The Miles Davis Quintet: The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions
“Incidentally, John Coltrane is playing the saxophone,” says the Tonight Starring Steve Allen host, almost forgetting the fifth face on jazz’s then-current Mt. Rushmore as he introduces The Miles Davis Quintet in November 1955. Allen’s already noted the presence of Miles Davis, stating that the 29 year old may be the best working trumpeter out there. The five musicians—Davis, Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones—then whip up a blasting jam, “Max Is Making Wax,” that may have just stopped the Earth from spinning on its axis for a minute or two. That’s just one track on the six highquality vinyl LPs (previously available on CD) housing some of the most shattering jazz ever waxed, sounding better than it ever has. (You can hear every exhaled breath and the rattle of the snare.) From their earliest sessions for the Prestige label, cut the day before the Tonight appearance, at Rudy Van Gelder’s famous New Jersey studio, and for the next five years, Davis and this group would move jazz into places it had never gone. The fabric-covered, hardbound packaging does justice to the music, and each vinyl disc is well protected; all of it is accompanied by comprehensive session notes and magnificent photography, with a Miles painting on the front. How to narrow it down to a few highlights when virtually every performance approaches flawlessness? Difficult. Things really get cooking midway through, on tracks that originally appeared on albums like Steamin’ and Workin ’, full of fire and fearlessness. The consecutive May 1956 run of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts” and Davis’ own “Four,” and the two-part “The Theme,” may represent the very point when bebop became something else—something that only can be described as Miles Davis. But John Coltrane, you’d better believe, was taking notes.