02/16/07
Reviews by - Bob Olsen

This release is an outstanding collection of 5 classic jazz albums that have been transferred from analog to digital by Rudy Van Gelder who was the original recording engineer.  Each album/disc contains the original and new liner notes…some sessions contain alternate take bonus tracks as well.  The transfers are crisp and clean and (in my mind) enhanced by the digital version, revealing some subtle shadings in the interplay of the various instruments.

The discs do not appear to have any thematic connection other than each album seems to be transitional with respect to the artists’ career in some fashion, whether it be Pat Martino’s debut work, El Hombre or Miles Davis emerging from drug problems (that would plague his career) with the brilliant Cookin’ (the 1st of 4 albums to emerge from 2 marathon sessions recorded in 1956.

Each album stands alone as a remarkable achievement in the career of some of Jazz’ greatest artists.  Let’s take a look at each of the albums…in no particular order. 


John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio -- Traneing In

Recorded August 23, 1957.
Personnel:    John Coltrane---Tenor Sax
                        Red Garland---Piano   
                        Paul Chambers---Bass
                        Arthur Taylor---Drums

This album was significant in that it took place halfway through Coltrane’s break with Miles Davis’ Quintet, and it was the same year that Coltrane hooked up with Theolonious Monk to record the recently discovered live Carnegie Hall masterpiece. 
The disc opens with “Traneing In”, a blues by Coltrane with some wonderful solos by Trane, Chambers, and Garland.  “Slow Dance” is a moody ballad  that features a picked bit by Chambers, and some piano before Coltrane closes it out.  Another standout cut is “You Leave Me Breathless”.  Interesting, this was only Coltrane’s second outing as a leader to be issued.  It gives us some glimpses into how Coltrane would continue to push the envelope throughout his career.

Miles Davis Quintet -- Cookin'

Recorded: October 26, 1956.
Personnel:    Miles Davis---Trumpet
                        John Coltrane---Tenor Sax
                        Red Garland---Piano
                        Paul Chambers---Bass
                        Philly Joe Jones---Drums

In Miles’ own words, he called this album “Cookin’” because “…that’s what we did---came in and cooked.”  While the Quintet stayed together less than two years, there was obvious individual and collective growth that came out of the association.  Davis regained an interest in playing after a bout with drug addiction and reached new heights because of the musical environment he created with his sidemen.  The original liner notes by Ira Gitler describe how his nose was unclogged by the excitement of the Quintet when the played at the Bohemia.  It has the first recording of a Davis staple, “My Funny Valentine”.
“Tune Up” has some blistering interplay between Davis and Coltrane and is (probably) the most exciting piece in the entire 5th edition.

Pat Martino -- El Hombre

Recorded: May 1, 1967
Personnel:    Pat Martino---Guitar
                        Trudy Pitts---Organ
                        Danny Turner---Flute
                        Mitch Fine---Drums
                        Abdu Johnson---Conga Drums
                        Vance Anderson---Bongoes

This was Martino’s debut “solo” album and it shows the promise that would cause him to be recognized as one of Jazz’ most original guitarists.  The opening tune “Waltz for Geri” features a relentless, 4-minute guitar solo and highlights his improvisational skills (not to mention intimidating the hack guitarist that I am.  The mid-low range of his guitar is simply beautiful, especially on the stunning ballad, “Song for My Mother”.  The entire album has a soul/jazz groove that has often been copied…but rarely matched.  Great stuff and a must for any guitar player.

Sonny Rollins -- Plus Four

Recorded: March 22, 1956
Personnel:    Sonny Rollins---Tenor Sax
                        Clifford Brown---Trumpet
                        Richie Powell---Piano
                        George Morrow---Bass
                        Max Roach---Drums

These sessions were recorded about 3 months before the release of his most widely-acclaimed album.  At that point Coltrane was beginning to emerge as a creative force while Rollins was known mostly for taking unconventional pieces and turning them into vehicles for improvisation (“I’m an Old Cowhand”). “Plus Four” features some great playing…particularly Roach on “I Feel a Song Coming On”, and Rollins takes “Count Your Blessings” and delivers it as a medium bounce…not a ballad.  “Valse Hot” comes out as a waltz!  Some interesting things going on here, but the pieces don’t come off as urgent or groundbreaking as others in this 5th edition.

Jackie McLean -- 4, 5, and 6

Recorded: July 13 and 20, 1956
Personnel:    Jackie McLean---Alto Sax
                        Donald Byrd---Trumpet
                        Hank Mobley---Tenor Sax
                        Mal Waldron---Piano
                        Doug Watkins---Bass
                        Arthur Taylor---Drums

McLean was tutored by Sonny Rollins (let’s not forget Theolonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Bud Powell as well) and the influence is clearly felt here.  There’s a more bluesy feel on this CD than the others.  “Why Was I Born?” and “Contour” are both 16-bar patterns, while “Sentimental Journey” (I’ll always think of Les Brown and Doris Day with this one has a 32-bar AABA structure.  McLean passed away in March of 2006 after a long career plagued by drugs and violence (he stabbed Charles Mingus in self defense). Despite these hardships, he became a teacher at the University of Hartford and was instrumental in developing the University’s Afro-American Music Department.  He also founded the Artist Collective in Hartford with his wife, Dolly.

 

 

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