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The Men Who Would Be Kings:

Miles Davis with John Coltrane/The Complete Columbia Recordings

By Brian Knight

"Miles, like Coltrane, was and is a continually growing musician whose musical style and conception would change as often as his wardrobe, and usually for the better. Taciturn to the point of diffidence, most of the time, and on other occasions abrasive to the extreme of arousing personal hostility, Miles remains a man and a musician with a mystique comparable to no one and a persona that one must accept or reject strictly on the trumpeter’s terms…….Controversial, paradoxical , unpredictable and unclassifiable; that was and is Miles, and, if you like him or leave him, he couldn’t care less either way."

These were the words written by author J.C. Thomas in his 1975 book, Chasin’ The Trane as he compared John Coltrane to Miles Davis. The two brilliant artists were consummate professionals who continuously pushed themselves and their music to the limits of their own capabilities. Within the past year, there have been two significant box sets celebrating the 1960s and 1970s work of trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane. Through two sets, Miles Davis’ recordings celebrating his 1960s classic quintet and his landmark 1970 release Bitches Brew provided a innovative view of the trumpeter as he single handedly drove jazz from hard –bop into the fusion era. Simultaneously, Impulse’s Coltrane compilation covered the years that the famed saxophonist led his classic quartet in new amazing and spiritual directions. Both of the compilations cover a period when the two artists who developed their styles beyond the standard hard bop and into their own personal expressions of free bop, avant-garde jazz and fusion. As an epilogue to these compilations, Columbia Records has recently released Miles Davis with John Coltrane/The Complete Columbia Recording, which is a six CD set consisting of all of the tracks that two recorded with Columbia during the late 1950s. In addition to the work that can be found on the albums during this period, there are also alternate takes, unreleased tracks and live performances which all ultimately comprise of the greatest compendium of these two’s work together.

Due to the buzz that Coltrane and Davis would create during the 1960s, the music on Miles Davis with John Coltrane/The Complete Columbia Recording can be described as the "calm before the storm". During the late 1950s, before Davis headed down avenues of free-bop and fusion and long before Coltrane became the crown prince of saxophone blowing, the two worked together in Miles Davis’ classic quintet and sextet from 1955 to 1961. During this time, Columbia released classic albums such as Round About Midnight, Jazz Track, Milestones and Kind of Blue. Through these albums Coltrane and Davis, as well as the remaining band members, brought forward a revolution in jazz music with their introduction of modal jazz. While the fast paced hard-bop or soul jazz of Art Blakey and Horace Silver was considered mainstream jazz, through albums such as "Kind of a Blue", Davis and Coltrane abandoned the complex chord structures and focussed on lengthy solos on stop of simple music scales or modes. This type of jazz was soon to become known as "modal" and set the stage for the jazz sounds during the 1960s and 1970s.

This celebration of these two adept soloists comes from the vaults of Columbia Records who recorded the majority of the two’s work together. Many of the Coltrane and Davis recordings were memorialized on the Davis sessions with the Prestige label. Through classic albums such as Relaxin’, Cookin’, Steamin’ and Workin’ on Prestige, the world was first introduced to the collaborations of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. These albums are considered classics, but Davis, who was also known as a shrewd businessman as well as a skillful musician, held out on his best stuff for the Columbia Recordings. Davis knew that he could ride a much better wave of success through the marketing and promotion of Columbia Records that we the smaller Prestige company. When Davis came out of his self-imposed drug rehabilitation, he was signed for Prestige Records but he knew that the real fame and glory would only arrive upon signing with Columbia. After Davis’ famed set at the 1955 Newport jazz Festival, George Avakian, the producer for Columbia, was finally convinced that Davis had kicked his habit and that he was in full musical stride. Although Davis and Columbia were ready to make a match made in heaven, Davis was still signed to Prestige. Through some crafty business maneuvers, Davis, Prestige and Columbia cut a deal in which Davis could record with Columbia but they could not release any of the recordings until the Prestige contract was finished. In the months following the negations, Davis took his band into the Prestige studios to record Relaxin’, Cookin’, Steamin’ and Workin’ and also recorded for Columbia. Once the Prestige contract was complete, Columbia released the pre-recorded sessions and a wonderful relationship commenced.

