"1958 Miles "


"1958 Miless"

'58 Sessions

Personnel: Miles Davis (tr), John Coltrane (ts), Julian "Cannonball" Adderley (as), Bill Evans (p), Paul Chambers (b), Jimmy Cobb (d)

Memo: The first four are from a studio session, three of which partly made up the album "Jazz Track". The last three are from a live session "Jazz at the Plaza".

 

Songs:
1. On Green Dolphin Street
2. Fran Dance 
3. Stella By Starlight
4. Love For Sale
5. Straight No Chaser
6. My Funny Valentine
7. Oleo

 

 

When "On Green Dolphin Street," "Fran Dance" and "Stella By Starlight," three of seven tracks on this collection, were first issued, they occupied one face of a Columbia Lp entitled Jazz Track, so named because the other side contained Miles Davis' original music for the French film L'Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud. Since I already had the 10-inch Lp of Miles' soundtrack for Elevator To The Gallows (the English translation of the title), I wasn't about to invest in a 12 inch Lp whose contents I already possessed in part when I could put the money toward the purchase of some other album.

That was my thinking until one warm spring (or summer) night when the music most often played at a party I was attending consisted of the three aforementioned tracks. I was very taken with the performances and promised myself to acquire them posthaste. Maybe it was due to poor cash flow at the time but my good intentions went down the drain. Before I knew it the Lp was discontinued.

"Love For Sale," the other number taped at the session which produced "Dolphin," "Fran" and "Stella," went unreleased until 1975 when it showed up as part of a Columbia anthology called Black Giants, a fact of which I was then unaware. I hadn't heard it until this CD project.

The other three selections, "Straight, No Chaser," "My Funny Valentine" and "Oleo," were part of a 1973 release called Jazz At The Plaza, Volume I (Volume 2 featured Duke Ellington's orchestra.) In fact, "Straight, No Chaser" was called "Jazz At The Plaza" and credited to Davis instead of Thelonious Monk. The music was taped at a jazz party given by Columbia to celebrate "the healthy state of jazz" at the label. This Lp has long been out of print but I've had it in my collection from '73.

Both the studio date (May 26) that produced the first four titles, and the live date at the Plaza Hotel (July 28), took place in 1958, a year that marked the advent of the Miles Davis Sextet. The classic Quintet of 1955--Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones--had lost Coltrane to Thelonious Monk's Quartet in the spring of 1957 and by the time Trane returned to the fold, at Miles' request, in late December, Cannonball Adderley was in place as Davis' frontline partner.

The new dynamic engendered by the three horns was evident in the results of the recording dates of April 2 and 3, as represented by the Columbia Lp Milestones. After those dates Bill Evans came in for Garland and when, in May, Philly Joe left, he was replaced by Jimmy Cobb, leaving Chambers as Miles' only holdover.

May 26 found Miles in a basically balladic mood, playing off the rhapsodic, full harmonic approach of Evans and everyone melding in with him. Bronislau Koper's "On Green Dolphin Street," reportedly suggested by Adderley, is stated by Miles' sweet, muted sound backed by Cobb's brushes. It is swinging but in a most relaxed, unhurried manner. Coltrane's combination of lyricism and rhythmic thrust is followed by Cannonball, thoughtfully melodic and then popping; the two horns complement each other so well. Evans plays a few single notes before immersing himself in strongly textured, two-handed expressions. Cobb, who switches to backbeating sticks behind Bill, is back on brushes for Miles' out-chorus.

Davis' "Fran Dance" (or "Put Your Little Foot Right Out") was named for his then wife, dancer Frances Taylor. Mellow, even dreamy, is the operative word here as Miles again employs a tender mute. Cannon sidles in and Trane continues the languorous groove, floating atop the rhythm.

On "Love For Sale" the tempo moves up to crisp with Cobb's brush accents leading the way. Here Miles' mute swings with a bite through a moving line and apt manipulation of phrases. Everyone is charged by the change of mood from the previous trucks. Bill does some strong, right-handed cooking.

The entire session has an informal feel that is unusual for a studio date. Upon hearing it again I immediately knew why I was so taken with it those many years ago.

On July 28 at the Plaza there is a finger snapping lead-in-to "Straight, No Chaser" and Cannonball's alto voice prominent in the head. Miles, this time open, jumps right in, obliquely working in "When The Saints Go Marching In." The pace is swift, with Trane as relentless as a National Hockey League forechecker, and Cannon as dazzling as liquid mercury. Then Evans moves in, quickly bringing the Monk head back with a quote from another of Thelonious' songs, "Blue Monk." A snippet of "The Theme" is an exclamatory coda.

"My Funny Valentine," a song (one of many) that Miles no longer plays, is introduced by Evans. He's into the theme by the time Miles arrives, muted with that lonely, vulnerable sound. Then Bill transforms Richard Rodgers' treasure with his personal spark, that illumination which caused Davis to make him part of his group. Chambers brings his big bottom sound out of the ensemble for a serious solo before Miles returns to range all over his horn, taking chances while wearing his emotion on his bell.

Miles keeps the mute in to set the pace on Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," Trane joining him belatedly in the line. Miles' solo is a mute-melter, followed by Trane, breathing enough life into his horn to resuscitate three drowning people, and featuring Cannon as a dancing laser beam. Evans quotes from his own theme song, "Five," to open his solo and proceeds, later on, to work off its main motif. Paul, in a fast walk, brings back Miles, who interacts with Jimmy before the out chorus.

These prime cuts of the Miles Davis Sextet, representative of what this most influential leader and his trendsetting band of that time, were doing in that particular portion of 1958, are a most welcome addition to the collectors library. Doubly so to me because I've probably waited longer than you have.

-IRA GITLER

 

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