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Miles Davis Quintet: Miles Smiles

Miles Davis Quintet: Miles Smiles

Mobile Fidelity  UDSACD 2201

Stereo Hybrid

Jazz


Miles Davis Quintet


Mobile Fidelity Hybrid SACD Is the definitive-sounding digital edition, teems with clarity and detail. The clarity afforded by history proves Miles Davis' second great quintet vying for the unofficial honor of being the finest small jazz combo to ever record to tape. Originally released in 1966, Miles Smiles is largely responsible for the feat, as it commences a series of five groundbreaking albums - chronologically rounded out by Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, and Filles de Kilimanjaro - guided not by chordal patterns but open responses to melodies. Music would never again be the same. Davis and company play against coal-black backgrounds that serve to illuminate every detail, texture, and nuance. Superb separation and plentiful air allow instruments to fully blossom, effectively taking you into Columbia's 30th Street Studio to watch the legendary combo transpire before your eyes. Like the other iconic Davis titles in Mobile Fidelity's reissue series, this analog version also puts a premium on tonality and preservation of individual notes, which arc and decay with uncanny realism.

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Reviews (1)
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Review by Mark Werlin - February 9, 2019

NOTE: A full review is pending.

From the MoFi SACD liner notes:

"Remixed from the Original 4-Track Tapes by Mark Wilder, Sony Music Studios, NYC"

From the Sony Legacy website for the 2016 box set Freedom Jazz Dance:

"Sourced from original four-track analog session reels and master tapes transferred and mixed in high resolution at 24-bit/192 kHz"

Copyright © 2019 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net

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Sonics:

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Comments (7)
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Comment by Downunderman - January 15, 2019 (1 of 7)

Another typically excellent OMR SACD mastering by Rob Loverde, with Shawn Britton assisting.

You just can't go wrong with this run of Miles Davis MoFi releases. Long may it continue.

Comment by Longjohns and Wifebeaters - February 14, 2019 (2 of 7)

This is curious. It's the first one in the MoFi Miles series that's not an improvement over what was already there. Did something happen to the tapes in the meantime? Compared to Miles Davis: Miles Smiles (I have the SRGS-4538), everything sounds foggy/veiled, quite imprecise, softer, and less defined, altogether quite a lot less real and life-like and really a lot less vivid. Now that's as far as the impression of the acoustic space is concerned, too, but it especially applies to the individual instruments, in particular the bass and the drums. (It doesn't damage the impression as much if Miles's trumpet is a little less shrill, for this vintage.) Nothing shimmers, nothing cuts through, nothing jumps out of the mix, the drum skins sound mushy, the bass notes are less well delineated and lack center, the sounds don't ring in the recoding room the same way (the acoustics sound more stuffy and "airless"), the dynamics feel muffled, and the kind of physical impact that can so excite in the previous SACD conversion (especially with Shorter and Williams) is lacking. The bass also sounds like it doesn't go as deep (this is just the resulting subjective impression, not of course anything corresponding to measurable reality). I don't recognize anything of MoFi's sales talk that "this analog version also puts a premium on tonality and preservation of individual notes, which arc and decay with uncanny realism". I hear clearly more of all that, whatever it actually refers to, in the older SACD version (tonality, Individual notes, realism).

I love what they (MoFi) have done to all the other Miles efforts I have heard (I have all the 2nd-quartet and later recordings) -- to me they all are a clear improvement both for the analytically minded and from the sheer enjoyment perspective, at the same time more clear and more natural-sounding, which indeed is quite a feat -- but this one is different. This time that typical freshness is lacking, with the older SACD release representing clearly the more successful result. If there was an issue with the source material, why risk MoFi's good name? Maybe people just kept impatiently asking for this for so long (I know I did, in my mind). Or what is it?

(The listening equipment consists of big-dog dCS & Musikelectronic Geithain gear with appropriate paraphernalia, so it's not that.)

Comment by Downunderman - February 15, 2019 (3 of 7)

Howdy L&W,

Most interesting as you say. I too run a DCS Spinner + outboard clock, but have not heard the other SACD versions of the title. I do agree though that the MoFi does not have quite the sparkle of some of the other Miles MoFi efforts. I put that down to the quality of the tape that MoFi were given to use. I'm agnostic on the flat transfer thing myself, but MoFi makes a thing of it.