What made Miles Davis stand out and truly becomes a jazz music icon was more than his compositions, it was his unique playing style. In comparison to other great trumpeters such as Dizzy Gillepsie, Davis mastered the lower register of the trumpet’s sounds and preferred to play at a much slower tempo which made moodier, more contemplative pieces of music. The key ingredient to creating this mood pieces was Davis’ use of the Harmon mute. Coupled with the economical use of notes and phrasings through which Davis tried not to overwhelm a composition with excessive notes, Davis created a unique playing style that would influence generations of musicians to come. In contrast, John Coltrane preferred a faster tempo and he attempted to bombard the listener with notes. As Miles Davis was economical, Coltrane used his notes like a child with a ten-dollar bill in a penny candy shop.

These early recordings both musicians during different stages with their bouts with drug addiction. By the time of these recordings, Davis had just arisen from his exile from music and affliction with heroine. Since his groundbreaking work in the late 1940s with the Birth of the Cool sessions, Davis had disappeared from the limelight. Because of drugs, Davis was shunned by most performance halls and work was hard to come by. As a result, Davis headed home to Illinois to dry out. In 1955, Davis was resurrected with his appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955,where he amazed the crowd with his muted trumpet solo on Thelonious Monk’s "Round Midnight". This led to resurgence in popularity and ultimately his relationship with Columbia Records.

During the first couple of months after the Newport performance, Davis searched for a saxophonist for his new band. At first, he recruited the talented work of Sonny Rollins, but like Davis a few years earlier, Rollins escaped from jazz to fight his drug addiction. Rollins was replaced by John Gilmore ( of the Sun Ra Arkestra fame) but ironically Davis hired Gilmore’s greatest admirer, John Coltrane. Coltrane, who was championed by Philly Joe Jones, was about to join organist Jimmy Smith’s band but at the last minute, teamed up with Davis. The various formats for these recordings featured Miles Davis’ 1st great quintet which consisted of Davis, Coltrane, Red Garland (Piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). "First and foremost Garland, Chambers and Jones took care not to duplicate each other’s functions," explains author Richard Williams in his book The Man in the Green Shirt, "there was no unison hammering of the beat. Chambers gliding walk, Jones’ sizzling ride cymbal and commanding snare drum commentary and Garland’s urbane interjections dovetailed with such perfection that the impression was always grace and light, even when the band was cooking hard on a bop tune."

On February 4, and March 4, 1958, the quintet was joined by alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley who recently arrived from Florida and his deep solos were an excellent balance to Coltrane’s playing. For May 26, 1958 Cannonball Adderley remained with the band, but Garland and Chambers were replaced by Bill Evans and Jimmy Cobb, respectively. This was the same lineup for the Miles Davis Quintet’s performance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival on July 3rd and the band’s show at the Plaza Hotel in September of the same year. As the quintet made its final recordings in the early 1960s, Bill Evans left to start his own trio and his piano work was replaced by Wynton Kelly. On March 21, 196I Hank Mobley replaced Cannonball Adderly.

As much as this compilation is a tribute to the great tenor saxophone playing of John Coltrane, we cannot forget that alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderly was an essential contributor these sessions as well. Adderly, who was often considered to the be successor of Charlie Parker’s alto saxophone throne, played with an equal melodic passion and fast pace as Coltrane. Together, both Coltrane and Adderly’s penchant for the fast tempo and loud energetic sounds were a perfect balance for Davis’ slow pace and muted tone. This balance was further accentuated as Adderly’s playing patterned his style after Coltrane's "Sheets of Hounds" in which the listener was overwhelmed by a steady stream of sound. In contrast, Davis was more known for his economy of sound in which his used notes sparingly and incorporated silence into his compositions. When Coltrane was forced to leave the band for various health reasons, Adderly filled in the void masterfully. When Coltrane made his return to the band, the first classic quintet segued into the classic "revolving" sextet with Davis, Coltrane and Adderly forming the front line and the revolving of Red Garland, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly on piano; Philly Joe Jones and Jimmy Cobb on the drum kit and the stalwart bass playing of Paul Chambers.

