Milestones by Miles Davis
Recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York, NY (February/March 1958)
Miles Davis- Trumpet
Cannonball Adderley- Alto Sax
John Coltrane- Tenor Sax
Red Garland- Piano
Paul Chambers- Bass
Philly Joe Jones- Drums
Powerhouse personell, powerhouse album. One of the more interesting features of this album that struck me included the bowed (arco) string bass solo in "Dr. Jackle," where as most people might (or will) generally associate basses in jazz with a plucked (pizzacato) sound. This bowed quality of the string bass gave the solo a much darker, deeper sound to contrast the upbeat tempo, whereas pizz usually has a certain "bounce" to it.
Another interesting changeup is that despite this being a sextet recording, the track "Billy Boy" was played only by the Piano, Bass, and Drums, half of the performers. This track, like "Dr. Jackle," has a bowed string bass solo that contrasts the very upbeat tempo.
The solo work flows naturally throughout the album, no indication of hesitation or missed notes in their performance, every performer is very skilled. What's most impressive about this is no performer overshadows another, but rather each performer works together to perform a cohesive piece of jazz music: their solos, while different, feel connected in some indescribable way. A great album, a great listen, a greatly recommended album. If there's any reason that people often refer to Miles Davis as the epitome of cool, this album might be part of a feasible explanation.
Mingus Ah Um by Charles Mingus
Recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York, NY (May 1959)
John Handy- Alto/Tenor Sax, Clarinet
Shafi Hadi- Alto/Tenor Sax
Booker Ervin- Tenor Sax
Willie Dennis- Trombone
Jimmy Knepper- Trombone
Horace Parlan- Piano
Charles Mingus- Bass
Dannie Richmond- Drums
Something that became readily apparent about this album was that there was no trumpet. Ever. I didn't say it lacked trumpet, just that it was not present. A trumpet can often piercing and bright, something that would have been uncharacteristic of the feel of this album, which for the most part feels laid back. The only brass instrument used is trombone, whereas the other two horns are reeds. Having a lower brass quality and a generally higher or similar tessatura reed as the horn bass gives the album a unique, cloudier texture at times.
Contributing to this darker sound was the use of clarinet in "Pussy Cat Dues." I might be (I am) biased in saying this (I am a clarinetist after all), but the rounder, less buzzy sound of the clarinet made the entire orchestration of the piece feel more full and stand out among some of the other pieces on the album.
Another interesting feature was the idea of bird calls in "Bird Calls." The horns play motives that are based on the melodic patterns birds make when they call to each other. Turning bird calls into a jazz motive was a pretty ingenious move for Mingus and fits well into his late 50's modern jazz writing. This'll certainly make me hear the birds differently in the morning.