The Berkeley Item - #274


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In 1955, after his triumphant appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, Miles Davis formed his seminal 1950s quintet with youthful up-and-comers John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. Over the course of three studio dates, the quintet changed history, recording five albums for Prestige Records that are still, a half-century later, heralded as masterworks.

Next month (5/23), these bebop, hard-bop, and balladic recordings, largely from five albums - The New Miles Davis Quintet, Cookin', Workin', Relaxin', and Steamin' -will be released together by the Concord Music Group as the Prestige boxed set The Miles Davis Quintet: The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions. The music, all of which was taped by Rudy Van Gelder at Van Gelder Studio in Hackensack, NJ, has been remastered in 24-bit from the original analog masters and presented in the sequence recorded.

The box contains 32 selections, including such compositions as “Four," “Trane's Blues," “My Funny Valentine," “Tune Up," and “When Lights Are Low" that are to this day essential tunes of the standard repertoire. A bonus CD features eight previously unissued radio and television audio performances, including two tunes from The Tonight Show with Steve Allen: a fiery, hard-swinging romp through Oscar Pettiford's “Max Is Making Wax" and a lyrical rendition of Rodgers and Hart's ballad “It Never Entered My Mind," both introduced by the television talk show host.

The set is packaged in an attractive box that features cover art by Davis (the painting “New York by Night"); five complete musical transcriptions of Miles's solos (suitable for framing); and a 40-page illustrated booklet with insightful annotations by Bob Blumenthal.

Blumenthal points out in the liners that 1955 was a tipping-point year for the trumpeter/bandleader: “[T]he Miles Davis Quintet heard here was Davis's means of seizing the moment when his physical health and his musical concepts were on an upswing, and when the public and the music industry had finally begun to pay attention." Blumenthal adds: “This is the band Davis organized when he wanted his recordings to stand for more than snapshots of his momentary interests."

The Miles Davis Quintet: The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions celebrates not only the 80th-anniversary year of Davis's birth but also the 50th anniversary of the bulk of these recording sessions.

Also due out 5/23 is a welcome reissue of DELANEY & BONNIE's unjustly overlooked 1969 Stax album Home, which has been expanded (by six tracks), remixed, and resequenced by producer Stephen Hart.

Recorded in Memphis in 1968 - '69 with help from Stax mainstays such as Booker T. & the MGs, Isaac Hayes, and the Memphis Horns - and in a Los Angeles session with keyboardist Leon Russell - Home reveals Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett to be skillful purveyors of Southern soul and “roots music" before that term existed. They were, however, “simply at the wrong place in American music history at the wrong time," asserts Michael Point in his CD notes.

“At the time, Bonnie Bramlett and the band were caught up in the music," he writes, “too devoted to spreading the communal joys of their all-inclusive sound to totally comprehend what they had accomplished, as well as why there was a backlash to their success. 'We crossed a huge color barrier, but we did it in reverse,' [Bonnie] explains. 'We didn't stop and think about it, or why it upset some people...Maybe people will hear [the album] now and recognize the trail we blazed for white artists who were gifted with the ability to be as honest in their expressions as black artists have been for so long.'"

Home highlights include Bramlett originals “It's Been a Long Time Coming" and “All We Really Want to Do"; “Piece of My Heart," a knockout feature for Bonnie; and D&B's version of the Isaac Hayes / David Porter tune “My Baby Specializes," with William Bell contributing background vocals.

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