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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).

Herbie Hancock: The Piano

The Songs:Hancock-The Piano

  1. My Funny Valentine
  2. On Green Dolphin Street
  3. Someday My Prince Will Come
  4. Harvest Time
  5. Sonrisa
  6. Manhattan Island
  7. Blue Otani
  8. My Funny Valentine (Bonus Alternate Take)
  9. On Green Dolphin Street (Bonus Alternate Take)
  10. Someday My Prince Will Come (Bonus Alternate Take)
  11. Harvest Time (Bonus Alternate Take)

Personnel:

  • Herbie Hancock – acoustic piano

In October of 1978, Herbie Hancock was in Japan to record two audiophile direct-to-disc recordings. The first album, Directstep, featured his Headhunters band. The second album, The Piano, was recorded one week later. In the direct-to-disc recording process, an entire side of a vinyl album was recorded in one take and simultaneously transcribed onto a lacquer master, avoiding the use of magnetic tape. Because of this, no overdubbing is possible and if a mistake is made, the entire set must be re-recorded. This disc was released in early 1979 and was originally available only in Japan. It did not see a U.S. release until a CD was issued in 2004, 25 years after the original session. The CD includes 4 alternate takes, which constituted one recording set in the studio for the direct-to-disc engineering.

Hancock had been pioneering the use of electronic keyboards in jazz for several years up until this time, but 1978 saw a resurgence of interest for him in the acoustic piano. Other highlights of the year include a tour and recording with the Miles Davis tribute band V.S.O.P. and a highly acclaimed duet tour with fellow pianist Chick Corea, his successor in Miles’ band and another innovator on synthesizers.

The album consists of 3 ballads closely associated with Miles Davis, who Herbie performed them with frequently as a member of the classic “Second Quintet“. The remaining songs are all Hancock originals. The Piano remains unique among the dozens of albums in Hancock’s discography, as it is the only one to consist entirely of solo acoustic piano performances. As the most important and influential pianist since Bill Evans, Herbie is known for being a sensitive and creative accompanist, as well as for his dynamic interplay with other members of a typical rhythm section. This collection of powerful, yet understated solo outings offer a rare opportunity to hear his melodic inventiveness without any backdrop. In the words of the promotional material that accompanied the CD release, this is “an absolute lost gem in the dazzling discography of this master.” (Buy it here.)

This week’s post is dedicated to the memory of my dear college friend, Jamie Kelly, who was a talented jazz pianist and gifted writer. We had similar personalities and shared many interests. I have fond memories of playing some of the same standards found on this album with him. His love and compassion for others will remain as a great legacy to the family and friends he leaves behind. Rest in peace, kiddo.

Jamie

The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra: Consummation

ConsummationThe Songs:

  1. Dedication
  2. It Only Happens Every Time
  3. Tiptoe
  4. A Child Is Born
  5. Us
  6. Ahunk Ahunk
  7. Fingers
  8. Consummation

Personnel:

  • Thad Jones – flügelhorn
  • Mel Lewis – drums
  • Eugene “Snooky” Young, Danny Moore, Al Porcino, Marvin Stamm – trumpets
  • Jimmy Buffington, Earl Chapin, Dick Berg, Julius Watkins – French horns
  • Eddie Bert, Benny Powell, Jimmy Knepper, Cliff Heather – trombones
  • Howard Johnson – tuba
  • Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Billy Harper, Eddie Daniels, Richie Kamuca, Pepper Adams, Joe Farrell – saxophones, woodwinds
  • Roland Hanna – acoustic & electric piano
  • Richard Davis – acoustic & electric bass
  • Dave Spinozza – guitar

The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra was formed in the mid 1960’s as a reading/rehearsal band to give a creative outlet to some of New York’s top session players. Thad Jones, formerly from Count Basie’s band and brother of pianist Hank and drummer Elvin from John Coltrane’s classic quartet, wrote and arranged most of the music. The group’s co-leader was Mel Lewis, who had previously played in the Stan Kenton orchestra. The group developed a devoted following and soon established a weekly Monday night residency at one of New York’s top jazz clubs, the Village Vanguard, (a residency that continues to this day, long after the deaths of both leaders). During this time, they recorded several classic albums for Solid State/Blue Note, the last of which, (and widely held to be the finest), was Consummation.

The album consists of all Thad Jones compositions and arrangements, including his most famous piece, “A Child Is Born”. Jones’ great writing shines on each chart and includes the addition of French horns and tuba on the opening and closing cuts. Consummation also features sparkling performances from many of the star sidemen, especially the keyboard work of Sir Roland Hanna. From the funky rock infected songs like “Us” and “Ahunk Ahunk” to the swinging “Tiptoe” and “Fingers” and the delicate beauty of “A Child Is Born,” the album represents the band at its finest, receiving the band’s third Grammy nomination for best large group jazz performance. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Chris Smith. The View From The Back Of The Band: The Life And Music Of Mel Lewis.

Suggested Viewing:

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra & Woody Herman Band. Jazz Casual.

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