Miles Davis Quintet: Workin’

The 1956 bop, blues and ballad session that introduced the trumpeter's signature harmon-mute sound gets another reissue on vinyl


Between May and October 1956 Miles Davis recorded four marathon sessions fulfilling his contractual obligations to Bob Weinstock’s Prestige label before signing with George Avakian at Columbia. Those albums, titled Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’ and Steamin’, featured his new quintet, which quite soon became an epoch-defining small group of the mid-1950s.

It Never Entered My Mind and In Your Own Sweet Way introduced a new approach to the use of the harmon mute. Miles achieved this simply by removing the extendable stem from the mute. This created an intimacy that was to become his signature sound on ballads.

He had premiered Eddie Vinson’s Four two years earlier in a fine recording with Horace Silver and this performance with the multi-noted John Coltrane is just as good. Incidentally the Davis-Silver solos were so well constructed that Jon Hendricks was inspired to add vocalese lyrics to them on his 1959 album The Swingers. The godfather of vocalese, Eddie Jefferson, did the same with Trane’s Blues aka Vierd Blues on his 1974 recording Things Are Getting Better.

Miles wrote Half Nelson, a contrafact of Tadd Dameron’s Lady Bird, for his first date as leader in 1947. Charlie Parker was on tenor and as the name implies it was a feature for Nelson Boyd. The contrast between the leader’s minimalism and Coltrane’s powerful intensity is particularly effective here. There are two short versions of The Theme on this LP which the quintet used to indicate the end of a set on club bookings.

(1) It Never Entered My Mind; Four; In Your Own Sweet Way; The Theme; Trane’s Blues; Ahmad’s Blues; (2) Half Nelson; (1) The Theme (alt) (42.21)
(1) Davis (t); John Coltrane (ts); Red Garland (p); Paul Chambers (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). New Jersey, 11 May 1956.
(2) as (1) New Jersey, 26 October 1956.
Craft/Prestige CR00608