Saturday, November 22, 2008

Musings about Miles Davis

"The Musings Of Miles" [Rudy Van Gelder Remaster] This was a forerunner of the
Miles Davis Quintet as it was his first session with Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones. Up to then his Prestige dates had been of the "all star" variety. (Oscar Pettiford fills that bill here.) By the fall, John Coltrane and Paul Chambers would come aboard to help form the first of a continuum of great Davis working groups. On "A Night in Tunisia" Philly Joe used special sticks with little cymbals riveted to the shaft. with Red Garland, Oscar Pettiford, Philly Joe Jones.

"Live At The 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival" This previously unreleased live album features Miles Davis on trumpet, George Coleman playing the tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter playing bass and Tony Williams on drums. Produced by Jimmy Lyons, this album was recorded live at the Monterey Jazz Festival on September 22, 1963. All proceeds from this recording go to Monterey Jazz Festival-supported jazz education programs.

"Muted Miles" This hand-picked collection puts a softly-focused blue spotlight on the intimate and unmistakable sound of the one and only Miles Davis playing his horn with a Harmon mute. In fact, this is the first-ever compilation to showcase his seminal harmon mute performances on Prestige! Miles's artfully nuanced playing, presented with the sonic signature of his warmly-buzzing, muted trumpet tone is, to this day, often imitated but never duplicated. Featuring many of the all-time greatest names in jazz including John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Red Garland, this incredible specially-priced collection is not to be missed.

"Miles Davis Plays For Lovers" One of the most haunting sounds to emerge from the 20th century emanated from Miles Davis’s trumpet. Whether the bell of that horn was open or filled by his trademark Harmon mute, Davis (1926-1991) soloed with surpassing beauty. From 1953 to 1956 he established himself as one of the preeminent balladeers; it was also during this period that he formed his first great quintet, featuring a rapidly-developing tenor saxophonist named John Coltrane. On “’Round Midnight,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” and “My Funny Valentine” (which Coltrane sat out), Davis’s band brought new depth and intimacy to love songs, with the trumpeter’s restrained lyricism offset by Coltrane’s voluble approach. Elsewhere, Davis is joined by such giants as Horace Silver, Charles Mingus (co-composer, with Miles, of the moody blues “Smooch”), and Elvin Jones. Here is a great artist playing for lovers—and offering nary a sentimental note.

"Prestige Profiles Vol. 1" Miles Davis' period with Prestige spanned 1951-1956, which included time spent with John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer, Philly Joe Jones. Miles' use of the trumpet mute was highlighted during this period. Original versions of Walkin', Airegin, and Doxy are featured on this Prestige Profile #1. The bonus disc with the Miles Davis issue highlights other Prestige trumpeters such as Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer/Donald Byrd, and Chet Baker. Gil Evans' composition, Jambangle. from Gil Evans Plus 10 is a nice treat as well.

Although Miles Davis' 1955-1957 quintet had a relatively short life, it went down in history as one of the finest and most interesting bebop combos of the 1950s. It was a group in which different musical personalities did more than coexist -- they complimented and inspired each other. The quintet's front line had two unlikely allies in Davis and the distinctive John Coltrane, whose aggressive, passionate tenor saxophone was quite a contrast to Davis' subtle, understated, cool-toned trumpet. Davis, who was Chet Baker's primary influence and defined cool jazz with his seminal Birth of the Cool sessions of 1949-1950, was a very economical player -- he didn't believe in notes for the sake of notes, whereas Coltrane's solos tended to be a lot longer. But as different as Davis' and Coltrane's musical personalities were, Miles Davis Quintet never failed to sound cohesive. Davis formed the famous group in 1955, hiring Coltrane as well as a rock-solid rhythm section that consisted of bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Philly Joe Jones (not to be confused with swing drummer Jo Jones), and the lyrical pianist Red Garland. The group's sessions of 1955-1956 resulted in four albums on Prestige (Cookin', Relaxin', Workin', and Steamin') and one on Columbia (Round About Midnight). Although the Miles Davis Quintet officially broke up in early 1957, its members were briefly reunited when, in 1958, they formed a sextet with alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and recorded Milestones for Columbia. Davis and Coltrane continued to work together in 1959 (when Davis recorded the influential modal classic Kind of Blue), but in 1960, Coltrane formed his own group and left the trumpeter's employ for good. ~ Alex Henderson, All Music Guide

