The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Steamin’’

Miles’ Prestige transition

Posted by keithosaunders on February 29, 2016

Miles Davis had one of the most fascinating careers in jazz.  He came to New York in 1945 to study at Julliard but soon connected with Charlie Parker and joined his quintet.  The first few recordings Miles made with Bird are the only ones on which he sounds a little tentative. He would soon find his voice and by the time he recorded Birth of the Cool in 1949 he was on his way to becoming one the most influential jazz musicians of all time.

Davis is the antithesis of John Coltrane, whose playing was in a constant state of flux. Miles playing in 1950 – his choice of notes, his warm, personal sound, and his attack –  is not all that different than in 1990.  it was the bands around him — the sidemen he chose – who evolved, keeping Davis’s sound fresh. That’s why hardly any Miles record sounds like the other, yet all are instantly identifiable.

Last week I listened to a box set of all the recordings Davis did on the Prestige label; these took place between 1951-56. Miles sounds great throughout and there are sessions with Milt Jackson, Horace Silver,  a quirky (even for him) Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins.

In 1955 Miles, at the urging of George Avakian, an executive at Columbia records, put together his first great quintet. This consisted of John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.  Miles first choice for tenor was Sonny Rollins who was busy with other projects.

Before he could sign with Columbia records Miles had to fulfill his obligations to Prestige which he did in the form of marathon recording sessions in 1955 and 56.  These sessions yielded some of the greatest sides known to jazz:  Workin,’ Cookin,’ Steamin,’ and Relaxin.’

I spent the better part of the week listening to the earlier Miles Prestige sides but when I got to the ’56 recordings the difference was stark and immediate.  The quintet has a kinetic energy that is missing from the earlier recordings.  As good as the pre-1956 musicians were they didn’t have the infectious chemistry that Garland, Chambers, and Philly Joe did.  Coltrane is not yet the master improviser he would become a mere couple of years later, but it’s fun to listen to him trying new ideas, stumbling, getting up, and succeeding.  He swings his ass off even though he’s not fully formed.

Check it out!

Serpent’s Tooth 1953 w Sonny Rollins and Bird on tenor!

Woody’n You 1956 w the classic Quintet

 

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What’s My Line: Coltrane Edition

Posted by keithosaunders on December 8, 2015

Miles-Davis

When I was first getting into jazz back in 1975 I checked out a Prestige Miles 2-fer from the library which contained music from 2 out of the 4 classic quintet sessions. (Workin’/Steamin’/Relaxin’/Cookin’)  These were the sessions with My Funny Valentine, Tune Up, Woodyn You and Airegin, among others. I taped it but for some reason didn’t write down the personnel.

A few weeks before having checked out the Miles record I had listened to a late period John Coltrane record – it was probably from 1966, which was the group with Alice Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison, and Rasheed Ali.  I hated it!  What was that guy playing?  It sounded like a coyote caught in a trap. When I heard the sax player on the Miles record, however, I said to myself, ‘now *that* guy can play.’ Little did I know that it was the same player!

I should add that years later, when my ears were ready for it, I came to like and appreciate late period Coltrane.  It’s fascinating to hear him evolve on records over a ten year period.  I can’t think of anything else like it in the history of music.

Coltrane

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