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Rare live recordings give a snapshot of the creativity and talent of Miles Davis combos in the 1958 and early 1959.

Music Review: The Miles Davis All-Stars — Broadcast Sessions 1958-59

"The controversial Miles Davis."

If controversial is used in the sense of ahead of the times, the radio announcer who makes that introduction in May 1958 — and which are the opening sounds on Broadcast Sessions 1958-1959 — clearly had no inkling what was on the horizon.

The Miles Davis All Stars appearing on this collection of music recorded live at clubs for radio and TV broadcasts between May 1958 and January 1959 is close to a who's who of the era's jazz legends. In addition to Davis, others making appearances include saxophonists John Coltrane (who also receives billing on the CD cover) and Cannonball Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummers Philly Joe Jones and Jimmy Cobb.

These artists were on the cusp of greatness, both individually and collectively. In fact, Evans, Coltrane, Chambers, Cobb, Cannonball and pianist Wynton Kelly would join Miles in the studio to create the classic Kind of Blue, released in August 1959.

Although Broadcast Sessions reflects Davis combos between 1958's Milestones, his initial foray into modal jazz, and Kind of Blue, the epitome of modal jazz, the CD doesn't really give broad hints as to the landmark recording it precedes. While we get renditions of three tunes (but not the title cut) from Milestones, what is most exciting about the 10 songs on this release is that they show the artists live, without a studio to do another take. It brings a spontaneity and edge that studio recordings lack.

The innovative ability is seen in the two versions of the standard "Bye Bye Blackbird" that appear on the CD. The first was recorded at New York City's Café Bohemia on May 17, 1958, and broadcast on the Mutual Radio Network. Davis and the almost singular feel he achieves with a mute leads into a solo by Coltrane while the rhythm section tends toward mellow and subdued, a feel most reinforced by Evans both with his opening and his solo.

That stands in sharp contrast to the version recorded on November 1, 1958, at The Spotlite Lounge in Washington, D.C., also for the Mutual Network. Garland sets an up tempo pace with the opening notes and everything is far more high energy and boppier than six months earlier. Whether it is the fact Garland is featured, Cobb has replaced Jones on drums, the mood of the night or a combination of each, it is a soaring rendition.

Equally creative — and even more up tempo — is what Davis and others do with Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love" in a November 1958 recording for the TV Show "Art Ford's Jazz Party." With musicians like Gerry Mulligan and Nat Adderley sitting in for several members of Davis' sextet, this has the feel of a free-flowing jam session. Not only does it have a harder bop edge, it even takes on a slight Latin flavor thanks to percussionists Chris Nirobe and Candido.

Broadcast Sessions is one of several CDs in a Premier Collection reissue series with which UK label Acrobat Music is launching US operations. All the Premier Collection titles are showcased in deluxe packages with unique, consistent packaging, including o-cards and extensive liner notes. Here, the liner notes not only lay out the background of, but help illuminate the exciting live sound of crucial years in the development of modern jazz.

About Tim Gebhart

After 30 years of practicing law to provide shelter for his family, books and dogs. Tim Gebhart is now perfecting the art of doing little more than reading, writing and sleeping.

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