Throughout his long career legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, never content to keep to the old script, has always been ready to explore new ideas. Critics and fans have not always been happy to go along with him, but that has never stopped him from going his own way. So when you talk about the best of Miles Davis, the first thing you have to consider is which Miles Davis do you mean: bebopper, cool, hard bopper, electric, fusion. There are as many bests as there are Davises.
The nice thing about Prestige's new release of The Very Best of the Miles Davis Quintet is that it makes crystal clear just exactly which Miles Davis we are going to hear. This is the Miles of the middle '50s, the period that is always referred to as being of the first great quintet. And who would argue with that? Joining Miles, there's John Coltrane on the tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums—as fine an ensemble as was around at the time, maybe any time.
The album collects ten pieces from six albums—some as legendary as the performers—recorded with one exception in 1956 for the Prestige label. The opening track, Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me," was recorded in '55 for Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet. The other nine were recorded over two days to meet the trumpeter's contractual obligation to Prestige before he moved over to the major leagues—Columbia Records. Prestige went on to release tracks from the sessions though the next few years under the titles Workin', Relaxin', Steamin' and Cookin', all of course billed as "with the Miles Davis Quintet."