Among Giants


The phrase "embarrassment of riches" seems created specifically for instances of overflowing wonderfulness such as the self-titled release from Miles Davis And The Jazz Giants (OJC, 1991), now part of Concord's Digital Only catalog. And not just for its program of seminal music -- foundational masterstrokes of modern jazz -- but also for its encyclopedic "who's who of jazz" contributors, which includes Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker.

Miles Davis And The Jazz Giants surveys Davis' output for Prestige Records during the first half of the 1950s, outside of his landmark first quintet recordings with Coltrane. The title track of Davis' album Walkin' ('54, now an RVG Remaster) proves that, underneath those myriad inscrutable if not difficult trappings, Miles could seriously groove the blues; J.J. Johnson's gooey trombone smears blue all over, too.

"Bags' Groove (Take One)" features Monk, who seems to play everything wrong and yet create a solo that rocks the blues and sounds great; and rolling solos by its composer and namesake, Milt Jackson. Miles' horn harmonizes softly yet brilliantly with Bags' vibes, and his solo exemplifies his musically sparse yet emotionally packed approach to the blues. "The Serpent's Tooth" features Parker and Rollins scurrying through its famous serpentine riff on tenor while Miles blows hot and incisively, especially when trading explosive fours with the drums.

Collector's Items (RVG Remaster series, 2009) anthologizes highlights from this same 1951-'56 timeframe, which is documented in its entirety on Chronicle: The Complete Prestige Recordings 1951-1956 (Prestige, 1995).

in this playlist.