During the early 1950s, trumpeter Miles Davis (1926-91) recorded for both Prestige and Blue Note, the most distinctive independent labels in jazz at the time. Davis himself was developing and perfecting a style that was beginning to gain notice, popularity and substantial influence. By 1955, he had formed such an exemplary quintet of musicians, it came to be known as the
quintet. Featuring the bursting torrents of John Coltrane, which perfectly balanced the spare romanticism of Davis's trumpet, the quintet was rooted in the guileless precision of Red Garland's piano, the musical dexterity of Paul Chamber's bass and the hard swing of Philly Joe Jones's drums. Each complimented the other in uncountable and still fascinating ways. A stunning performance at the Newport Jazz Festival that year led to a contract with Columbia Records. But Davis closed out his relationship with Prestige by laying down two spontaneous marathon sessions with this marvelous quintet during May and October 1956. The sessions yielded four classics in the Davis discography: Relaxin'
and this record, Cookin
'. All four titles accurately describe the overall mood throughout. Davis thrived under such spontaneity and this disc, in particular, marks the emergence of a most distinctive personality - for band and leader alike. The three performances and one medley performed here come from the last of the two sessions and feature numbers Davis had recorded before ("Tune Up," "Airegin"). But it is here where David premiered his definitive take on the ballad, "My Funny Valentine." It is one of his grandest, most passionate-ever performances (on muted trumpet) and while Trane lays out, the song ascends on the fragile loveliness Garland brings to it. Davis's snappy "Blues By Five" and the particularly aggressive "Airegin" show the band in full-force communiqué. The after hours medley "Tune-Up/When Lights Are Low" is appropriate and well done, but less stunning than what's preceded it. Cookin'