Miles Davis: Milestones

Another reissue, this time on red vinyl, for the modally inclined 1958 album that was Tony Williams's definition of jazz

1973

Issued a year before the album that became the best-selling jazz LP of all time, Kind Of Blue, Milestones was an impressive early starter. With the same personnel as Blue except for Jimmy Cobb replacing Philly Joe Jones and Bill Evans replacing Garland on piano, this session was a winner all the way.

Perhaps overshadowed a little by the success of Kind Of Blue, it nevertheless featured the first modal piece from Miles on the title track. Milestones glides along smoothly with Davis, Cannonball and Coltrane all on top form. The rhythm section, as on everything that follows, is a joy to listen to. This combo had been active for five years before this date with Adderley added to the line up to make it a sextet.

There is something about Milestones that makes it one of the most joyous recordings of all time. Everybody in the band is relaxed and at the very top of their game and they were surely in the very best of moods. Tony Williams, drummer with a later Davis combo, once said that if you wanted to know what jazz was all about, listen to Milestones. It was good advice.

Equally enthusiastic, Charles Edward Smith, the sleeve-note writer on the original Columbia issue, wrote about a “thrilling exercise in rhythmic tension with a relaxed feel to it” on Sid’s Ahead. This track is the sort of slow, laid- back blues that just simmers and then cruises along happily for 13 minutes. Coltrane is at his most intensely inventive, Miles displays open-horn invention all through his solo and Cannonball joins in the fray with a well-ordered lyrical alto excursion. The rhythm section here merely floats but that is all they needed to do.

Smith says Miles’s solo on Milestones is “one of the most beautiful jobs on muted horn since Bix Beiderbecke, with a cornet and an old piece of felt, shook up the whole Paul Whiteman band on Sweet Sue”. Monk’s Straight No Chaser is given a surging, turbo-charged outing with 10 minutes of crisp ensemble work and some of the most- fiery solos ever heard from the horns. Billy Boy is given over to Garland and the rhythm section and Red makes the most of it with his charging block chords, urged on all the way by Chambers and Jones.

As you will have guessed by now this is one of my favourite jazz discs of all time and it is good to see it reissued with clean, bright sound on a flashy red vinyl LP. Playing time is almost 50 minutes, far more than was usual for LPs in 1958 and the music is arguably the Davis sextet’s best by a country mile. 

Discography

Dr. Jekyll; Sid’s Ahead; Two Bass Hit; Milestones; Billy Boy; Straight No Chaser (47.57)

Miles Davis (t); John Coltrane (ts); Cannonball Adderley (as); Red Garland (p); Paul Chambers (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). NYC 4 February & 4 March 1958.

Waxtime In Colour 950719