 

Round About Midnight

While still under contract with Prestige, Miles Davis headed into the Columbia studios to record ‘Round About Midnight. Named after the Thelonoius Monk tune that Davis nailed perfectly at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, the album was an excellent sign of the brilliance that was ahead in the future. Session producer George Avakian described Davis during the session: " His playing is characterized by both the nervous, jagged lines of the bop school and the pensive relaxation of the cool period which followed. The latter quality dominates in Miles' playing, and to such a degree that it tempers the surface excitement of his playing in fast tempo; Miles seldom produces the familiar sound of frantic exasperation to exploit the emotions of his listeners, but rather seeks to achieve response through the inner tension of his improvisations. "

Although it was Davis’ performance of the "Round Midnight" at Newport that brought him back to the public eye, it was the album’s title track that also brought Coltrane into the spotlight. In his book, The History of Jazz, Ted Gioia spoke of one of the highlights from Round About Midnight, John Coltrane’s solo on the abbreviated title track "Round Midnight": "Such solos were an odd hybrid: a world of emotion diffused through an analytical perspective of a scientist." This quote best described the mentality of John Coltrane. He is often described as a "practice-room" musician for he spent almost all of his time practicing and constantly discovering new directions to take his music. At the same time, he music possessed the fluidity, spirituality and creativity of a natural musician.

While Davis and Coltrane definitely found a creative and professional bond during the sessions for Prestige and also the Round About Midnight sessions, their relationship never went beyond music. Miles Davis commented on Coltrane’s lifestyle and work ethics: "But as much as I linked Trane we didn’t hang out much once we left the bandstand because we had different styles. Before, it was because he was deep in heroin, and I just come out of that. Now, he was clean and didn’t hardly hang out, but would go back to hotel room and practice. He had always been serious about his music and always practiced a lot. But now it was like he was on some kind of mission." Although Davis was an admirer of the playing of Coltrane, it was Trane’s personal habits that would eventually send a wedge between the two players.

When John Coltrane joined up with Miles Davis, he was amidst his heroine addiction, which ultimately made Coltrane hard to work with. In his autobiography, Miles Davis spoke of Coltrane’s drug abuse " After he moved to New York his habit got worse, and real quick, too. I didn’t have no moral thing about Trane and all of them shooting heroin, because I had gone through that, and I knew that it was a sickness that was hard to get rid of. So I didn’t give them no grief about doing it. What I did start to get on them about was coming late and nodding off on the bandstand; I told them I couldn’t tolerate that." It was because of Coltrane’s abuse that Davis was forced to fire Coltrane, which was obviously a difficult task for Davis. Davis continued " But I loved Trane, I really did. Trane was a beautiful person, a real sweet kind of guy, spiritual, all of that. So you really couldn’t help loving him and caring about him, too."

After the recording of Round About Midnight, John Coltrane was forced to leave the band due to problems with heroin. When Coltrane first joined the Miles Davis Quintet, he was a relatively unknown player who only had recorded periodically as a sideman. Upon his return to Miles Davis for the recording of Milestones eighteen months later, Coltrane was a changed man. He had kicked his addictions to alcohol, tobacco and drugs (although sweets would forever remain his vice); he had just finished a six month engagement with Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot Café, which opened Coltrane’ eyes to new improvisational and compositional techniques and he had just come of the success from his first album as a leader Blue Train.

 

Milestones

During John Coltrane’s absence from the band, Miles Davis dedicated much of his time collaborating with composer/arranger Gil Evans where the two worked in a large band format to record Sketches of Spain, Porgy and Bess and Miles Ahead. When Davis was not in the studio with Gil Evans, he went out on the road with the help of saxophonist Sonny Rollins, Bobby Jaspar and ultimately Cannonball Adderly. After spending the Fall of 1957 in Europe, Davis formed a sextet with Adderly, Coltrane, Garland, Chambers and Jones and after playing throughout December and January; Davis took the band into the Columbia studios to record Milestones.

Milestones was the first recording to feature the dueling saxophone work of both Adderly and Coltrane. Davis commented about the two brilliant instrumentalists, "…I loved the way the band sounded on this record and I knew that we had something special. Trane and Cannon were really playing their asses off and by then were really used to each other." The session contained some energetic tunes such as "Two Bass Hit" which was written by two of Miles Davis longtime friends, trumpeter Dizzy Gillepsie and the Modern Jazz Quartet’s John Lewis as well as Monk’s "Straight No Chaser" and Jackie Mclean’s " Dr. Jackle" Two interesting tracks from the Milestones’ sessions were "Billy Boy" and "Sid’s Ahead". The former was a spotlight on the Red Garland Trio and did not feature any of the front line players while the latter featured Miles Davis on piano because Red Garland walked out during this part of session. For the liner notes, Columbia recruited Charles Edwards Smith who spoke of Davis: " Miles has developed an unusual beauty of tone that gives warmth even to his most restrained, understated choruses. His playing has never lacked emotion, but the emotion has usually been contained--he doesn't slap emotions at the listener--and, like J. J. Johnson, he is a "complete chorus" improviser and is unusually objective in his playing. On open or muted horn his style has gradually gained in strength and outward vigor. Indeed, listening to the muted chorus on "Miles," the word cool no longer seems appropriate to it, if it ever was. The melody emerges with sureness, with clarity, or yet like sound coming softly through lustred velvet or pouring richly through shot silk." Smith also spoke of the attributes of bassist Paul Chambers, "(he) is rare beauty of tone is combined, in his playing, with an extraordinary technical gift and, underlying it, such a strong sense of swing that he could carry the rhythm all by himself, if that were necessary."

