Jazz

VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases

Essentially Miles

22 DEC 11 CHRIS SLAWECKI

In two marathon sessions, in May and then again in October 1956, Miles Davis and his first great quintet -- with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones -- recorded just about every standard and live staple they knew to fulfill the four albums remaining on and thereby conclude Davis' Prestige Records contract. Packaging these four albums together as Essential Albums: Cookin'/Relaxin'/Workin'/Steamin' seems like such an obviously great idea that it's surprising we haven't seen it until now.

Cookin' and Relaxin' were both released in 1957. Cookin' opens with Davis' first recording of what became a classic ballad in his hands, "My Funny Valentine." Relaxin' even lets you hear Miles give producer Bob Weinstock a hard time: "I'll play it and tell you what it is later," he deliciously grouses before ringing out "If I Were A Bell."

Garland and Davis weave breathtaking magic throughout "It Never Entered My Mind" on Workin' ('59), which also features the Garland trio's stroll (without horns) through "Ahmad's Blues." Steamin' ('61) features the quintet ripping through "Well, You Needn't" and hot roasting "Salt Peanuts," two classics from the bebop catechism that you can hear Davis' quintet (especially Chambers and Jones) reshaping into post-bop modern jazz.

Each soloist sounds as amazing as the next and the music from these sessions proved just as historic as their circumstances. Cookin', Relaxin', Workin' and Steamin' are also available as standalone titles in the RVG Remaster series.