Friday, January 02, 2015

The Miles Davis Quintet featuring John Coltrane - All of You: the Last Tour 1960 (Acrobat, 2014)

John Coltrane had already released his masterpiece Giant Steps and was chomping at the bit to go out on the road with his own band by the time his erstwhile employer Miles Davis coerced him to go on one final tour of Europe in the early spring of 1960. It was the swan song of Davis's first "classic quintet" with him on trumpet, Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Paul Chambers on bass, Wynton Kelly on piano and Jimmy Cobb on drums. These discs have been floating around grey market and bootleg circles for years, but this appears to be an official release although one wonders why the Davis estate didn't claim the music for their ongoing bootleg series, but regardless, the music is riveting. Davis is the leader and at the top of his game, but it is Coltrane whose lengthy, searching solos are the main event for me on these records, his solos leaving perplexed audiences in his wake. The concerts included follow much of Davis's usual repertoire from the period,  "So What", "All Blues" and "Walkin'" some highlights of Kind of Blue where Miles plays with the exquisite taste that was his hallmark. He did not allow his bands to reverse, instead wanting them to be fresh on the bandstand, taking chances and allowing the material to be reexamined every night. Many of the tunes are taken at great length, 12-15 minutes, and again forgive me for hammering this home, but John Coltrane is the centerpiece looking at the source material from every conceivable angle from which is might be improvised upon and then building layer upon layer of relentless music. He's not out of control however, he's way out there on "All Blues/The Theme" from Stockholm but his quest is righteous and genuine and this attitude would continue for the remainder of his all too brief life. This is not to short the other members of the band: Kelly's hearty and earthly playing works to keep the band grounded and Chambers and Cobb are wonderfully locked in. Davis is a maestro, allowing his men to play as they wish, but always there for a pithy statement of the melody or solo that is by turns nakedly open or punchy and taught. This is a fascinating release and fans of historical mainstream jazz are well advised to pick it up. It shows two two of the most important figures in jazz history performing for the last time before departing for vastly different paths. All of You: The Last Tour, 1960 - amazon.com

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