It is said that all good things come to an end. One did in the
spring of 1957 when the Miles Davis Quintet was dissolved. I say the Miles
Davis Quintet because in their nearly two years together, Miles, John Coltrane,
Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones achieved a particular kind of
unity. They were not just the Miles Davis Quintet; to me, and many others, they
were the group - the best small combo active in modern jazz.
Not only did they improve as a unit while they were together but
each member benefitted individually from the association. Miles found an
incentive to play again and reached new heights because of the musical
environment he had created in choosing his sidemen. The sidemen, in turn,
flowered in the climate of the Davis latitude. By the beginning of 1957,
Coltrane had broken the shackles of self-doubt and breathed freely into his
singing horn, Garland had recorded successfully as a trio pianist (A Garland of
Red, Prestige LP 7064) and the Chambers-Jones duo was fused into the most
powerful of pulses.
The group attained a wonderful mood whether they were playing My
Funny Valentine or a strenuous swinger like Airegin.
For sheer excitement on the up tempos, due more to a tensile
undercurrent feeling rather than the mere speed, the Davis five was
unsurpassed. I remember one night in the summer of 1956 at the Cafe Bohemia. I
was in the throes of the hay fever miseries and nothing was helping very much.
My nasal passages were completely sealed and I was gasping for breath. Along
came Miles + Co. You may not know it but when you become stimulated and your
adrenal glands go to work, it acts as a wonderful nasal decongestant. Well,
after one set I was breathing freely. After two, I had forgotten that I ever
had hay fever. That is the kind of excitement this group generated.
In mentioning the Bohemia, I am reminded that it was during one of
his stays at that Greenwich Village jazz center that these recordings were
taped. In the two studio sessions that were made in that period, Miles called
tunes just as he would for any number of typical sets at a club
like the Bohemia. There were no second takes. All in all, 24
extended performances were recorded. The rest will be heard in subsequent
In essence, what you are hearing is a portion of the group's
repetoire. Some have been recorded before by Miles but with different
personnel. (The only one duplicated from a previous quintet recording is Just
Squeeze Me, first heard in The New Miles Davis Quintet, Prestige LP 7014). This
is similar to the way bands used to record. I do not refer to the calling of
tunes as in a set but the idea of recording numbers that have been in the book
for awhile, ones with which the musicians are completely at home. I'm sure this
had a lot to do with the great string of records that Count Basie made for
Decca in the Thirties and although a small group has less difficulty in
"shedding" an arrangement, the benefits they reap from experience of playing a
piece on the job for several months prior to recording it, are unmistakable.
Besides Just Squeeze Me, there are two other numbers which Miles
has recorded before. Tune Up can be heard in Blue Haze (Prestige LP 7054) in
the company of John Lewis, Percy Heath and Max Roach; Airegin in 10 inch LP 187
(soon to be re-issued on 12 inch) with Sonny Rollins (its composer), Horace
Silver, Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke.
My Funny Valentine is a premiere recorded performance for Miles
and his original Blues By Five is also new to discs.
This album is called Cookin' at Miles' request. He said, "After
all, that's what we did - came in and cooked."
A good thing may have come to an end but we have the recorded
proof that it was really that good.
notes by IRA GITLER
supervision by Bob Weinstock
recording by Van Gelder