Although considered a "cool jazz" album as many of Milestones possessed characteristics of swinging bebop, there were early hints of the "modal" style of jazz that Miles was soon to create. The primary characteristic of "modal" jazz was that the improvisations flowed along sets of musical scales or modes. Instead of improvising only occurring within a preset and confining chord pattern, the soloists were allowed to stretch out along more melodic lines. Coltrane spoke of the new directions that Davis was taking in his music, "Miles was once interested in chords for their own sake, but now it seemed that he was moving in the opposite direction, using tunes with fewer chord changes and free-flowing melodic lines. This approach allowed the soloist the choice of playing chordally (vertically) or melodically (horizontally). I now found it easier to apply the harmonic ideas that I had……….Miles’s music gave me plenty of freedom." ( J.C. Thomas, Chasin’ the Trane, pg. 106)

 

Jazz Track

By the time the band when into the studio for Jazz Track in May of 1958, Philly Joe Jones, whose drug problems were a millweight around the band’s productivity, was kicked out of the band. A smoother and subtler Jimmy Cobb replaced Jones. In addition, Red Garland was asked to leave for his playing was unsuitable for the new directions that Davis wanted to move his music in. Garland was replaced by Bill Evans.

In the months following the Jazz Track recording session, in which the tunes "On Green Dolphin Street", "Fran Dance", "Stella By Starlight" and "Love For Sale", were recorded; the sextet also played some remarkable live dates that have been captured on this compilation. Although most of the Sextet’s interplay and adept musicianship was best documented in the studio, the sextet’s live performances were equally chock full of talent. The two live dates captured on this compilation arrive from their performances at the Newport jazz Festival on July 3, 1958 and at the Plaza Hotel on September 9, 1958. During the band’s 1958 appearance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, the quintet, consisting of Davis, Coltrane, Adderley, Bill Evans, Chambers, and Cobb, played songs, which were previously appeared on various quintet’s albums. There was "Ah-Leu Cha" and "Bye Bye Blackbird" from ‘Round About Midnight and Thelonius Monk’s "Straight No Chaser" and Gillepsie/Lewis’ "Two Bass Hit" from Milestones. "Fran Dance", which was a tribute to Miles Davis’ wife, dancer Francis Taylor Davis, appeared on Jazz Track. The only tune from the Newport set that was not previously recorded was Davis’ traditional closing number, "The Theme", in which Davis removed his Harmon mute and lets his trumpet fly. Although Adderly was the popular man at the time, the Newport set really put Coltrane in the spotlight as his solos during "Two bass Hit" and "Bye Bye Blackbird" were the true crowd pleasers of the day.

For the liner notes of the album Miles and Coltrane, which was the first album appearance of the 1958 Newport set as well as versions of Bud Powell’s "Budo" and Jackie McLean’s "Little Melonae from Davis first recordings Columbia, Jeff Rosen spoke of the Davis/Coltrane phenomenon: "In this collection we're privileged to eavesdrop on conversations by two of the greatest players in jazz: Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Both were innovators, both were expert technicians, both were continually exploring new directions. But each approached the jazz solo from a very different point of view. A comparison could be made with Hemingway and Faulkner. Miles is like Hemingway, spitting out short, perfectly crafted sentences. Coltrane is like Faulkner, examining every detail in long intricate passages. This combination of approaches is what made the Miles Davis Quintet one of the best jazz groups of the fifties."

The remaining live set was taken from the sextet’s show in the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The four tunes from this Columbia Record’s promotional event that also featured the Duke Ellington Orchestra were the swinging "If I Were a Bell", Sonny Rollin’s "Oleo", Rodgers and Hart’s "My Funny Valentine" and Monk’s "Straight, No Chaser." "Oleo" and "My Funny Valentine" were both remnants of Davis’ Prestige years and most of these tunes possess a faster, more swinging tempo which may have had to do with the presence of the Duke in the same room.

