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Davis' Classic 60s Quintet,
This review is from: Miles Smiles (Audio CD)
Recorded in October 1966, Miles Smiles features the second incarnation of the Miles Davis Quintet, which, in addition to Davis, featured Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums). This version of the quintet, which initially featured George Coleman on sax, followed Davis' classic 1950s quintet with John Coltrane and pre-dated his move to his 'electric period', which is generally regarded as having started with the classic album In A Silent Way, recorded in 1969.
Miles Smiles actually starts in relatively low-key mode with the Wayne Shorter composition Orbits (most notable for a great Davis solo) followed by Davis' own composition Circle, which, whilst containing some nice muted playing from Miles and some dextrous ivory tinkling from Hancock, is also, for me, a fairly middling composition.
It is not until we reach track three that the album really takes off with Shorter's superb (and renowned) composition Footsteps. This ten-minute masterpiece is somewhat reminiscent of the Davis classic All Blues, as Ron Carter's bass lays down the track's motif, over which both Davis and Shorter excel with outstanding solos. Of course, Footsteps was originally recorded a few months earlier in 1966 by Shorter with his own band (also featuring Hancock) and included on his Adam's Apple album (released the same year). Next follows the equally impressive Shorter composition Dolores, which, as well as virtuoso soloing from the two horns, also contains some superb playing from Hancock - Dolores is actually one of the three tracks on the album, along with Orbits and Gingerbread Boy, on which Hancock only played right-hand chords - these jazz players!
The final two compositions are non-band written tunes - both outstanding. The first, Freedom Jazz Dance was written by prolific Chicago-born tenor sax player Eddie Harris, and contains a brilliant and quirky motif, repeated in unison by the horns, followed by some top soloing. The final track on the album is the up-tempo Jimmy Heath composition Gingerbread Boy, which is where the band really do cook, probably more so than anywhere else on the album, with Tony Williams excelling on the kit, and Shorter soloing extravagantly.
An essential recording from one of Miles' most important periods.