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The opportunity to hear the process documented sequentially will induce even longtime fans of this music to spring for the four-CD set. The first six tracks, from November 16, 1955, are undervalued in the Davis canon. They include several masterpiece Davis solos ("Stablemates," "Just Squeeze Me," and "S’Posin’ "), a string of bursting-at-the-seams Coltrane declamations, Garland’s unfailingly a propos comping and swinging Bud Powell-meets Basie-meets-Ahmad Jamal solos, Chambers’ irresistibly propulsive bass lines, and Jones’s crisp, aggressive, top-of-the-beat rhythmic flow.
In order to fulfill his contractual obligations to Prestige before moving to Columbia Records, Davis scheduled marathon sessions on May 11 and October 26, 1956, to produce the next 26 tracks, all executed in one take. Here the quintet, now thoroughly road-tested, offers a virtual nightclub set of then-fresh modern jazz standards (“In Your Own Sweet Way,” “When Lights Are Low,” “Well, You Needn’t,” “Woody ‘n You,” “Half Nelson,” “Four,” “Oleo,” “Airegin," “Tune Up”) and medium-bouncing, melody-rich show tunes (“If I Were a Bell," “Surrey with the Fringe on Top," “I Could Write a Book”). There are haunting Davis ballad features (“My Funny Valentine," “It Never Entered My Mind," “You’re My Everything”) and Red Garland’s inclusive “Blues by Five.” Foreshadowing the shape of jazz to come, the music stands beyond criticism. That being said, the ensembles are occasionally ragged. Coltrane was still formulating his concept, and he solos less than coherently on several tracks. As might be expected, the October date is at once edgier and more consistent.
For value added, see Disc 4, which contains authorized releases of decent-sounding quintet location air checks from 1955, 1956, and 1958, and an enhanced portion with transcriptions of five Davis solos.Fronted by a Basquiat-esque Davis painting, the packaging is elegant. The remastering is superb, and Bob Blumenthal’s liner notes are characteristically authoritative and precise.
|Miles Davis Quintet||Primary Artist|
|Miles Davis||Trumpet, Indexed Contributor|
|Philly Joe Jones||Drums|
|John Coltrane||Tenor Saxophone|
|Miles Davis||Composer, Cover Painting|
|Greg Allen||Art Direction|
|Bill Belmont||Project Assembly|
|Rudy Van Gelder||Engineer|
|Oscar Hammerstein II||Composer|
|James Van Heusen||Composer|
|Jamie Putnam||Project Assembly|
|Abbey Anna||Project Assembly|
|Terri Hinte||Project Assembly|
|Rikka Arnold||Project Assembly|
|Chris Clough||Project Assembly|