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Music Review: Miles Davis featuring Sonny Rollins – Dig

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There has been over 200 studio, live, and compilation albums by Miles Davis, 1926-1991, and that is a lot of music.

The Concord Music Group has been reissuing classic jazz releases through their Original Jazz Classics Remasters series. Miles Davis’ fourth studio release, Dig, has been selected as one of the newest entries in the series.

Dig was first released during 1951 as a ten inch vinyl LP, as mainly classical records were issued in the twelve inch format. The original release contained five tracks but when it was first reissued as a twelve inch LP, two more were added to fill out the album. While this new CD release lists two bonus tracks, they were part of the early reissue.

This was a transition album for Davis. Even at this early point in his career he had already exerted a large influence by being one of the first proponents of the cool jazz school. He began to move away from that sound that was intricate and composed yet left some room for improvisation. He was now moving toward a fifties Be-Bop style.

He surrounded himself with some of the finest musicians in jazz history. Saxophonist Sonny Rollins, alto sax player Jackie McLean, pianist Walter Bishop, bassist Tommy Potter, and drummer Art Blakely all supported the legendary jazz trumpeter.

The real bonus is the enclosed essay by Ira Gitler who wrote the original liner notes for the 1951 release which are also included.

The title track was one of the Davis’ major compositions and performances of his early career. It introduced a new style of jazz music and included solos by Rollins, McLean, and two by Davis. “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” was written by Howard Arlen of “Over The Rainbow” fame. The Nat King Cole Trio recorded the song during the forties and here it completes the movement from The Great American Songbook to classic jazz as Davis’ improvisational lines combine with Rollins melodies.

“Denial” is probably the weakest song if there was one. The solos are excellent in their own right but do not flow into each other. “Bluing” has the first solos by pianist Bishop plus at almost ten minutes has plenty of room for Rollins and Davis as well. “Out Of The Blue” closed the original album with Davis introducing the theme for the others to follow before bringing it to a conclusion.

The final two tracks fit the album well. “My Old Flame” is another old standard by Sam Coslow and Arthur Johnston that Charlie Parker recorded during 1947. Davis uses his interpretation as a launch point and adds some creative improvisations along the way. “Conception” was a George Shearing composition that Davis added a number of interludes at various points.

Many times Dig is forgotten in the vast Miles Davis catalogue. It was an important album both for Davis and for jazz as well as it opened up new possibilities that would be explored by the generation of artists that would follow.

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