Miles Davis was thoroughly admired, emulated and worshiped for his influential body of work, and at the same time admonished for his attitude and demeanor while performing. He was the master and the originator of many jazz sub genres because of his progressive/aggressive posture in the development of his music. He was one of our first true jazz icons of modern music, a real life music god of the last century. The man’s name came after the word jazz for several decades and his presence is as prominent now as it ever was.
This brings us to one of several classic jazz recordings that came to fruition in just two incredibly magical sessions during 1956. I listened to this album in complete awe several times before I could feel the impact and meaning of what this man accomplished on this particular album. Moreover, to think that this was only one of many great accomplishments makes it that much more surreal.
A sense of Miles’ powerful place in music was the musicians he surrounded himself with during the recording of Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet. Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums) had to be the most aggressive rhythm section in jazz at the time of this recording. If they were recording a few decades in the future, they probably would have ended up with a group like Return to Forever or some other heavy-duty jazz-rock fusion band. Miles was always on the brink of change, and after making some of the greatest music ever heard, he broke up the band and went in another direction; this was typical of his cavalier attitude and constant evolution as an artist. John Coltrane was the ultimate compliment to Davis, his tenor saxophone was the one component that was necessary for the bandleader to complete his vision. If it was not for that experience in the quintet, I do not think Coltrane would have realized his potential and moved on as the dominating solo act that he would soon become. Red Garland was the final piece of the quintet that connected all the dots, his piano playing was fabulous and it brought the classical influences to the core of the jazz improvisation that Davis so ingeniously executed in his compositions.
This gathering of musical legends stands as a good example of Davis’ lateral method and approach. While the recording starts off with a beautiful, dare I say contemporary piece, titled "It Never Entered My Mind," Miles and the band never look back and jump straight into the hard bop groove that epitomized the quintet configuration and the type of musical intelligence that would change and dominate the jazz expression into the next decade and beyond. It is more than appropriate to classify this recording as an Original Jazz Classic, it is necessary.