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Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet

4.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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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. Relaxin' 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

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 1, 1991)
  • Original Release Date: 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Ojc
  • ASIN: B000000YAL
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,344 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sean M. Kelly on September 23, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Along with Steamin, Workin, and Cookin, "Relaxin" offers an up close and personal look at Miles' group ca. 1955, in their transition phase between Prestige and Columbia records.
From the opening chimes of "If I were A Bell," Miles dominates the proceedings as only he can- his tone, sense of time, style, and the use of his famous Harmon Mute never better. He was definitely a man on a mission, and his leadership on his trumpet is simply astounding.
The band also cooks on saxophonist Sonny Rollins' staple "Oleo" (as in oleo margarine, for the kids out there..a simple form of clarified margarine), with Chambers' fast walking bass complimenting Philly Joe Jones' incomperable drumming, complete with his famous "Philly Licks" (playing rim shots versus the snare to keep the beat going).
"I Could Write a Book" is highlighted by great interplay between Miles, drummer Jones, and bassist Paul Chambers.
The rest of the lp comprises slower, more laid back numbers, right for, well..relaxin, I suppose.
A wonderful lp of great material, "Relaxin," like the other 3 lps of the series, showcase Miles and the group enjoying themselves greatly. The results show as much.
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Format: Audio CD
Relaxin' is one of the four albums released from an especially elongated recording session the Miles Davis Quintet recorded to fulfill out Miles' contract with the Prestige Label. The other albums are Cookin', Steamin' and Workin' and in my opinion, Relaxin' is the best.

Anyone who knows anything about jazz knows what a stellar rhythm section is on this album. Philly Joe Jones, one of the leading drummers of the 50's, Paul Chambers, probably the leading bassist, and Red Garland, who, although not one of my favorite pianists, is good enough that I cannot complain. With these three, almost ANY horn player would sound good. Making it even better, we have two of the best in Miles and 'Trane.

The album is a mix between ballads, light swingers, and up-tempo bebop numbers...a great mix. Miles is on muted trumpet throughout (save for the last track) and his melodic, spacious concept of soloing is finer than almost any album save Kind of Blue (and that's saying a lot,) especially on "If I were a Bell," and "If I could write a book." Coltrane, on the other hand, is still developing...not quite at the top of his "sheets of sound" phase yet. But does that matter? Of course not. His solos are every bit as exciting as Miles, and make an excellent counterweight to the trumpeter's work.

This album really is good because, while not necessarily innovative or "inspired," there are no bad measures. Every minute is just GOOD...these people knew what they were doing, and thus excell at swinging. It's an easy listen, and an extremely pleasant one, because everyone is on the same level, doing exactly what they do best. It's deffinitely one of my favorite Davis albums.
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Format: Audio CD
If you are a serious aficionado or just want one or two Miles albums to add dimension to your collection this is by far and wide the best choice for your Prestige LP and for the Columbia LP you might choose Kind of Blue or Milestones. In my humble opinion. The door opens wide as this is by far the most accessible Miles album I have heard so far. Warm notes and friendly rhythms similar to Stan Getz's Jazz Samba. Not as in-depth or cavernous as Kind of Blue tending to stay on the terrestrial plane. The members of the Qunitet are some of the most cohesive jazz has ever seen.
The trio of Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, and Red Garland along with master of masters John Coletrane make each song flawless yet wholesome and bright. The album starts warm and witty then dabs in the experimental but is all and all one of the most well rounded albums in my 500+ `collection. Many opinion lists will pull you into thinking the Columbia releases are the be all of
Miles but this couldn't be further from the truth. The titles done for Prestige simply can't be
overlooked and Relaxin is proof of that. This is a solid pick and a keeper for a lifetime!
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Format: Audio CD
When I start to 'jones' for Miles, and honestly, he is my third favorite trumpet player behind Dizzy and Byrd (in the more modern genre), this is the CD that I always reach for. The entire Workin', Cookin', Steamin', Relaxin' series of the Quintet is 5-star; however, "Relaxin" has some special moments not just in the history of this Quintet but in jazz itself. We get a glimpse of Miles the man, in the studio - telling Rudy Van Gelder at the start of "If I Were A Bell" that he will "play it and tell you what it is later"; stopping Red Garland's single note opening to "You're My Everything" with a jolt, then telling him to play "block chords, man, block chords". Both tunes shine musically, too, as Miles' continuing four-bar turnaround at the conclusion of "If I Were A Bell" is a clinic in subtlety. There are so many Miles Davis recordings you would think it hard to be able to pick one as a favorite. The personnel narrows it some (Garland, Wynton Kelly, or Bill Evans on piano, please) and the tunes help some, but ultimately Trane or Cannonball, Philly Joe or Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers always...it is Miles and his mood that set the standard for excellence. "Relaxin'" is my choice, not just for my favorite Miles LP, but as one of my top jazz recordings of all time.
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