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Davis' Humming Sextet,
This review is from: Milestones (Audio CD)
For this groundbreaking 1958 recording Miles Davis reconstituted his great quintet of earlier in the decade (John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones) and, in a stroke of genius, added the alto sax of Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley. Of course, this sextet went on to develop much further the modal playing that Miles initiated on Milestones on the later Kind Of Blue, but it is on Milestones with its predominantly bluesy feel that, for me, Adderley, makes a particularly telling contribution, peppering (in particular) the up-tempo numbers here with some blistering solos.
In fact, Milestones provides some of the most 'humming' renditions you'll ever hear from a Davis band, particularly on up-tempo numbers such as Jackie McLean's Dr Jackle and the John Lewis/Dizzy Gillespie composition, Two Bass Hit. The former of these two features some superb playing from Miles over an irresistibly sparse rhythm, whilst Adderley and Coltrane's traded solos meld into one another until it takes real aural perception to tell them apart. Two Bass Hit is another similarly cooking tune, without quite the seamlessly melded solos from the two saxes, but featuring some particularly impressive playing from Adderley over Miles' closing chord descent.
The album's title tune, of course, features one of jazz's most unmistakeable openings in the horns' staccato playing, as well as showcasing Davis' famously muted (and subtle) horn playing, at times recalling moments from his Milestones collaboration with Gil Evans. Here, both saxes also excel with their own distinctive brands of lyricism. On the catchy tune Billy Boy, Garland's playing is redolent of the number's arranger, Ahmad Jamal, and the piece also features an impressive bowing solo from Chambers along with outstanding playing from Jones (with extensive use of rim shots on his kit). Monk's Straight, No Chaser has a real swinging feel overlaying its infectious melody, and features a particularly dextrous (albeit brief) opening solo from Adderley, whilst Coltrane demonstrates his 'sheets of sound' playing to great effect, in a version that for me surpasses Monk's own. The only slight reservation I have on the album relates to Sid's Ahead, whose extended, slow blues slightly overstays its welcome, but still features some fine, (predominantly) subdued moments from all three horns.
The remastered version of the CD also contains fascinating alternative takes of Two Bass Hit, Milestones and Straight, No Chaser.