"Steamin' With the Miles Davis Qunitet" Of Miles Davis's many bands, none was more influential and popular than the quintet with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. Davis's muted ballads and medium-tempo standards endeared him to the public. The horns' searing exposition of classics like "Salt Peanuts" and "Well, You Needn't" captivated musicians. The searching, restless improvisations of Coltrane intrigued listeners who had a taste for adventure. The flawless rhythm section became a model for bands everywhere. Steamin' is a significant portion of the music of this remarkable group.

Steamin' is more than a great set of performances, even more than a great album by a great improvisatory ensemble, led by one of the century's greatest musicians, although history does seem to prove that it is all of these things. The album comes from the first of Miles Daves' two witheringly great quintets, with Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones in the rhythm section and John Coltrane up front. And somehow, producer Bob Weinstock and engineer Rudy Van Gelder genuinely captured in Van Gelder's Hackensack studio a miniature universe illustrating why Davis stood at the top of his game in 1956. Steamin' is simply one of the most complete sets of music ever and you can experience it again as part of the Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series. He exercises a popular melody from a musical ("Surrey with the Fringe on Top") as a framework for a round of solos that sparkle with genius; during 'Trane's workout, all connection to the original sounds lost until Davis calls the melody back home. "Salt Peanuts" and "Well, You Needn't" remind that in the previous decade, Davis stood on the front lines in the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic revolution in jazz known as bebop. Coltrane sits two of the balladas out to leave Davis in an acoustic quartet, something Davis almost completely stopped soon hereafter. The soft, reticent melody to "When I Fall in Love" profoundly complements Davis' ballad style. liner notes by Chris Slawecki

"The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions" Baseball insiders, as well as those who just love the game, speak reverently of the “five-tool player”: that is, the rare athlete who can hit for average, hit for power, field, throw, and run. In the world of jazz during the mid-1950s, the first great quintet of the trumpeter-bandleader Miles Davis (1926-1991) was a five-tool band, and then some. More than any other ensemble, the Davis five could play burning bebop, churning hard bop, and blithely bouncing show tunes. They breathed new life into long-forgotten standards, and their deep-night ballads, featuring the leader’s insinuating, Harmon-muted melodic statements, could inspire love sonnets for the ages.

Moreover, each supremely gifted member of the group was very much his own man. There was the clipped lyricism of the nattily-attired Davis; the vertiginous flights of the rapidly-developing tenor saxophonist John Coltrane; pianist Red Garland’s bell-like chords and sunny solos; the buoyant lines and eloquent bowing of young bassist Paul Chambers; and drummer Philly Joe Jones’s nonstop drive and slick brush work. Davis and company set the bar almost impossibly high, as these 32 selections, the quintet’s valedictory for Prestige before moving to Columbia, make abundantly clear.

Recorded in three sessions by the legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder at his Hackensack, New Jersey studio to simulate “typical” nightclub sets, virtually every tune has become a classic. The mercurial trumpeter’s band is cookin’ on “Tune Up,” “Oleo,” and “Salt Peanuts” (with Philly Joe’s solo a model of percussive excitement and musicality); workin’ on “Four,” “Blues by Five,” and “Trane’s Blues”; relaxin’ on “When Lights Are Low,” “Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” and “In Your Own Sweet Way”; and steamin’ on signature ballads such as “It Never Entered My Mind,” “’Round Midnight,” and “My Funny Valentine.”

Newly remastered, and with insightful liner notes by Bob Blumenthal, The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions is like a game-winning grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth—in four consecutive World Series games.

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