Miles Davis: Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet

WorkinThe Songs:

  1. It Never Entered My Mind
  2. Four
  3. In Your Own Sweet Way
  4. The Theme [Take 1]
  5. Trane’s Blues
  6. Ahmad’s Blues
  7. Half Nelson
  8. The Theme [Take 2]

Personnel:

  • Miles Davis – trumpet
  • John Coltrane – tenor saxophone
  • Red Garland – piano
  • Paul Chambers – bass
  • Philly Joe Jones – drums

Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet was recorded at the same two marathon sessions in May and October 1956 that also produced the albums Cookin’, Relaxin’, and Steamin’Since Miles had signed a long-term deal with Columbia Records in 1955, the 1956 sessions were done to fulfill his contract requirements for Prestige Records. Workin’ is a laid back collection of bluesy tunes and ballads. With the exception of “Half Nelson,” (which was recorded on the October date), the rest of the album was done at the May session.

Miles and the rhythm section were in excellent form throughout the session; however, John Coltrane seems to have struggled some on this date. At this point in Coltrane’s career, (before his apprenticeship with Thelonious Monk before returning to Miles), he was battling drug addiction and still searching for an adequate personal style of expression. His output on Prestige was inconsistent, and this particular material did not yet seem to suit him. (Coltrane’s enormous growth, particularly on slower songs, is in evidence on a pair of 1963 Impulse albums: Ballads and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.)

Nonetheless, this album and its three companions still showcase one of the most legendary groups in jazz covering some classic material. Miles revisits his own classic “Four,” trading licks with the powerhouse percussion of Philly Joe Jones, while offering a quicker take on Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way.”  In performance at clubs, Miles would frequently take a break and allow the rhythm section a featured number or two. Workin’ reflects that practice with the trio performance of “Ahmad’s Blues,” with Red Garland both imitating and later contrasting Ahmad Jamal’s own style which was such an influence on Miles. Each side of the original album ended with the quintet’s signature tune, “The Theme,” which remained Miles’ set closer clear up into his jazz-rock period in the early 1970’s. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Frank Alkyer (ed.). The Miles Davis Reader (Downbeat Hall Of Fame).

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