Few musicians have managed to change the course of music--trumpeter Miles Davis did it several times. An early disciple of Charlie Parker, Davis created an austere, understated approach that became the model for cool. His superb albums in the 1950s made him a star, and in the following decade, he brought small-group jazz to the limit before he unapologetically (and, for some, unforgivably) took on jazz-rock. After a break, he re-emerged in the '80s with a mixture of pop and dense, bristling funk. All the while, his refusal to follow anyone but his own muse made him both a hero and an enigma--either way, he was one of the most magnetic, influential figures in American music.
These 1957 recordings were the first of Miles Davis's collaborations with arranger Gil Evans for Columbia, renewing a relationship that had begun with the Birth of the Cool sessions in 1949. It was perhaps the most important relationship ever forged between a jazz soloist and an arranger, for Evans excelled at finding fresh material (like Delibes's "The Maids of Cadiz") and then adding subtle voicings and blending unusual instruments to highlight Davis's central voice. Everything Evans does enhances the trumpeter's keen sense of space and his evocative sound. He could construct complex arrangements and make them fly (as on the opening "Springsville," by John Carisi), contrast Davis's voice with tuba or bass clarinet, or create the longing, Spanish-inflected "Blues for Pablo," a precursor to their later Sketches of Spain. --Stuart Broomer
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