Thursday, May 7, 2009

Miles David All-Stars: 1958-59 Broadcast Sessions

Acrobat Music
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.7.09
Buy CD: 1958-59 Broadcast Sessions

This, another of the Acrobat Music albums of “never before released” sessions by various jazz icons, focuses on Miles Davis.

The time period is 1958 and '59; the medium is broadcast radio. The venues include the Café Bohemia and Birdland, both in New York City; the Spotlight Lounge in Washington, D.C.; and the Mosque Theater in Newark, N.J.

Those were the days when jazz was at its peak, and live radio broadcasts were common from the clubs and theaters that featured the famous artists of the period.

Davis, born in 1926, was playing in name bands by the time he was 15. He met and began working with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in the mid-'40s; by 1949, he had fallen prey to heroin ... no surprise, since Parker also was an addict. Unlike Parker, though, Davis decided to break the habit; he returned to his family home in 1953 and battled his way off heroin.

He didn't return to New York until after the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, when he was certain he had well and truly defeated the habit.

The Bohemia tracks feature Davis, John Coltrane (tenor sax), Bill Evans (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and “Philly” Joe Jones (drums). By the Spotlight Lounge gig, six months later, Cannonball Adderley had been added on alto sax, Red Garland had replaced Bill Evans on piano, and Jimmy Cobb was the drummer.

Later that month, a “jazz party” was featured at the Mosque Theater; it included Davis, Adderley and his brother Nat (on clarinet), Bennie Green (trombone), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax), Red Garland (piano) and Barry Miles (drums). Two months later, at Birdland, Wynton Kelly was the pianist.

All these units featured Davis at his best: when he was drug-free, at his most innovative, and before he began drinking to excess.

The musical content of these sessions is exceptional; only the audio fidelity is lacking. Those of us who grew up during that period, before hi-fi systems became affordable, remember the limitations of monaural radio 'casts.

The digital re-mastering done here probably is the best that can by expected, and only this compromised audio quality prevents the album from receiving a 5-star rating. For those who appreciate the artistry that Davis brought to jazz, this release is an essential part of one's musical library.

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