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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


Original recordings 1949-1953




  1. Venus De Milo
  2. Rouge
  3. Boplicity
  4. Israel
  5. Deception
  6. Rocker
  7. Moon dreams
  8. Darn That dream
  9. Donna
  10. Dear Old Stockholm
  11. Chance It
  12. Woody’n You
  13. Yesterdays
  14. How Deep is the Ocean
  15. Tasty Pudding
  16. Willie the Wailer
  17. For Adults Only
  18. Floppy

Tracks 1-4
Miles Davis & His Orchestra

Davis – Trumpet
J J Johnson – Trombone
Sandy Siegelson – Flugel
Bill Barber – Tuba
Lee Konitz – Alto
Gerry Mulligan – Baritone
John Lewis – Piano
Nelson Boyd – Bass
Kenny Clarke – Drums
Tracks 5 – 8
Davis – Trumpet
J J Johnson – Trombone
Gunther Schuller – Flugel
Bill Barber – tuba
Lee Konitz – Alto
Gerry Mulligan – Baritone
Al McKibbon – Bass
Max Roach – Drums
Tracks 9-12
Miles Davis All Stars

Davis – Trumpet
J J Johnson – Trombone
Jackie McLean – Alto
Gil Coggins – Piano
Oscar Pettiford – Bass
Kenny Clarke – Drums
Tracks 13,14
Davis – Trumpet
Coggins – Piano
Oscar Pettiford – Bass
Clarke – Drums
Tracks 15 – 18
Davis – Trumpet
Sonny Truitt – Trombone (18 only)
AL Cohn – Tenor
Zoot Sims – Tenor
John Lewis – Piano
Leonard Gaskin – Bass
Kenny Clarke – Drums

These tracks recorded between 1949 and 1953 are some of the most influential in the history of jazz. Although the sleeve refers to Miles Davis and His Orchestra, it also mentions in an interesting text, by Scott Yanow, that this band was in fact the Miles Davis Nonet, which so influenced the future of jazz. The music of the West Coast, made hugely popular by Shorty Rogers and the Giants, has its roots and ensemble sound in these recordings.

Miles Davis set out to be a second Dizzy Gillespie, but when he realised that he could not succeed in that style, he developed a style of his own playing a lot fewer notes, but with a vibrato less tone. This approach stayed with him for the rest of his life. As he journeyed through ‘hard bop’, ‘jazz rock’, ‘electronic jazz’ and even ‘pop’ at the end of his career. His own style remained the same.

It is difficult to say who had the greatest influence on these sessions, was it Miles himself, or was it the arranging skills of Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans? Strangely the band was only together for a few months in 1949 and only ever played one public performance at the Royal Roost in 1948.

The personnel mostly became famous jazzmen in their own right, Gerry Mulligan heard here at the start of his career, had already developed an individual tone and a unique style on the baritone saxophone. He was a giant of jazz who continued to play and arrange for all kinds of ensemble from Quartet to Big Band. Gerry was at home in the company of any outstanding jazz musicians, as his diverse discography shows.

Lee Konitz plays some excellent solos on some of the tracks, his distinctive sound being always immediately identifiable, as it was when he was with the Stan Kenton Band. J J Johnson was the ‘King’ of the bebop trombone; he too has an amazing legacy of music including the Kai & Jay Band with Kai Winding. Kenny Clarke was the Grandfather of modern jazz drummers; his influence on those who followed was immense. Pianist John Lewis was a founder member and leader of the very successful Modern Jazz Quartet. It is interesting that they should have all come together and produced such memorable music when so young.

The opening track is a classic Gerry Mulligan composition, which he continued to use when he wrote the library for his delightful Concert Band. Rouge is a cheery John Lewis composition. Moon Dreams is a piece of Gil Evans work, atmospheric and haunting to which the trumpet of Miles and the alto of Konitz add much. Deception is a Davis composition, it has a tricky arrangement, but the band swings despite that and Davis plays an excellent solo, probably his best on the album.

Tracks 9 to 14 are really nothing to do with tracks 1 to 8, they were recorded 2 years later with a different kind of band. The presence of Jackie McClean on alto makes them interesting however.

The last four tracks were recorded in 1953, all the tunes were written and arranged by Al Cohn and they feature him on tenor, together with Zoot Sims. Two of my favourite tenor players playing Al Cohn arrangements, with Miles in the front line should have been a dream. Somehow it doesn’t quite work.

No serious jazz record collector should not take the opportunity to buy this record, tracks 1 to 8 changed jazz ensemble playing for ever and created the ‘West Coast’ style.


Don Mather


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