As I noted in a post from 2011, I was knocked out by a 1987 performance where Miles Davis played “Time After Time” (immediately following “Human Nature”) in Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, NYC. The tune has haunted me ever since. [Miles was followed on the bill by the Gil Evans Orchestra playing Jimi Hendrix. Wow!]
Here I offer three versions of the tune. The first is a studio recording while the other two are from live gigs. The studio version has a single climax near the end, as do the live versions. The live versions are longer than the studio version. They also have a greater range of volume levels, from very soft to very loud, mostly soft to very soft. I’ve made some informal notes on the studio version and the 1989 live version. The 1988 live version resembles the 1989 more it does than the studio version. My music critic friend Phil Freeman tells me that the studio albums of that period have never gotten much love but there is some realization that his live bands were much better. That's certainly the case here.
At the end I have a short video where Sonny Rollins discusses Miles. FWIW, yesterday, May 26, was Miles’ birthday (b. 1926).
Studio recording 1984
In the recording studio, January 26-27, 1984, Record Plant Studio, New York City, New York
Miles Davis: Miles Davis (tpt); John Scofield (g); Robert Irving III (synth); Darryl Jones (el-b); Al Foster (d); Steve Thornton (perc)
I’m sure I heard Cyndi Lauper sing this back in the day – on the radio, sometime, somewhere. But I don’t remember it. I started following along with some sheet music I'd downloaded, to see the form more clearly, and it became apparent that Miles has done some recomposing of the melody. Which is common, and fine. This is not a tune with a lot of melodic action, so parsing it is a little tricky, at least if you don't want to sit there and count out bars, which I didn't.
Opens with Miles on muted trumpet, the rhythm section enters quickly. Melody at about 0:18. Miles, with keys shadowing on chords.
Miles will continue playing in relation to the melody, sometimes hitting, sometimes embellishing, recomposing, and every now and then an excursion away. But he’s always in sight of it.
Back to the beginning: 2:14.
High note: 4:14. The only one in the recording, establishing a single climax.
Back to beginning: 4:26.
From about 4:42 Miles plays fairly freely.
Strong melodic reference, 5:12.
Another melodic reference, 5:18, fade to end.
This clip superimposes Miles’ performance with Cyndi Lauper’s.
God, I love modern tech!
Live in Chicago 1989
JVC Jazz Festival, Chicago Theatre, Chicago, Illinois, June 5, 1989
Miles Davis (tp, keyb); Kenny Garrett (as, ss, fl); Joe ‘Foley’ McCreary (lead bg); Adam Holzman (synth); Kei Akagi (synth); Benny Rietveld (el-b); Ricky Wellman (d); Munyungo Jackson (perc)
The overall approach is similar to the studio recording. Miles is almost always playing in relation to the melody; we’re rarely very far from reference to or quote from the melody. But the whole performance is opened up; Miles makes more use of phrases that start high and go low; and he has a dialog with his lead bassist, Foley, before the final open-trumpet push to the end.
Miles starts unaccompanied, noodling on open trumpet, middle and lower register, some half valves, accompaniment comes up softly and slowly.
Bass and drums, 0:36.
Miles stays silent (while he inserts mute).
Starting high soft and muted, out of nowhere and staying more or less up, noodling, 1:44 – 2:04.
Drops straight down for a short phrase, 2:05.
Miles plays the melody at 2:15.
Still on melody, comes down to bottom, 3:21.
Melody reference, 4:20, 2 tumbling down phrases.
Melody reference, 4:35.
An air of finality, 5:24.
Volume picks up, 5:43.
Miles, open trumpet, high, 5:46, working his way down as volume builds.
High ‘squeal’ from Miles, short, then he goes silent, 6:14, and the rhythm section drops way down, they knew it was coming. Note that at this point we’re only a bit longer than the entire studio version.
Muted Miles noodles softly with Foley, on ‘lead’ bass, 6:23.
Miles high & soft, 7:19, continuing with Foley, trading phrases.
Miles has stopped playing, 8:31, the rhythm section starts bringing up the volume.
Miles, open horn, starts in upper middle register, 8:52, goes up, then tumbles down a bit & goes silent. Miles re-enters, 9:20.
Bass drum hits, 9:32.
Miles peals off a quick upper register hit, 9:34.
We’re done. A definitive ending quite different from the studio version.
Munich, Germany 1988
MILES DAVIS – Live in Germany 1988 (Munich Philharmonic Concert Hall)
MILES DAVIS – trumpet,
KENNY GARRETT – saxophone
BOBBY IRVING – keyboards
ADAM HOLZMAN – keyboards
JOSEPH „FOLEY” McCREARY – guitar BENJAMIN RIETVELD – bass
MARILYN MAZUR – percussion
RICKY WELLMAN – drums
Almost the same band as for Chicago, 1989. The instrumentation is the same except for Mazur and Irving.
Note that “Time After Time” doesn’t start until 0:26. The overall performance is organized in the same way. Notice how he initiates the interchange with Foley (c. 6:49) and how they play facing one another.
Sonny Rollins talks about Miles
Bret Primack, Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis - The Untold Story