  • George Colemantenor saxophone on "Seven Steps to Heaven", "So Near So Far", "Joshua"
  • Victor Feldmanpiano on "Basin Street Blues", "I Fall in Love Too Easily", "Baby Won't You Please Come Home", "So Near So Far" (alternative), "Summer Night"
  • Herbie Hancock – piano on "Seven Steps to Heaven", "So Near So Far" (master), "Joshua"
  • Ron Carterbass
  • Frank Butlerdrums on "Basin Street Blues", "I Fall in Love Too Easily", "Baby Won't You Please Come Home", "So Near So Far" (alternative), "Summer Night"
  • Tony Williams – drums on "Seven Steps to Heaven," "So Near So Far" (master), "Joshua"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ All About Jazz
  3. ^ Warr.org
  4. ^ Richard Cook. It's About That Time: Miles Davis on and off Record. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-532266-8, p. 140.
  5. ^ Bob Belden. Seven Steps to Heaven. Columbia/Legacy CK 93592, 2005, liner notes p. 10.
  6. ^ Cook, p. 142.
  7. ^ Cook, p. 145.
  8. ^ Belden, liner notes, p. 10
  9. ^ Cook, p. 146.
  10. ^ Belden, liner notes p. 12.
  11. ^ Belden, liner notes p. 12.
  12. ^ Cook, pp. 148-49.
  13. ^ Cook, pp. 146-149.
  14. ^ Jazz Standard website retrieved 8 August 2011