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MILES DAVIS QUINTET

All of You: The Last Tour 1960

Acrobat ACQCD 7076

 

 

CD1

1. So What

2. Fran Dance

3. Medley: All Blues/The Theme

4. Interview with John Coltrane by Carl-Eric Lindgren

5. So What

6. On Green Dolphin Street

CD2

1. Medley: Walkin’/The Theme

2. So What

3. On Green Dolphin Street

4. Medley: All Blues/The Theme

5. So What

CD3

1. All Of You

2. So What

3. Round Midnight

4. Walkin’

5. So What

6. If I Were A Bell

7. Fran Dance

CD4

1. So What

2. All Blues

3. The Theme

4. On Green Dolphin Street

5. So What

6. ‘Round Midnight

7. Walkin’

8. The Theme

Miles Davis - Trumpet

John Coltrane - Tenor sax

Wynton Kelly - Piano

Paul Chambers - Bass

Jimmy Cobb - Drums

The recorded output of what eventually became known as the Miles Davis First Great Quintet (1955-58) when it was composed of Miles Davis trumpet, John Coltrane tenor sax, Red Garland piano, Paul Chambers bass and Philly Joe Jones drums, was in essence only seven albums if you count the bootlegAt Peacock Alley. Five of the albums were completed for Prestige Records ( Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet, Steamin’, Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’) and one for Columbia: Round About Midnight. Davis eventually disbanded this group, primarily due to drug problems with Coltrane, Garland and Jones. Coltrane did come back to participate in the seminal Davis recording Kind Of Blue along with pianist Wynton Kelly, drummer Jimmy Cobb and bassist Paul Chambers.

By 1960, with Davis’ success with the album Kind Of Blue, and Coltrane’s own albums’ Blue Train and Giant Steps, Davis was implored by Norman Granz to reconstitute the Quintet for a European Tour under the rubric of Jazz Winners 1960. Davis was happy to use the rhythm section of Kelly, Chambers and Cobb, but was uncertain about re-employing Coltrane given his prior experience with the musician. However with much trepidation he did so because Coltrane was familiar with the material, and was also popular in his own right.

Over the years, there have been recordings of bits and pieces of this tour released on various labels, often with indifferent sound quality. This Acrobat Records release on four CDs changes the landscape with, for the most part a top-notch quality recording (Frankfurt was badly recorded),. The sessions covered start on March 22, 1960, in Stockholm and follow with stops in Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich and end in Scheveningen on April 9, 1960. With the exception of two numbers, All Of You and If I Were A Bell, most of the other compositions are repeated with So What appearing eight times, often with significant iterations on each playing. Therefore it seems to make more sense to look at this release not as discrete CDs, but as one long concert with a re-interpreted playlist.

The touchstone of these discs is the previously mentioned So What that Davis wrote for the Kind Of Blue album. That it could be played with such frequency, but still have a freshness and intensity each time, is a tribute to the musicians. Davis is spectacular, as he attacks his horn in all the registers with inventiveness, ferocity, and confidence. Coltrane, who by this time had moved into a new dimension on his instrument, runs note after note, often with little purpose. On the shorter versions of the tune, those slightly over ten minutes, he is more focused, and avoids some of the excesses exhibited on a couple of the longer efforts, which come in at seventeen minutes or so. What makes this tune hum, as well as all the other numbers is the “too good to be true” rhythm section of Wynton Kelly piano, Paul Chambers bass and Jimmy Cobb drums. They just cook on every tune each time out. Kelly’s bop-oriented single-note lines are brilliant, Chambers has a rock-steady unfaltering beat, and Cobb just flat-out swings and delivers the appropriate punctuation marks to support each soloist.

Of the other tunes that have multiple versions, there are some standouts. The version of On Green Dolphin Street from the Copenhagen concert has Miles on Harmon mute up tight to the microphone and you can hear him virtually squeezing the notes out of his horn, with tasty brushwork from Cobb in the background. Coltrane’s efforts are quite superior here and he stays pretty much in line with the overall theme. When Kelly picks up the piece he works the upper keys of the piano with imagination interspersed with some tricky block chords. Chambers also has some interesting interjections with his arco solo.

All Blues from the initial Stockholm concert is lovingly rendered with Miles opening the theme on muted trumpet, then segueing to open horn with many passages in the upper register. Miles had generally been thought of as a trumpeter who rarely strayed from the middle register, but clearly he could venture further afield if he desired. Coltrane opens his solo in a somewhat desultory fashion but gradually picks up the pace as he roams far and wide over the saxophone. Some of his note selection is annoying and seems to lack purpose, but it is clearly a strong indication where he was going as a soloist. Kelly comes in with style to pick up the line and then sparkles with his note selection perfectly in keeping with the intention of the number.

As for the redoubtable ‘Round Midnight, which was a feature of the Round About Midnight album for Columbia, the offering by the band for this tour is certainly a stripped-down version of the Monk classic. The more interesting interpretation comes from the final concert in Scheveningen with Miles’ oblique opening of the theme on muted trumpet. When Coltrane comes in, Miles uses his open horn to give several high register screams with an uncertain purpose. As Coltrane continues, he is generally subdued for several choruses, and then Davis closes out the tune with some Latin framing which is unusual to say the least.

Given that the tour comprised twenty dates over a two-week period, it should not be surprising that disharmony started early on, especially between Coltrane and Davis. In the very well-constructed and detailed liner notes by Simon Spillett, Davis is reported to have said the following about Coltrane: “He grumbled and complained and sat by himself all the time we were over there”. Jimmy Cobb confirmed similar actions from Coltrane: “He sat next to me on the bus looking like he was ready to split at any time.” Despite this drama, this is a stellar set from all the participants and is an important component of any Miles Davis/John Coltrane collection.

Pierre Giroux




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