The disc you refer to (SRGS-4538) was issued out of Japan in 2000 on SME Records. It is a single layer disc. - Unfortunately it is not logged here on HR Audio. There is also the earlier 1998 Columbia SACD. It would be interesting to know if these two discs used the same remaster.

I'm also supposing the SRGS disc has that signature clean Japanese sound?

One things for sure and that is that the tapes MoFi used are going to be almost 20 years older.

Hopefully Mark's foreshadowed review will be able to compare all three discs.

Nb. My disc is #1,000...….which may, or may not be relevant :)

Comment by SteelyTom - February 15, 2019 (4 of 7)

My understanding is that ESP and Miles Smiles both feature less-than-ideal engineering, so MoFi perhaps is at a disadvantage with those titles. Based on Mark Wilder's excellent track record, I'm sure he did the best he could in remixing Smiles (his remix is featured on MoFi's reissue).

Comment by Longjohns and Wifebeaters - February 15, 2019 (5 of 7)

I don't know about the possible similarity between the US SACD and the Japanese SRGS 4538 that I have; often they (the early JPN and US/Euro releases) were the same, but here the only indication I can decipher is: "SACD produced by Moto Uehara (SMEJ)" with special thanks to some SME New York luminaries.

The early Japanese Sony SACDs are often on the bright, even a bit sharp side, to my ears, although typically very vivid and immediate, a bit in-your-face, compared to later re-workings of the same tapes, as for instance by MoFi. In Sony's classical SACDs this might be attributable to the fact that many, if not all, of them (the early ones, that is) were based on a digital copy of the master tapes, no the tapes themselves. I don't know if the same is true about their releases in other genres. But here the difference really is so audible (OK, I don't want to exaggerate, but it's tangible enough for me not to want to sit through the MoFi "Smiles" again) that I think it must be a matter of tape deterioration or some such thing. But that would be very odd; how could anyone let them go bad in the storage?? The question here is about humanity's treasured cultural heritage…

I love all the other MoFi Miles releases, even when recognizing the inferior quality of the original recording in the ESP (which Steely Tom correctly points out; but the MoFi was still an improvement over the previous remasterings). This one, however, is originally in a different class compared to it, nothing like the somewhat muffled and vague ESP sonics here, and it should not really sound like that, then.

So I'd be keen to hear what's up with this, if anyone pops by here who's in the know.

Comment by Mark Werlin - February 16, 2019 (6 of 7)

L&W, Downunderman and Steely Tom: Lacking a copy of the JSACD (SRGS 4538), I can't compare the audio quality to the MoFi SACD, but I'll take L&W's word for the sonic differences between them -- the dCs player is much more revealing than my Marantz.

I have no further information about why MoFi (presumably) used Mark Wilder's 192/24 transfer of his new remix of Miles Smiles, rather than the original stereo master tape. The 1966 stereo tape might have been lost or determined to be in seriously deteriorated condition. Since MoFi chose to source their SACD of Bitches Brew from the original stereo tape rather than Wilder's remix, I think it's safe to assume that the original master of Miles Smiles was unavailable or unusable.

There is another SACD of Miles Smiles that hasn't been mentioned yet in this thread, one of the discs in the Miles Davis: Great 5 set. What source did Esoteric use? The same as SRGS 4538? or the Wilder 192/24, or some other transfer?

The MoFi SACD of Miles Smiles doesn't sound as open and transparent as Miles Davis: Nefertiti, though both were recorded at Columbia's 30th Street studio. Miles Smiles was engineered by Frank Laico; Nefertiti was engineered by Fred Plaut and Stan Tonkel just weeks after the recording sessions for Sorceror, whereas Miles Smiles was recorded after a long break from the studio. On Miles Smiles, Frank Laico mixed Tony Williams somewhat back and hard right; on Nefertiti, Plaut and Tonkel mixed Williams forward, left and spread into the center, using better microphones as far as I can tell. There also seems to be more reverb on the trumpet in Nefertiti than in Miles Smiles.

Even with sonic drawbacks, the MoFi SACD is very listenable, and the performance has artistic significance that transcends the recording quality.

Comment by SteelyTom - February 17, 2019 (7 of 7)

Thanks for the comment, Mark. No doubt about the artistic merits of the album, one of Miles' peak achievements.