Perhaps the jazz conservatives (e.g. Stanley Crouch) would burn me at the stake for the title of this review and yes, the soul-stirring Kind of Blue is certainly the best modal record I've heard, but I much prefer this, since Coltrane and Adderley really leap out and play from the get-go.
Dr. Jackle is absolutely manic to play, a Jackie McLean tune that this quintet seem to delight in playing rather fast. It's excellent hard-bop, and Miles plays an excellent solo which sticks to the middle register, a range which trumpeteers do not explore enough, though this can be only down to the influence of intervallic trumpeters like Dizzy. Listen out for the early duel between Adderley, and Coltrane. Listening to 'Two Bass Hit', it is an interesting contrast to hear it against the version on 'Round About Midnight. The two saxophonists play the opening line, and Red Garland plays the call-and-response piano. Coltrane's solo in this is very different, not relying on cliches, and theres still traces of those idiosyncratic runs of his in the solo. The excellent rhythmic support is almost forgotten in the midst of all this horn interplay. Sid's Ahead is another great piece.
'Milestones', my favourite track on the album, is a wonderful exploration of the modes, and I have to say, that Adderley's solo is certainly more assured and joyous than anything I've heard him play, even on Kind of Blue. If anyone sounds slightly perturbed by this piece, it's actually Coltrane. Garland's repetitive modal riff, keeps the tune pacing along wonderfully. He gets a chance to shine on 'Billy Boy', and his odd locked-hands style is on exhibit here, as well as his Ahmed-Jamal influenced bluesy runs on the piano. Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers are superb on this track too.
The version I've got closes on 'Straight No Chaser', which is a Monk tune. The quintet run through this and render it their own, due to the excellent playing of all the quintet, Adderley tries to match Coltrane's stellar scalar runs, and Coltrane's 'angry' saxophone style is in full flow here. Adderley's solo is wonderfully dissonant at points, forcing the listener to pay attention to what he is playing, and his solo is slightly more lyrical than Coltrane's, who I have to say, finds his modal voice on Kind of Blue.
This album may not be as lyrical or profound as Kind of Blue, but amidst all the recycled babble and attempts to explain Kind of Blue's genius, Milestones still stands the test of time, and benefits from being so unscathed.
I enjoy listening to this record more than Kind of Blue, which is simply a small matter of preference for that is all basically what musical criticism is about at the end of the day (unless you're employed by a firm to write). This record in its own right, is a tour de force, an example of true virtuosity, not just showboating, pretentious jazz, but also a fine portrait of what happens when some of the best musicians come into the studio and just play their arses off. Highly recommended.