Miles Davis All-Stars: Solar

The 1954 Walkin' session gets the limited-edition, 180g vinyl treatment and a sexy 1963 cover. The music is still immutably powerful bop


This album, recorded by Prestige in 1954, has been given the limited-edition, 180-gram vinyl treatment and housed in a colourful cover.

Miles in 1954 was just out of his cool-jazz phase and coming back to bop with a funky twist – as were many musicians at the time. Originally called Walkin’ by Prestige it is now named after a 4.46 track called Solar that Davis wrote, recorded here and never played again, at least not on records.

That original title track is a killer though, a slow funky blues line by Richard Carpenter where Miles, Johnson, Lucky Thompson and Silver get to stretch out with chunky solos for 13 minutes. Miles is on top form, limbering up to point bop and blues in a new direction, as he would at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 with Monk’s Round Midnight. All the solos here are goodies, particularly JJ’s relaxed trombone and Lucky’s flowing bop-out-of-Lester choruses.

Blue ’N’ Boogie rattles along at a good tempo and the soloists exercise their chops on an uptempo surge. Slow or fast the solid rhythm section of Silver, Heath and Clarke keeps the pulse burning brightly. Van Gelder’s recording is very good for 1954, brought into focus by the quality vinyl pressing.

Miles is muted on Solar, an attractive melody where he spins melodic, improvised lines with ease. Featured here and on another track on side two is Dave Schildkraut, who was better than most Charlie Parker clones. His Bird licks are very familiar if only different in their lack of virtuoso delivery. I wonder what happened to Schildkraut, who seemed to disappear shortly after this session. [He was the subject of a comprehensive biography by Gordon Jack in Jazz Journal July 2016, reproduced here – Editor]

This disc offers a four-minute bonus with Four, featuring Miles with the same rhythm section except for Art Blakey in place of Clarke. The cover features a brightly coloured picture of Miles in shorts with Frances Davis in a black bikini and with a yellow bathing cap going to the beach in Juan-Les-Pins, Antibes in 1963. All very pretty but it has nothing to do with Miles in Hackensack, New Jersey in 1954.

Walkin’; Blue ’N’ Boogie; Solar; You Don’t Know What Love Is; Love Me Or Leave Me; Four (41.46)
Collectively: Miles Davis (t); Jay Jay Johnson (tb); Lucky Thompson (ts); Dave Schildkraut (as); Horace Silver (p); Percy Heath (b); Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey (d). New Jersey, 3 & 29 April 1954.
Pan Am Records 9152322