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Miles Davis and the Jazz Giants

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Album Review

Miles Davis and the Jazz Giants should not be confused with another Prestige release titled Miles Davis & the Modern Jazz Giants (Prestige 7150/OJC 347), although both are owned by Fantasy. While the main focus of Miles Davis & the Modern Jazz Giants is a December 24, 1954, session featuring Thelonious Monk and Milt Jackson, this 68-minute CD is really a best-of and spans 1951-1956. Miles Davis and the Jazz Giants, which Prestige/Fantasy assembled in 1986, spotlights some of the trumpeter's bop-oriented encounters with fellow jazz heavyweights — and those heavyweights range from J.J. Johnson, Horace Silver, and Lucky Thompson on "Walkin'" in 1954 to Sonny Rollins, Jackie McLean, and Art Blakey on "Dig" in 1951. While "Dig" is the collection's oldest recording, the most recent is a 1956 performance of "Vierd Blues" that features Rollins and pianist Tommy Flanagan. And "The Serpent's Tooth" is from a 1953 session that finds Rollins and Charlie Parker taking a two-tenor approach. Bird, of course, was primarily an alto saxophonist, but "The Serpent's Tooth" demonstrates that he could also be quite appealing on tenor. Some jazz enthusiasts will no doubt wonder why John Coltrane is absent from this collection — after all, he was most definitely a jazz giant. But Coltrane's absence was not an oversight on Fantasy's part; this disc is meant to spotlight all-star encounters that took place outside of a regular working group — after all, Davis' legendary 1955-1957 quintet with Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones was a regular working group while it lasted. But even without Coltrane, this collection is excellent — and it is among the five-star CDs that novices are urged to acquire if they are starting to explore Davis' Prestige output of the '50s.


Born: 26 May 1926 in Alton, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Throughout a professional career lasting 50 years, Miles Davis played the trumpet in a lyrical, introspective, and melodic style, often employing a stemless Harmon mute to make his sound more personal and intimate. But if his approach to his instrument was constant, his approach to jazz was dazzlingly protean. To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-'40s to the early '90s, since he was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the...
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