Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
159

Miles Davis Quintet: Cookin'

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count Views
Miles Davis Quintet: Cookin' I may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but I've finally worked out why Blue Note and Prestige are issuing so many of their iconic mid-'50s albums remastered by original sessions engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Partly it's to encourage those of us who already own the discs to buy them one more time; but more importantly, it gives the two companies an unbeatable edge over the growing number of knock-off labels operating outside the fifty-year copyright rule. The neo-pirates can clone and repackage the original albums with impunity, but they won't be able to rip off the RVG remasters for another fifty years.

Truth be told, in sonic terms some of the RVG editions are pretty superfluous. The sound was cracking on most of the original discs and can only be marginally improved. But the five landmark Prestige albums trumpeter Miles Davis recorded with his first great quintet between November 1955 and October 1956—Miles, Relaxin', Workin', Steamin' and Cookin'—are prime candidates for Van Gelder's latter-day attentions. Recorded without rehearsals and including only one second take amongst them, Davis made the albums in a hurry over three mammoth sessions in order to complete his contractual obligations to Prestige and allow himself to become fully engaged with his new label, CBS. Van Gelder barely had time to balance the mics before Davis was counting the band in.

But while the clarity, bite and presence of the sound on this RVG edition of Cookin' are all significantly enhanced, it's the music which remains the centre of attention. Cookin' may not have had the big budget and glossy marketing CBS brought to Davis' subsequent releases, but—alongside Relaxin', Workin' and Steamin'—it contains some of the most alive and moving music he ever recorded. Newly free of heroin addiction (unlike the other four members of the band, who all had monkeys on their backs), he plays his ass off, no longer neurotically inching around the middle register but ranging high and low with Olympian poise and, at times, unprecedented ferocity. His lyricism remains dark and brooding, but it's so rich it sings.

The magic never lets up, but if I had to pick one desert island download, it would be the trumpet and rhythm section-only "My Funny Valentine." It's just six minutes long, and Davis only blows a one-chorus solo, but it's as close to heaven as a mortal can get: the intense, Harmon-muted trumpet leavened by Red Garland's sunny piano and the vibrant, irresistible rhythm machine of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones. The tune stayed in Davis' live book for nine years—until well after his second great quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams had announced the dawning of a new age with ESP (CBS, 1965)—and here Davis reveals his defining take on its beauty for the very first time.


Track Listing: My Funny Valentine; Blues By Five; Airegin; Tune-Up/When Lights Are Low.

Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; John Coltrane: tenor saxophone (2-4); Red Garland: piano; Paul Chambers: bass; Philly Joe Jones: drums.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Prestige Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop For Jazz

Book Reviews
Hi-Res Jazz
CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
DVD/Video/Film Reviews
Read more articles
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Deagostini
2016
buy
Miles Smiles
Miles Smiles
Music On Vinyl
2016
buy
Everything's Beautiful
Everything's Beautiful
RCA Legacy; Columbia/Legacy
2016
buy
Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4
Miles Davis at...
Sony-Legacy Music
2015
buy
Kind of Blue
Kind of Blue
Music On Vinyl
2015
buy
Olympia – Mar 20, 1960
Olympia – Mar 20,...
LaserLight
2015
buy
Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
guitar
John Coltrane John Coltrane
saxophone
Chet Baker Chet Baker
trumpet
Chick Corea Chick Corea
piano
Weather Report Weather Report
band/orchestra
Kenny Dorham Kenny Dorham
trumpet

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.