Relaxin' features the Miles Davis Quintet in a pair of legendary recording dates -- from May and October of 1956 -- which would generate enough music to produce four separate long-players: Cookin', Relaxin', Workin', and Steamin'. Each of these is considered not only to be among the pinnacle of Davis' work, but of the entire bop subgenre as well.
As with the other titles, Relaxin' contains a variety of material which the band had concurrently been performing in their concert appearances. In a brilliant stroke of time conservation, the scheme was hatched for the quintet -- who includes: Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Philly Joe Jones (drums), and Red Garland (piano) -- to perform the equivalent of their live repertoire in the studio for eventual release.
The results are consistently superior both in terms of song selection as well as performance. The solid nature of the unit as a singular musical force is immediately apparent. "If I Were a Bell" -- from the play Guys and Dolls -- includes some remarkable soloing via Coltrane and Garland. Davis' solos are additionally impressive, as they're derived from the same four-note motive as the melody. Hearing the many variations that he comes up with throughout the song conveys how intrigued Davis must have been by the tune, as it stayed in his performance repertoire for decades. Tracks such as "You're My Everything" and "Oleo" highlight the synchronic nature of Davis and Coltrane as they carry each other's melodies while trading off solos. The steady syncopation of Philly Joe Jones keeps the rhythms tight and the delicate interplay all the more conspicuous.
Relaxin' offers something for every degree of jazz enthusiast. Likewise, the quintet's recordings provide a tremendous introduction for the curious jazz consumer. A solid find or a serious jazz library.
1 If I Were a Bell
2 You're My Everything
3 I Could Write a Book
5 It Could Happen to You
6 Woody 'N You
Miles Davis - Trumpet
John Coltrane - Tenor Sax
Red Garland - Piano
Paul Chambers - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums
Indepth liner notes by Ira Gitler
Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder.
Recorded on the Prestige Label. This is a later issue and is catalog number P-7129.
Perfect is hard to define in jazz. In the traditional sense, "perfect" would mean without mistakes, but that denies the human element at the core of this music. What is perfect in jazz is when you sit and listen to Miles or Coltrane play something that is entirely them, and you could never think of any other way they should have played what they just did. "Kind of Blue" is one of those albums, when everything lines up and the creation is natural and beautiful. This album, recorded three years earlier, is another.
Miles hauled his band into the studio for Prestige records to fulfill the rest of his contract, and he cut four albums with two marathon recording sessions loosely constructed of standards. Miles didn't bother with many takes of the same tune and that is what makes his recordings almost as spontaneous as his live performances. This album is one result of those two sessions, and it's probably the strongest of the four albums. The tunes featured are very nice vehicles for incredibly melodic, tasteful playing by the entire group. That group, by the way, is known as the first great quintet, made up of Miles, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. While I'm not a big fan of Red Garland (I'm a piano player myself) I do appreciate his sense of swing and his taste and it's in evidence here. Trane was just getting his bearings and is still a little rough but he manages to put out some incredible ideas. The rhythm section holds down the groove really well. Then there's Miles, who is relaxed (mostly muted) and as melodic as any of his recordings. I listen to this album and, cliche as it may sound, all of my anxieties just melt away. My favorite tune on here is "If I Were A Bell," one Miles would continue to play brilliantly for years but he would never match the softly swinging vibe he created with it here. Tempos vary on this album but nothing is supercharged or blazingly fast, hence the title. The complete picture is one of spontaneous creation of beautiful music, the epitome of playing inside the form while still being creative and just swinging hard.
In terms of accessibility, the only sticky wicket is the playing of Coltrane. Non-jazz listeners looking for classy background music for a dinner party will find his tone abrasive and his budding "sheets of sound" to be quite odd. But serious listeners will be able to appreciate what he was reaching for (he hadn't yet found it all the way) and be fascinated by this stage of his development. The rest of the group is very in the pocket while still being interesting, so there's nothing too outlandish about this music. I can safely recommend it to anyone who appreciates the beauty of simplicity and space in music. Just be sure you really listen closely to pick up on the subtleties. Jazz like this will not demand your attention, but once you give it, it is some of the most rewarding music out there.
The vinyl plays completely, very, very low surface noise. Jacket is in new condition, zero edge wear, no split seams, no bar code.
Will come with clear jacket protector as well as a Mo-Fi Inner Sleeve.
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