Miles' & Gils' Porgy And Bess  Still Sublime After All These Years

Miles Davis's second collaboration with arranger/orchestrator Gil Evans (and the first recorded in stereo) is arguably the duo's best effort—a majestic, moody re-working of George Gershwin's classic folk opera recorded in three summer of 1958 sessions at Columbia's 30th street studios.

So many great jazz versions of "Porgy & Bess" have been released—with Ray Charles and Cleo Lane, Ella and Louis Armstrong among them—and perhaps you have at least one of those and so don't feel the need for another "jazzy" P&B, but this one is so much more. Evans and Davis combine to create simmering, slowly unfolding color-streaked episodes, one more grand than the next. Evans was a master mixer of brass, woodwinds and reeds and here he uses them (4 Trumpets, 3 French horns,4 Trombones, 2 Flutes, 2 Saxes and a Tuba played by many greats including Cannonball Adderly (sic), Bernie Glow, Gunther Schuller and many others) to produce delicate swirls and subtle blasts of color anchored by Paul Chambers on bass and either Philly Joe Jones or Jimmy Cobb on drums. Evans manages to make the most familiar, somehow unfamiliar.

The original (CS 8085) has its own more murky atmospheric charms, though finding a quiet copy can be a chore. This double 45, a Mark Wilder remix to analog tape from the original 3 track and pressed on much quieter vinyl, is a treat even for well acquainted owners of the original pressing. The mix is more cohesive than the early stereo original. The gatefold "Tip on" jacket features session photos that add value to this outstanding reissue. If you're unfamiliar with this recording be ready for an opening fanfare blast that's bright, shrill and not at all like the rich, atmospheric sonics that follow for four sides. Highly recommended and I see it's sold out on the MusicDirect website but not out of print.

Music Direct Buy It Now

Warszawa's picture

about the opening fanfare! I'm still combing my hair back down. Gorgeous recording, thanks for the recommendation. I will definitely try to scout a mofi press.

mraudio's picture

...a fantastic recording. MOFI has really done some outstanding work on this reissue. Highly recommended!!!

Intermediate Listener's picture

Columbia reissue from 1977 (PC 8085) sounds great: very quiet surfaces, not murky at all to my ears. Also very fine: the Esoteric SACD (gasp), part of a 5 title set that includes Sketches of Spain.

vmm's picture

Sorry, Mr. Fremer, I definetely cannot agree. My two early stereo copies (6 eyes, TH plant, 1A/1B and TH 2G/2L) sound clearly fresher, more colored and more open than the 45rpm AS issue. Regarding the vinyl quality, the QRP pressing of AS is superb, but obviously I was lucky to get records from American sellers (collectors), which I purchased on Ebay here in Germany, that have a quite acceptable quiet vinyl. Of course, the reissue was also carefully cleaned (US machine and Keith Monks).

Michael Fremer's picture
What is AS? I'm confused by your post. This "Porgy And Bess" on Mobile Fidelity was also not pressed at QRP. So I'm not sure to what record you are referring. I'll clarify further: the original stereo pressing is has far more added reverb. I shouldn't have used the word "murky" because it's actually thinner and brighter than the remix, which sounds somewhat fuller and more direct. The original is "fun" because it swims in reverb and produces a big, spacious picture, but the remix is more natural sounding IMO. Still trying to figure out to what record you are referring but I think I'm starting to figure it out: by AS you mean "Acoustic Sounds". Acoustics Sounds doesn't reissue records. Analogue Productions does. But AP did not reissue "Porgy And Bess". Mobile Fidelity did and RTI not QRP pressed it.
Andy1974's picture

Great review, I've been talking myself out of getting mofi presses for years, just because they are so expensive in the UK. I recently got a couple of the Dylan mono albums & am now trying to buy as many moFi releases as I can. I can't believe how many albums have gone out of print in the last year or so :(

The vinyl budget only goes so far, I have the 2012 Mono KG version that was pressed at RTI. Very reasonably priced and sounds good. How does it compare to the mono?

Michael Fremer's picture
I've not heard it. And not sure if it's from tape or hi-rez file. However the original stereo mix is very good and the stereo re-mix is even better IMO.
bkinthebk's picture

Does anyone know the difference between Out of Stock, Back Ordered, and Awaiting Repress on the music direct site? The Miles Mofi series shows all of these depending on title. And Sketches of Spain isn’t listed at all.

mraudio's picture

Awaiting Repress= This title is awaiting repress at the label. Titles awaiting repress do not have expected arrival dates but are expected to be restocked in the future. Such titles are not out of print.

Out-of-Stock=This product is not currently in stock in our warehouse but is on order with the manufacturer.

I don't think Music Direct uses the term "back-ordered" any longer? IIRC, it meant it was on order with the manufacturer, but the manufacturer lists it as "back-ordered" from them.

AnalogJ's picture

I have an original 6-eye mono as well as a 6-eye stereo, both real clean. I haven't heard them in a while, so I'll relisten and compare them.

While it may be apples and oranges, I also have a 6-eye stereo and mono of Mingus' Ah Um as well as the new MoFi UD1S. The original stereo is so-so, lacking presence and bass extension. It sounds a bit thin. The original mono is superb! It's full sounding, with good bass extension, and it's pretty dynamic. The MoFi is out of this world. It's what you'd want the original stereo to be, but isn't, and more. The greater instrumental separation with the stereo helps to appreciate the complex orchestration. The MoFi is pretty astonishing, and probably second to Santana Abraxas in sound quality in the UD1S series (I have all released thus far but the Monk).

I don't know if the MoFi P&G achieves the level of the UD1S or not. I have read some mixed reviews, even from those who love the other Miles MoFi releases. But I'm intrigued.

billsf's picture

I love the MOFI. I find it gives the music three dimensions while I always thought of the music as flat, both the 6 eye stereo and the Mosaic box.

JE WARD's picture

"though finding.. a quiet copy can be a chore..° but an original is much better.

madfloyd's picture

I'm confused, is this 45RPM new? I cannot find it on MusicDirect. Heck it doesn't even seem to be on discogs...