This album is one I loved, ignored, and came back to again in the last few years. This album is from the Miles Davis Quintet and is titled Relaxin. This is a very well-known album in the Miles Davis discography as it’s one of the many albums he recorded in a short period of time in 1956. The stories that come from these albums are legendary. You hear things such as the vibing Davis does on the album stating “I’ll play it and tell you what it is later” the sound engineer before playing “If I were a bell”. You also here rumors such as Davis just released all these albums quickly so he can get out of his record contract and sign with Columbia. In any event this album along with the others recorded during this time demonstrate the greatness of this quintet. The line up is stellar Miles Davis on trumpet, Philly Joe Jones on drums, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Coltrane on sax. Despite the speed the albums were recorded in they have stood the test of time, are enjoyable to listen to, and an excellent example of jazz standards still played today.
The album begins with Miles Davis famously stating “I’ll play it and tell you what it is later” before playing “If I were a bell”. The song officially begins Miles counting the band in as the intro begins. The intro is now a standard intro to play on “If I were a bell”. Following the head Miles solos first and plays a great solo using only a few select notes. It’s really impressive to hear how much he can get out of just a few notes some rhythmic variation. Coltrane solos next and arrives like a cannon just barreling down. This is classic Coltrane lots of energy, playing very aggressively, and actually using some space in between ideas. Garland solos next and puts his own signature style to the tune. He plays with such grace and elegance as his eight note runs just flow so smoothly throughout his playing. Garland near the end of his solo also plays some open voicings and hints at the melody before Davis actually goes back into the head and concludes the tune.
As with many of my other review I will emphasize on a few select tracks. “You’re my everything” is a great recording with vibing again by Miles Davis at the start. You also hear Garland trying multiple ways to begin a song. This tune is also valuable for listening to Chambers soloing and Coltrane as well. People tend to forget Coltrane is great on ballads. “If I could write a book” is a change of pace as the tempo is picked up and adds some variety to this album. Both great tunes that deserve attention, but today I will move on and give more focus on “Oleo”.
“Oleo” is a song composed by Sonny Rollins and is the fourth track on this album. I love this version for several reasons. The tempo is just burning, the melody is played perfectly, and the solos are great example of how to solo on a rhythm changes tune. Miles solos using space and kind of calms down all the madness going on. Coltrane uses advantage of the speed and just runs right along. When Garland solos the band quiets down and allows Garland to express himself without having to necessarily get louder just to be heard. Chambers should also not be ignored on this recording. He is just shredding those bass lines at blazing speed so effortlessly. It sounds fast, but clean which is the mark of a great musician. They come back to the head and conclude the tune.
“It could happen to you” is next followed by “Woody’ N You”. Garland begins “Wooody’ N You” with a block chord intro. Coltrane and Davis play together the melody in unison adding power to the beginning. Miles then plays alone and they come back together once again. Miles begins the solos and I must say he plays a lot faster on this solo. It’s much busier than his other solos on this album. Still not crazy or anything, but faster than the usual Miles Davis solo. Coltrane plays with his usual power just dominating the progression. I know it’s a popular opinion, but seriously, such a joy to hear him solo. There is also a brief drum solo on this tune which is nice since this album has not as much of that as I personally would like.
This album is one I immediately loved a couple of years back and kind of lost touch with until recently. I listened to this album a few times in my car and I don’t know, I wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t find t to be bad, but it wasn’t connecting with me. After listening to it again in my headphones I fell in love again with this album. Not sure why this was, but I found it interesting and will be something I will pay attention to in the future. Overall, this is an interesting album with a multitude of jazz standards to listen to, enjoy, and for aspiring musicians to study.