Friday, July 4, 2008

The First Miles Davis Quintet

Miles Davis History - The First Miles Davis Quintet by Murray Hubick

In the life of Miles Davis the year 1955 saw the first version or incarnation of the Miles Davis Quintet. In this band there were featured some of the biggest names in jazz of the time such as John Coltrane, red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.

It must be said that in the world of jazz this was new stuff and did not move along the lines of the rhythmic and harmonic complexity of the then prevalent bebop. It was a progression towards modal jazz where Davis was allowed to play long, legato, melodic lines. The pianist Ahmad Jamal played a role in the formation of this style at around this time because Davis was strongly influenced by his sparse style which contrasted strongly with the busy sound of bebop.

In 1955 Davis was still under contract to Prestige Records at this time but due to a contract arrangement made the first recordings for this group at Columbia records. The new music was released on the album 'Round About Midnight. This was followed by the product of two days of recording in 1956 which was released as; Relaxin' and with the Miles Davis Quintet, Streamin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, Workin' with the Miles Davis Quintet and cookin' with the Miles Davis quintet.

In all this quintet amounted to a very productive collaboration but it was never stable. The problem of drugs was never really far away and several of the other members of the group used heroin which caused the band to disband in the early months of 1957. It must be said here that following this, in 1958 the quintet reformed as a sextet but this time with the addition of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and subsequently recorded "Milestones".

But first, and later on in 1955 Davis traveled again to France but this time it was too composed the score to Louis Malle's Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud. In this work he recorded the soundtrack entirely with the aid of French session musicians which included Barney Wilen, Pierre Michelot, Rene' Urtreger and the American drummer Kenny Clarke.

Returning to America and later on in the 1950s and early 1960s Davis started a period of outstanding and diverse creativity in collaboration with the noted jazz musician Gil Evans. These two artists recorded a series of albums together which saw Davis often playing flugelhorn as well as trumpet. The first product of the sessions was an album called "Miles Ahead" and showcased Davis' playing with at jazz big-band, the horn section beautifully arranged by Evans.

The pieces that were produced at this time included music by Dave Brubeck and Leo Delibes and the sessions were notable because they included Davis' first piece of European classical music. This was important and innovative stuff for the time notably because of its editing which in joining the tracks together created a seamless musical experience between each side of the album.

During this period also and in 1958 Davis and Evans recorded Porgy and Bess. This was a great recording which consisted of an arrangement of pieces from George Gershwin's opera of the same name and featured members of Davis' band such as Paul Chambers, Cannonball Adderley and Philly Joe Jones. Davis himself said that this album was one of his favorites.

In 1959 the atmospheric and now famous "Sketches of Spain" was recorded. These were evocative and beautiful pieces of music, by and large arranged by Gil Evans and some of which recorded at a concert in Orchestra under Evans direction. This was all about Spain and the embodiment of the feel and soul of Spain. These Recordings were a spirited interpretation of the music of two of Spain's most gifted contemporary composers; Joaquin Rodrigo and Manuel de Falla as well as and including Gil Evans originals with a Spanish theme.

Davis' collaboration with Gil Evans would go on for most of Davis' life but 1962 was the last year in which they created a full album together. Throughout the two men had a great deal of respect and friendship for each other. In his autobiography Davis noted ;"... my best friend is Gil Evans".

Murray Hubick is an accomplished artist and writer who is also a self proclaimed jazz addict. To read his latest series of articles on the Miles Davis history; his influences, who inspired him how this artist consistently held the position of being at the forefront of just about every major development in jazz from World War II to the 1990's go to

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