Recorded in 1958, nearly 10 years after Miles Davis laid down the foundations of his cool jazz style with the `Birth of the Cool' sessions, this is almost a masterpiece form the great man. Over the preceding years he had continued to evolve the style and build a group of musicians around his that really understood and could work with his musical vision. And for this recording it all started to gel beautifully into some really fine recordings.
The players were at this time a sextet, consisting of Miles (trumpet), Nat Adderly (alto sax), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (double bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Even the uninitiated will recognise some huge jazz figures in that list, especially saxophonists Adderly and Coltrane. The wealth of talent in these recordings is breathtaking!
Miles at this time was moving forward again, starting to explore a more modal approach to the music. Using simple melodies as the backbone, the band members go off into complex solos, bouncing off each other in an amazing demonstration of interplay and group dynamic. Anchored in the rhythm section of Chambers and Jones, some exhilarating pieces were the result. Miles' playing is at its lyrical, cool best, as he soars off into the blue yonder, literally miles ahead of the rest.
It's not all great. The best tracks are the relaxed tempo ones such as the superb rendering of Thelonious Monk's `Straight No Chaser', or `Milestones'. There are a couple of uptempo tracks which seem to unsettle the group, disturb the relaxed atmosphere, and feel a little forced as opposed to the very natural, organic feel of the truly great numbers.
This is a fine remastering of the album, with a sound that is clear and fresh on my stereo, and all the contributions of each musician come through with clarity. There are three bonus tracks, which are alternate takes of tracks already on the album. I'll admit that these do nothing much for me, they're not different enough to demonstrate the evolution of the music so there is nothing much of interest in them. It's a pity there were no left over tracks that didn't make it onto the original album.
All in all 4 stars. Even better was to come a year (and three albums) later, `Kind Of Blue'...
If Milestones is one of Miles's great albums, meriting a 5-star rating, I think it's mainly on the strength of its three best tracks: "Milestones", "Straight No Chaser" and "Sid's Ahead". For me, the three less impressive tracks are the ones at the fastest tempos. "Billy Boy" is a feature for the rhythm section as a piano trio, therefore mainly for pianist Red Garland. Unfortunately, although a technically accomplished player and possibly highly regarded by many listeners, he always seemed to me a lightweight soloist; and since the piece is a corny arrangement of a very trite tune it's no surprise if it fails to improve with repeated listening, despite the brilliance of Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones which gives the piece its vitality. "Two Bass Hit" may have been an entertaining novelty number in the heyday of be-bop but it's hardly one of John Lewis's best compositions. Miles doesn't solo on this one, so it's mainly a feature for Coltrane's and Adderley's fast playing. If you like that sort of thing, there's more of it on "Dr Jackle", another rather uninteresting boppish theme. Coltrane and Adderley demonstrate their skill at playing lots of notes per minute. Miles shows how fewer notes can be used to greater effect ("less is more"), giving the impression that he is playing on top of the tempo rather than racing to keep up with it.
"Milestones" (a.k.a. "Miles") is better. Like most of the material on Miles's 'Kind of Blue' album it's a simply constructed but interesting modal theme which challenges the soloists and inspires them to some carefully thought out solos. Even better in my opinion is the group's version of Thelonius Monk's up-tempo blues, "Straight No Chaser". Like "Milestones" (though it's a different kind of piece) it's an interesting composition in its own right, ingeniously constructed out of a simple motif. With its strong harmonic foundation and bouncing swing it brings out the best in Coltrane and Adderley, as in Miles himself who plays with elegance as well as 'bite'. "Sid's Ahead" is another 12-bar blues, this one at a moderate 'walking' pace - a type of piece and a tempo which suited Miles and inspired some of his best improvising (try "Walkin' " and "Bags' Groove" from 1954 and "All Blues" and "Freddie Freeloader" on 'Kind of Blue').
If you like Coltrane's and Adderley's playing of this vintage (before Trane went 'avant garde' and Cannonball went commercial) you will probably want this album if you don't already have it. If you like Garland's piano playing you will enjoy "Billy Boy" more than I do. I respect his technical skill, but I never hear any kind of 'depth' in anything he played. I've known people to feel the same about 'Cannonball' Adderley. Miles in his solos never plays less than well and there is some of his best work on what I've identified as the three best tracks. Paul Chambers is superb as usual. Philly Joe Jones is magnificent and, for aficionados of modern jazz drumming, he may well be the real star of the session.
The bonus 'alternate takes' of "Milestones" and "Straight No Chaser" are worth having. You might think the 'alternate take' of "Two Bass Hit" is worth having too. If you like that sort of thing.
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.
As cool, meditative and relaxed and thoughtful is 'Kind of Blue','Milestones' taken in the round is a much more direct,high energy affair. In fact coming to this album from 'Kind of Blue' might for some listeners be a bit of a shock.'Milesstones' has a raw energy and directness that at first listening is almost overpowering,almost as if this were a recording of a live set and the band were on particularly hot form. Tunes for example like 'Dr Jekyll' see Miles roaring around at an uncharacteristically alarming pace,setting up Adderley and Coltrane to trade solo's are breathtaking in their musicality and athleticism make for a exhilarating timer for the listener.The general rule for this recording seems to be - state the melody and return to it at the pieces conclusion, enter the soloist and then allow the band to participate as taste requires. Given the line -up such a simple formula allows for the participants space enough to explore ideas and challenge each other to greater and greater heights of endeavor.The result is a music characterized by great band interplay,a sense of freedom and excitement allied to real depth of expression.
With 'Milestones' you can hear that Davis starting to put together the modal agenda that would find it's full blossoming in great albums like 'ESP' and 'Filles de Kilimanjaro'. The beautifully blusey 'Sid's Ahead',one of the albums many highlights show the band could play it slow and with feeling or as in the case with the closing track, 'Two Bass Hit' simply explode. The reason perhaps that 'Milestones' doesn't receive all the attention that it should is that it demands more of the listener then say 'Kind of Blue'-for some ears,the music might be a little acerbic and energetic then they might be happy to live with. For my money though,'Milestones' is as good an album as Miles ever put out,now that's saying something!Fave track? 'Straight,No Chaser'.
This is a staggering album... The title tune "Milestones" is now a classic. The theme is fascinating not for what is played but for what is implied. You hear yourself singing harmonies all around those that you actually hear. And the rhythm section is just rocking; Philly Joe's drumming is dense with swirling cymbals and rapid-fire rolls, his excitement and passion overpowering. And then, Cannonball Adderley at his most joyous, breaks in with a solo that almost on its own takes the jazz soloing of the era into a whole new expressive dimension. One hearing of this massive record and it feels like you've known it all your life.
This was a sentimental replacement for a vinyl I'd had since my early 20's. I was a post war boom baby. I loved it then, and it still is a very good introduction to modern jazz (of the day!), as I had been brought up on New Orleans and Skiffle by my brother, and my real love is classical music. The rhythms are good and varied, there are tunes! and emotions come through in several places. My only complaint is that it could be longer in spite of the extra tracks.
In general I prefer the laid back , emotion ballards that Miles Davis does. But "Milestones" blew me away. Although its a completely different sound I see it as "Kind of blue's" equal. This is the best up tempo bebop record I have heard. Fantastic stuff!!!