|Miles Davis: Jazz Moods - Cool|
|Written by Michael S. Goldfarb|
This entry in Sony's Jazz Moods series presents a strong collection of classic recordings by trumpeter Miles Davis spanning some of his most productive years. With 10 tracks originally released between 1956 and 1968, it represents several different styles from this protean jazz master, and includes some of his most admired performances.
The historic first Miles Davis Quintet is represented by "Bye Bye Blackbird" from Miles' debut album for Columbia, Round About Midnight. With sparkling piano work from Red Garland, the percolating bass of Paul Chambers, hard-hitting drumming by Philly Joe Jones, and the emerging genius of then-unknown tenor sax player John Coltrane—not to mention Miles' trademark introspective muted trumpet—it's a gorgeous interpretation of the old standard. You can definitely hear why this band blew folks away in the 50s!
Miles' distinctive collaborations with composer/arranger/bandleader Gil Evans are represented by "Miles Ahead" from their same-titled record of 1957, their jaw-dropping take on "Summertime" from 1958's Porgy and Bess, and "Corcovado" from 1962's Quiet Nights. Some critics have said that these meticulously arranged compositions, which feature Miles fronting large brass/wind groups, don't include enough improvisation to really be considered jazz. That may be, but they are beautiful recordings, placing Miles unique solo voice—here sometimes playing the richer-sounding flugelhorn rather than trumpet—in a setting that complements it wonderfully.
The classic Miles Davis Sextet is represented by "On Green Dolphin Street" from '58 Sessions, and "So What" and "All Blues" from their landmark 1959 release, Kind of Blue. The additions of soulful alto sax player Cannonball Adderly and the unique keyboard stylings of Bill Evans, along with the continued maturing of John Coltrane's solo voice, marked another turning point for the Miles Davis sound. This material explores new improvisational territory, yet remains accessible and lovely. Kind of Blue remains the best-selling jazz record of all time, for some very good reasons.
Miles' transitional recordings from the early 60s, before he formed his classic second Quintet, weigh in with the title track from Someday My Prince Will Come and "So Near, So Far" from Seven Steps to Heaven. "Someday My Prince Will Come" features inspired piano work from Wynton Kelly, dynamite tenor sax solos by both Hank Mobley and John Coltrane, and more of those magnificently expressive muted trumpet solos from Miles. This is the last gasp of the 50s Miles Davis style, and it is an astonishing summation.
The second Miles Davis Quintet, which featured the dramatically younger players Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams, is heard in "Pinnochio" from 1968's classic Nefertiti. Miles was off into yet another experimental space at this time, responding to the ferment of the 60s with a new and more challenging sound. Far out, man....
If you're looking for a good introduction to some of the many styles of Miles Davis, this album is a solid choice. Personally, I already own a big pile of Miles recordings... but a full half-dozen of my all-time favorite tracks are right here on this one highly recommended disc.