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Miles Davis: Miles & Kind of Blue

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Miles Davis
Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet
Prestige
Year


Miles Davis
Kind of Blue:Legacy Edition
Columbia/Legacy
Year




In 1955, after a few years working with pick-up bands and fuelled by a legendary comeback appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, Miles Davis assembled the band that's since become known as the First Great Quintet. Miles, sub-titled The New Miles Davis Quintet, represents the first complete LP recorded by the band with John Coltrane (tenor), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums), though by the time it was recorded in November 1955, the group had already done its first session for Columbia—the LP that would appear as Round About Midnight, named for the Monk tune that caught listeners' attention at Newport. The band on Miles may be still finding itself, but it already possesses a remarkable composite identity. Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me," the slow-tempo opener, builds from the bell-like sweetness of Garland's piano, the rich padded sound of Chambers' bass and the snap of Jones' drums: they all buoy the tart, bittersweet sound of Harmon-muted trumpet, in place on the first four of the CD's six tracks. "There Is No Greater Love" continues the suggestion that it's a band designed to frame Davis' minimalist lyricism, but a sudden tempo shift with "How Am I to Know?" demonstrates the other side of the band, the blend of lilting swing and ferocious drive, the complexity and clarity that that rhythm section seems to generate so readily, fuelled by Jones' polyrhythms. There's already a raw energy in Coltrane's playing, a rough-hewn force that virtuosity and vision would soon channel.

By the time Davis recorded Kind of Blue in March 1959, the band had gone through numerous permutations. Coltrane had departed briefly and returned and had made a string of brilliant, increasingly exploratory recordings as a leader on Prestige. Garland had been replaced by Bill Evans who had been replaced by Wynton Kelly, with Evans returning as a key partner for the bulk of Kind of Blue. Jimmy Cobb had replaced Jones, Chambers remained and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley had joined on alto to make it a sextet. It's an extraordinary collocation of circumstances, from Davis' simplified modal architecture to the harmonic richness of Evans and Coltrane's otherwise contrasting styles to the elegant funk of Adderley (and Kelly, too, in his sole appearance on "Freddie Freeloader"). It's an open canvas in which each individual voice marks itself with special definition and has become more remarkable through repetition and reception. Originally a work of inspired improvisation, Kind of Blue seems almost set in stone, its every sound considered and perfectly placed.

The Legacy edition has added the existing studio sequence tapes, so you now get snippets of discussion and an occasional interrupted take. There's also a second CD that assembles the session of May 1958, the only other studio recordings of the sextet; they're more relaxed, Davis' trumpet flares out and Evans creates stunning harmonic backdrops to "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Stella by Starlight." The final track returns to a quintet format for a live 1960 version of "So What" from Holland with Coltrane, Kelly, Chambers and Cobb. The tempo is up and Coltrane explodes with teeming lines and an abrasive sound on an 8-and-a-half minute solo in a 17-minute piece that may sound as vital and spontaneous today as it would have nearly 50 years ago, though certainly more familiar now. It's the ultimate achievement of that original quintet, though Garland and Jones are gone.


Tracks and Personnel

Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet

Tracks: Just Squeeze Me; There Is No Greater Love; How Am I To Know?; S'posin'; The Theme; Stablemates.

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

Kind of Blue: Legacy Edition

Tracks: Disc 1: So What; Freddie Freeloader; Blue in Green; All Blues; Flamenco Sketches; Flamenco Sketches (Alternate Take); Freddie Freeloader (Studio Sequence 1); Freddie Freeloader (False Start); Freddie Freeloader (Studio Sequence 2); So What (Studio Sequence 1); So What (Studio Sequence 2); Blue in Green (Studio Sequence); Flamenco Sketches (Studio Sequence 1); Flamenco Sketches (Studio Sequence 2); All Blues (Studio Sequence). Disc 2: On Green Dolphin Street; Fran-Dance; Stella By Starlight; Love For Sale; Fran-Dance (Alternate Take); So What (Live).

Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Cannonball Adderley: alto saxophone; Bill Evans: piano; Wynton Kelly: piano; Paul Chambers: bass; Jimmy Cobb: drums.


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