 

Kind of Blue

With Bill Evan’s departure from the band in 1958, due to both creative constraints and subliminal inter band racism, Davis searched for a new pianist to fill the void left by the talented pianist. At first he returned to Red Garland who was only to serve as a temporary ivory man. The real replacement came with New York City pianist Wynton Kelly whom Davis spoke of: "I loved the way Wynton played, because he was a combination of Red Garland and Bill Evans; he could play almost anything. Plus, he could play behind a soloist like a "mother#$%^er", man. Cannonball and Trane loved him, and so did I."

Jimmy Cobb, the drummer for the Kind of Blue sessions, recollected the recording sessions: " The guys started to come in. Miles, Bill, John, Cannonball and Paul, then Wynton from Brooklyn in a cab. But when Wynton got there and saw Bill Evans, he was sort of confused and irritated until I talked to him, assuring him and Bill were both on the gig. Miles often surprised everybody. He craved change, and never thought twice about how it would effect anything and anybody, but the music. In fact, I think he enjoyed hearing the consequences."

Despite the decisive hiring of Kelly, Davis still had pianist Bill Evans in mind for the groundbreaking release Kind of Blue. "Freddie the Freeloader" was the only song from the Kind of Blue sessions that featured Wynton Kelly on piano. While Bill Evans could swing as well as anybody, the down to earth funky blues of "Freddie the Freeloader" seemed to be meant for the Brooklyn born Kelly. Davis described the origins of the song: "That song was named after this black guy I knew who was always seeing what he could get from you free, and he was always around the jazz scene." Much of the compositions on Kind of Blue are credited to Evans for Davis purposely chose Evans for the Kind of Blue sessions for he was extremely knowledgeable of modes and scales.

Evans was a classically trained pianist in whom modes were used extensively and Davis wanted to incorporate classical music into Kind of Blue. Evans turned Davis onto a lot of classical music, which eventually effected Davis’ own compositions. Davis commented, " besides Ravel and whole lot others, Bill Evans turned me onto Aram Khachaturian, a Russian-Armenian composer. I had been listening to him and what intrigued me about him were all of those different scales (or modes) he used. Classical composers, at least some of them, have been writing like this for a long time, but not many jazz musicians have. The musicians were giving me tunes with chords all the time, and at the time I didn’t want to play them. The music was too thick." Not only did Davis appreciate the influences that Evans brought to the band, but also appreciated Evan’s playing style " Bill had this quiet fire that I loved on the piano. The way he approached it, the sound he got was like crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall….Bill played underneath the rhythm and I liked that, the way he played scales with the band."

At the same time that he wanted classical influences, Davis yearned to return his music to his own roots. "This time I added some other kind of sound remembered from being back in Arkansas, when we were walking home from church and they were playing these bad gospels (translate: wicked good)," Davis continued, "so that kind of feeling came back to me and I started remembering what the music sounded like and felt like." From these feelings, Davis wrote some standard blues themes that he brought into the studio. From there, he allowed for the soloists improvise freely upon themes such as "All Blues" and "So What" and that is how Kind of Blue came to fruition. The band never practiced and most of the tunes were recorded in one take and the few extra takes are featured in this new compilation. For the original liner notes to Kind of Blue, Bill Evans described the recording process, "Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances. The group had never played these pieces prior to the recordings and I think without exception the first complete performance of each was a ‘take’".

What was established by the sextet during the Milestones sessions would reach a higher level of development for the Kind of Blue recording. J.C. Thomas commented on Kind of Blue in 1975: "The music was modal, with compositions of exquisite simplicity structured on a few scales. This was a seminal recording in the history of American music , offering the soloists unprecedented improvisational freedom and minimal chordal restrictions, with the subtly of chamber music and the swing of jazz. It was music of beauty and brilliance, and offered the most arresting and advanced Coltrane solos on record so far."

Robert Palmer’s original liner notes described the impact of this recording: "Kind Of Blue flows with all the melodic warmth and sense of welcoming, wide-open vistas one hears in the most universal sort of song, all supported by a rigorous musical logic. For musicians, it has always been more than some beautiful music to listen to, although it is certainly that. It's also a how-to, a method for improvisers that shows them how to get at the pure melody all-too-frequently obscured by "hip" chord changes or flashy finger work. But no matter how much a musician or a listener brings to it (for this is one of those incredibly rare works equally popular among professionals and the public at large), Kind Of Blue always seems to have more to give. If we keep listening to it, again and again, throughout a lifetime--well, maybe that's because we sense there's still something more, something not yet heard.

