This CD comes from the marathon 1956 Prestige sessions with the first of Miles Davis's great quintets: John Coltrane
on tenor, Red Garland
on piano, Paul Chambers
on bass, and Philly Joe Jones
on drums. The group recorded four LPs for Prestige, contemporaneous with the early Columbia material recently celebrated on the Davis-Coltrane Complete Columbia Studio Sessions
emphasizes Davis's concentrated ballad style, with his middle-register trumpet played through a Harmon mute very close to the microphone. What might be a mere buzz in lesser hands becomes restrained passion and detailed expression on the slow tempos of "You're My Everything" and "It Could Happen to You," while Davis conveys joy on the faster tempo of "I Could Write a Book." "If I Were a Bell," from Frank Loesser's then contemporary Guys and Dolls
, is another melodic highlight.
The boppish side of the band is heard on Sonny Rollins's "Oleo," a tour de force animated by Chambers's limber walking bass, and on Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'n' You," the only tune with Davis playing his trumpet with an open bell. Coltrane was entering a period of sustained musical growth, still beholden to Charlie Parker and Rollins, but with flashes of the convulsive power and incendiary questing that his work would soon attain. As different as the two horns are, they reflect the band's ineffable mix of hot and cool elements, from Garland's masterful vamps to the explosive power of Philly Joe Jones. Davis and his cohort were defining the modern mainstream, providing models that are still durable today. --Stuart Broomer