Cookin' with the Miles Davis Quintet
[Rudy Van Gelder Remasters]
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2007, Volume 14, #3
Written by John Metzger
Though he later would write a far more exotic cookbook for the jazz world to follow, Miles Davis was content in the mid-’50s to simply inject a dash of spice into the existing slate of recipes. In that regard, Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet was the first installment of a four-part series of albums that were culled from a pair of mammoth recording sessions held in May and October 1956. (The other endeavors were Relaxin’, Workin’, and Steamin’). Already signed to Columbia, the material was meant to fulfill his obligation to Prestige, but where many like-minded collections — the type that are born out of contractual responsibility — have a tendency to sound uninspired, Davis’ sets rank among the best releases of the era.
In 1955, Davis assembled what became known as his first classic quintet. Although he initially took some heat for his selection of sidemen, it remains, in hindsight, quite hard to quibble with a collective that featured saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bass player Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. By the time that the group settled into Rudy Van Gelder’s recording studio in October 1956 — the session from which the entirety of Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet was assembled — it had developed a telepathic method of communicating that was absolutely extraordinary.
Orchestrating the sessions much like he would lead a performance, Davis effectively captured the single-take urgency of a concert setting. The dynamic rhythms laid down by Jones and Chambers not only propelled the group’s fast and furious romp through Sonny Rollins’ Airegin — which in turn fueled the aggression in Coltrane’s attack — but they also lent a swinging pulse to Red Garland’s Blues by Five that allowed the song to assume a playfully edgy air. Elsewhere, a breathtaking interpretation of My Funny Valentine as well as a medley of Tune-Up and When the Lights Are Low masterfully highlighted the alchemical interplay that frequently occurred between Davis and Garland.
All of the outings that resulted from Davis’ dates at Van Gelder Studio in 1956 are essential recordings, but none was more so than Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet simply because it so precisely showcased the ensemble’s full range and potential. The newly remastered rendition, which was spearheaded by Van Gelder himself, boasts improved sonic clarity, and the warm, organic life force that permeates it suitably conjures the stimulating atmosphere of a small jazz club. It’s hard to improve upon anything that is considered a classic, but the subtleties that are brought to light make Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet all the more stunning.
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Other Rudy Van Gelder Remasters Releases
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box