There is great inherent value in any recording of Miles Davis or John Coltrane, that much should go without saying. Culled from several recording dates, Broadcast Sessions 1958-59 features both of those legendary musical pioneers. The ten tracks on this seventy-minute CD, billed as The Miles Davis All-Stars, were originally recorded for radio broadcast. A few tracks even include bits of commentary from the announcers, which are actually fairly obtrusive at times, talking over the music in a couple of places, but it all helps preserve the feel of the original broadcasts.
The first four tracks come from a May 17, 1958 session at Cafe Bohemia. Featured on these (in addition to Davis on trumpet) are Coltrane on tenor sax, Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Among the highlights are "Bye Bye Blackbird," with Davis going way outside during the melody. On "Walkin'," Evans contributes a wonderfully lopsided piano solo. Coltrane is so fired up on "Four" that he doesn't quite end his solo in time, rejoining Davis for the head slightly late. "Two Bass Hit" is mostly a discussion from the announcers, identifying the musicians, while the tune plays for about a minute in the background.
The next three performances were recorded on November 1, 1958 at Washington DC's Spotlight Lounge. The personnel is different, with Red Garland on piano and Jimmy Cobb on drums, not to mention the addition of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley on alto sax. Following Davis' own "Sids Ahead" from his landmark album "Milestones," another version of "Bye Bye Blackbird" is offered. Though I prefer the earlier recording, the contrast between the two is notable. This one is much sprightlier, swinging along without the haunting melancholy of the earlier take. The group starts into "Straight, No Chaser," with another great bass solo from Chambers, but the announcer breaks in after a few minutes to close the program. "Tis indeed a sad thing to interrupt Miles Davis." You can say that again!
Recorded in November, 1958 for Art Ford's Jazz Party, "What Is This Thing Called Love" is interesting for a number of reasons. As explained in the liner notes, Jazz Party was a unique program for its time in that it eschewed rehearsals and set-lists in favor of a free-form jam session atmosphere. The Miles Davis All-Stars have greatly expanded for this performance. Nat Adderley is featured on cornet, Bennie Green on trombone, and Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax. Barry Miles sits in on drums, along with percussionists Chris Nirobe and Candido. I also learned from the liner notes "What Is This Thing Called Love" was never recorded by Davis before or after this session. Clocking in at twelve minutes, it's a long work-out with an emphasis on percussion. In fact, the percussion is almost annoyingly prominent, marring the performance somewhat. Still, this track definitely stands out as a unique curiosity.
The final two tracks were recorded at New York City's famous Birdland club on January 3, 1959. "Bag's Groove" is the highlight, and at fourteen minutes it's also the longest performance on the disc. Cannonball Adderley is absolutely smoking hot for a three-and-a-half minute solo. Everyone in the group is spotlighted, including Wynton Kelly (who replaced Garland on piano). Cole Porter's "All Of You" ends the disc, and is unfortunately incomplete with the announcer breaking in again. Luckily we are still treated to five minutes of music before that happens.
The fact that Acrobat Music has seen fit to keep this music in-print, as part of their on-going reissue series, is a gift to music fans. The audio quality is strong, though as a result of the variety of sources there is some variation. It's all very listenable, with the horns shining through very clearly. Recording dates and personnel are detailed in the informative booklet. A good deal of relevant information is packed into the notes, concentrating on the periods that these recordings were made. Broadcast Sessions 1958-59 is a very worthwhile addition to the Miles Davis discography.