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Miles Davis: Walkin'

Douglas Payne By

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This bop-era classic finds trumpeter Miles Davis (1926-91) leading two groups from two sessions in April 1954: a superb sextet and a compelling quintet. Both groups center on a blue-chip rhythm section consisting of pianist Horace Silver, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Kenny Clarke. But despite the rock solid foundation and substantial decoration these three provide, Walkin' is all about the horn players. Trombonist J.J. Johnson and tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson (returning to music after the first of one of his absences) help Davis helm the sextet for Richard Carpenter's title song - a 12-bar blues that turned into a genuine jazz standard after its first reading here - and Dizzy Gillespie's "Blue 'N' Boogie." The quintet, featuring the Bird-like alto of the little known Dave Schildkraut, takes leave of the blues for some of Davis's craftiest playing — interestingly, hereafter, with his trumpet muted. Starting with "Solar," the group seems to be able to handle whatever trick Davis plays any quirk he pursues. This is most apparent on the lovely, but rather spiky version of "You Don't Know What Love Is" and the set's closer, the surprisingly sprite "Love Me Or Leave Me." Throughout, Davis sounds grand: comfortable, authoritative and well within his gamely element. His partners seem well teamed with him too, ready to walk - or run — to Davis's beat. Walkin ' offers at least two jazz essentials ("Walkin'," "Solar") and it serves as an excellent place to begin — or continue — appreciating the trumpeter's bop significance, shortly before he contributed greatly elsewhere.

Title: Walkin' | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Prestige Records

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