This is one of four albums recorded in a remarkable two day session when Miles was working to finish a contract with Impulse records so that he could start a more lucrative deal with Columbia. He had four discs left to make, so he simply took his band into the studio and recorded non-stop.
This description may make the results seem underwhelming, but one or two caveats should be made: firstly, the band ought to be described. This was the first of Miles' two great quintets, featuring John Coltrane on tenor, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. It is perhaps no exaggeration that Coltrane, Chambers and Jones were each the finest performers on their respective instruments, and Garland was himself a very very talented musician indeed.
And the nature of the session left its mark on the performances. Whereas Miles' later albums would each bear the mark of a distinct artistic project, these were as close as it is possible to get to "live" studio performances of the repertoire that this group played day in, day out. As a result there may be less sense of breaking new ground, there is a terrific sense of five men working in absolute harmony with one another, interacting on a level that defies rational explanation. The playing is quite simply phenomenal, from the swinging opening number through to the headlong drive of "Oleo" and the charming "It Could Happen To You".
This is an album that every lover of music should own. Fans of jazz music must have a remarkable document in the history of a one of the greatest groups in the history of the genre. Everyone else will be getting a disc of wonderful, exciting, thrillingly played music that represents a true genius at work. To coin a phrase from M&S, this is more than just jazz music: this is a masterpiece.