Miles Dewey Davis III (May 26, 1926 – September 28, 1991) was an American trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th-century music. Davis adopted a variety of musical directions in a five-decade career that kept him at the forefront of many major stylistic developments in jazz.
Born in Alton, Illinois, and raised in East St. Louis, Davis left to study at Juilliard in New York City, before dropping out and making his professional debut as a member of saxophonist Charlie Parker’s bebop quintet from 1944 to 1948. Shortly after, he recorded the Birth of the Cool sessions for Capitol Records, which were instrumental to the development of cool jazz. In the early 1950s, Miles Davis recorded some of the earliest hard bop music while on Prestige Records but did so haphazardly due to a heroin addiction.
After a widely acclaimed comeback performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, he signed a long-term contract with Columbia Records and recorded the 1957 album ‘Round About Midnight. It was his first work with saxophonist John Coltrane and bassist Paul Chambers, key members of the sextet he led into the early 1960s. During this period, he alternated between orchestral jazz collaborations with arranger Gil Evans, such as the Spanish music-influenced Sketches of Spain (1960), and band recordings, such as Milestones (1958) and Kind of Blue (1959). The latter recording remains one of the most popular jazz albums of all time, having sold over five million copies in the U.S.
Davis made several lineup changes while recording Someday My Prince Will Come (1961), his 1961 Blackhawk concerts, and Seven Steps to Heaven (1963), another mainstream success that introduced bassist Ron Carter, pianist Herbie Hancock, and drummer Tony Williams. After adding saxophonist Wayne Shorter to his new quintet in 1964, Davis led them on a series of more abstract recordings often composed by the band members, helping pioneer the post-bop genre with albums such as E.S.P (1965) and Miles Smiles (1967), before transitioning into his electric period. During the 1970s, he experimented with rock, funk, African rhythms, emerging electronic music technology, and an ever-changing line-up of musicians, including keyboardist Joe Zawinul, drummer Al Foster, and guitarist John McLaughlin. This period, beginning with Davis’s 1969 studio album In a Silent Way and concluding with the 1975 concert recording Agharta, was the most controversial in his career, alienating and challenging many in jazz. His million-selling 1970 record Bitches Brew helped spark a resurgence in the genre’s commercial popularity with jazz fusion as the decade progressed.
After a five-year retirement due to poor health, Davis resumed his career in the 1980s, employing younger musicians and pop sounds on albums such as The Man with the Horn (1981) and Tutu (1986). Critics were often unreceptive but the decade garnered Davis his highest level of commercial recognition. He performed sold-out concerts worldwide, while branching out into visual arts, film, and television work, before his death in 1991 from the combined effects of a stroke, pneumonia and respiratory failure. In 2006, Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which recognized him as “one of the key figures in the history of jazz”. Rolling Stone described him as “the most revered jazz trumpeter of all time, not to mention one of the most important musicians of the 20th century,” while Gerald Early called him inarguably one of the most influential and innovative musicians of that period.
Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet is a studio album by the Miles Davis quintet recorded in 1956 and released circa January 1960. Two sessions on May 11, 1956 and October 26 in the same year resulted in four albums—this one, Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet, Steamin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet and Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet.
Track 2 is a composition written for Davis by Eddie Vinson (see Blue Haze for more details). “Trane’s Blues” (also known as “Vierd Blues”, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Blue Note founder Francis Wolff’s heavily accented verdict on it), also credited to Davis, is in fact a John Coltrane composition (originally titled “John Paul Jones”, and from an earlier session led by bassist Paul Chambers; before the closing statement of theme, Coltrane and Davis play a bit of Charlie Parker’s “The Hymn”).
As his star rose in 1955, Davis formed a new quintet, featuring saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. In order to fulfill contractual obligations, he recorded lengthy, spontaneous songs with the quintet, which were released over four albums—Workin’, Cookin’, Relaxin’, and Steamin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet. (wikipedia)
Workin’ is the third in a series of four featuring the classic Miles Davis Quintet: Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Red Garland (piano), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). Like its predecessors Cookin’ and Relaxin’, Workin’ is the product of not one — as mythology would claim — but two massively productive recording sessions in May and October of 1956, respectively. Contradicting the standard methodology of preparing fresh material for upcoming albums, Davis and company used their far more intimate knowledge of the tunes the quintet was performing live to inform their studio recordings. As was often the case with Davis, the antithesis of the norm is the rule. Armed with some staggering original compositions, pop standards, show tunes, and the occasional jazz cover, Workin’ is the quintessence of group participation. Davis, as well as Coltrane, actually contributes compositions as well as mesmerizing performances to the album. The band’s interaction on “Four” extends the assertion that suggests this quintet plays with the consistency of a single, albeit ten-armed, musician.
One needs listen no further than the stream of solos from Davis, Coltrane, Garland, and Jones, with Paul Chambers chasing along with his rhythmic metronome. Beneath the smoldering bop of “Trane’s Blues” are some challenging chord progressions that are tossed from musician to musician with deceptive ease. Chambers’ solo stands as one of his defining contributions to this band. In sly acknowledgment to the live shows from which these studio recording sessions were inspired, Davis concludes both sets (read: album sides) with “The Theme” — a brief and mostly improvised tune — indicating to patrons that the tab must be settled. In this case, settling the tab might include checking out Steamin’, the final Miles Davis Quintet recording to have been culled from these historic sessions. (by Lindsay Planer)
Paul Chambers (bass, cello)
John Coltrane (saxophone)
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Red Garland (piano)
Philly Joe Jones (drums)
The rare Esquire edition:
01. It Never Entered My Mind (Rodgers) 5.27
02. Four (Vinson) 7.15
03. In Your Own Sweet Way (Brubeck) 5.45
04. The Theme (take 1) (Davis) 2.01
05. Trane’s Blues (a.k.a. “Vierd Blues”) (Coltrane) 8.35
06. Ahmad’s Blues (Jamal) 7.26
07. Half Nelson (Davis) 4.48
08. The Theme (take 2) (Davis) 1.05
Blue Note Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (December 8, 1956; excellent braodcast recording; same line up):
09. Tune Up (Davis) 4.22
10. Walkin’ (Carpenter)