The four CDs collected here represent the best of the trumpeter’s output for Prestige. He would later record for Columbia (he would actually record his first Columbia session, Round About Midnight in 1955) and offer classics from Kind of Blue to Bitches Brew, but these early sessions were not only foundational but every bit as mesmerizing as the later forays would become. Tracks from The New Miles Davis Quintet (1955), Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants (1956), The classic 1956 series of Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet, Steamin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet , Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet, and Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet are represented here. To a note, it is a fascinating collection. The fourth disc presents previously unheard recordings from the Steve Allen Show (the original Tonight Show) in 1955, a December 1956 show recorded at the Blue Note, and a 1958 set from Café Bohemia, on which pianist Bill Evans sits in with the quintet, in place of Red Garland.
The constant was Miles’ delectable horn and the four men who accompanied him through all of these extraordinary performances: Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland (on all but the final four compositions on the fourth disc), bass master Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones.
The importance of Miles Davis in jazz history can not be overstated. He changed the direction, or at the very least expanded the parameters, of the music more than once, he brought new fans to the music and, above all, he had phenomenal mastery of his instrument.
Highlights throughout these 42 aural delights include the familiar, such as Dizzy Gillespie’s Woody’n You," "Surrey With the Fringe on Top," modeled on the Ahmad Jamal version of the standard, "If I Were A Bell," "I Could Write A Book," Sonny Rollins’ classics "Oleo" and "Airegin," and the superb "My Funny Valentine." Interspersed with these are less familiar but no less impressive performances. Throughout, Miles is breathtaking, as are his "Stablemates" -- the title of the Benny Golson-penned November 16, 1955 opening track. Coltrane was developing his own sound, and being recognized for the same among critics and fans alike. Paul Chambers was likewise developing a reputation as a first call foundational player. Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones had been on the scene for a while, but both flourished in this extraordinary quintet.
The quintet performed frequently and honed their already formidable collective chops, so that these mostly Rudy Van Gelder captured performances documented their growth almost as it happened. The results are stunning.
The collection is vital.