All of the tunes on Kind of Blue follow Davis’ innovations with modal improvisation. In the slow tempo "Flamenco Sketches", there is a steady four measure beat laid down by bassist Paul Chambers who provides both the introductory modal notes for the improvisers as well as maintains a point of reference for the listener. On "Flamenco Sketches", Davis, Adderley, Coltrane each take a solo that explores 5 different modes (C Ionian, A Flat Ionian, B Flat Ionian, Phrygian, G Aeolian). Author Richard Williams compared Davis’ scale changes to switching gears in a car." Within each of the modes, the soloists have endless possibilities for playing along a melody. Unlike the improvising within a chord structure, which was the standard for hard bop and was finite in soloing abilities, the modal exploration typified by the songs on Kind of Blue and especially "Flamenco Sketches" allowed for infinite choices for musical direction.

In total, Kind of Blue possessed five remarkable tunes. They were all based in the blues, but definitely had a distinctive style that put the album in a category of its own. " The content of a piece dictated its own formal structure. And the sum of the five pieces was a unique overall ambience," authors Richard Williams stated in his book The Man in the Green Shirt, " It was drenched in the feeling of the blues, but of a new kind of blues, elegant and eclectic, at once earthy and sophisticated." From the aforementioned highlight of the aforementioned "Flamenco Sketches" to the traditional call and response format of "So What", Kind of Blue may have been fresh and unheard of at the time but it laid down a foundation for generations of jazz musicians to feed off of.

By the beginning of the 1960s, both Adderly and Coltrane has left the Davis group to pursue their own efforts. Through the advice and leadership of Miles Davis’ manager, Coltrane signed with Atlantic Records and released the immensely popular Giant Steps, which featured the Coltrane staple for years to come – "My Favorite Things." Meanwhile, Adderely joined his brother Nat for many popular recordings. During the years following the departure of Coltrane and Adderly, Davis searched for a replacement, ultimately landing veteran Jazz Messenger Hank Mobley. During the rest of Coltrane’s living career, he would only join Davis in the studio for two more instances – for the recording of "Someday My Prince Will Come" and "Teo." The former was Davis’ interpretation of the popular theme song from the Walt Disney film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and like Coltrane’s "My Favorite Things", the tune was an excellent jazz interpretation of a popular tune. The latter recording, "Teo" was named after the famed producer, Teo Macero, who remained with Miles Davis throughout his tenure with Columbia Records. "Teo" was simply an faster paced Latin version of Kind of Blue’s "Flamenco Sketches".

Although their time spent together was short and often typified by conflict, Miles Davis and John Coltrane were a perfect match for each other. They were the Ying and yang of jazz. Davis was soft and subtle and Coltrane was direct and overpowering. The two musicians had the utmost respect for each other’s abilities. "Trane was the loudest, fastest saxophonist I’ve ever heard. He could play real fast and real loud at the same time and that’s very difficult to do," Davis continued, "because when most players play loud, they lock themselves. I’ve seen many saxophonists get messed up trying to play like that, But Trane could do it and he was phenomenal. It was like he was possessed when he put that horn to his mouth. He was so passionate-fierce-and yet so quiet and gentle when he wasn’t playing. A sweet guy." Davis appreciated Coltrane for his unrelenting and hurricane style approach to playing the saxophone. Years later, Davis was asked about the fact that his complex music seem to require 5 saxophones, Davis answered "I used to have Coltrane." Similarly, Coltrane admired Davis for his economical approach top playing. Coltrane commented on his first stint with Miles Davis: "After I joined Miles in 1955, I found that he doesn’t talk much and will rarely discuss his music. He’s completely unpredictable; sometimes he’d walk off stage after just playing a few notes, not even completing one chorus. If I asked him something about his own music, I never knew how he was going to take it"

Together, these two artists capitalized on their skills and styles and gave birth to the modal style of jazz playing. After these productive years, both Coltrane and Davis would expand upon the foundations that they laid together and go even further. Although they played together often during the late 1950s, their actual technique never rubbed off on each other. With his classic 1960s quintet and then his electronic lineups, Davis continued to play softly and subtlety while Coltrane continued to blow until he couldn’t blow any more. Both Coltrane and Davis were very distinctive in their technique and this Colombia compilation is the ideal opportunity to hear the two styles meld as one.

 

Read more about Coltrane here and here.

Read more about Miles Davis here.