VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases
25 JAN 12 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Blue Haze (OJC, 1991) presents protean versions of Miles Davis' landmark tunes "Four," "Tune Up" and "Miles Ahead," from two mid-1950s sessions that feature Davis' trumpet as head of two different all-star foursomes. "Tune Up" and "Miles Ahead" feature Davis with pianist John Lewis, drummer Max Roach, and bassist Charles Mingus, who doubles on piano for his composition "Smooch." "Four" and "Blue Haze" team Davis with pianist Horace Silver, drummer Art Blakey, and bassist Percy Heath.
Davis' opening of "Four" displays an advanced rhythmic acuity that Silver's piano matches with adventurous, playful rhythms. For the thick and misty, slow "Blue Haze," the rhythm section rolls out a walking beat into which Davis' trumpet blows both cool and hot -- a six-minute stroll through blues heaven.
Back into bop, Davis' trumpet and Lewis' piano boldly and dexterously leap from note to note in this hard-charging "Tune Up." Co-composed with Gil Evans, one of Davis' favorite collaborators, "Miles Ahead" still sounds sophisticated and modern, even heard through half a century of history. The lighthearted melody of "When Lights Are Low" puts an engaging, almost friendly, face on Davis' trumpet playing that did not always translate through his later work.
Prestige originally released these quartet sessions on ten-inch vinyl as The Miles Davis Quartet, and then subsequently added a quintet workout through "I'll Remember April" to complete Blue Haze. After these sessions, Davis would soon form his first great quintet with Coltrane, and rarely perform or record in a quartet again.