Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet – Prestige

by | Jan 29, 2007 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet – Prestige/ Fantasy RVG Remasters  PRCD-30157-2, 34:19 [2/6/07] ***** :(Miles Davis, trumpet; John Coltrane, tenor sax; Red Garland, piano, Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums)

This is a harbinger of the fifth edition of RVG Remasters since the series of reissues was introduced by Concord Music Group last year.  RVG, of course, stands for Rudy Van Gelder, the skilled engineer who began recording these jazz lights in the living room of his parents’ home in New Jersey. The series was inaugurated with ten titles, and on several occasions since then there have been releases of five more at a time, with this one being the latest. (The others this time will feature John Coltrane, Pat Martino, Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean.)

Most of the recordings are mono, but Van Gelder’s “deep mono” sound is so well-balanced and impactful that few listeners would miss stereo reproduction.  Moreover, the original analog tapes are being given a new lease on life via upgraded playback decks and remastering to 24-bit digital. Combined with the recent improvements in the mastering and pressing of all standard CDs, the sonics of this normally-priced series often matches that of both xrcds and SACDs which have been re-releases of some of these classics.  For example, this CD was an improvement in clarity and impact over the old Fantasy CD I had of the album, and it was nearly identical to my ears to the Fantasy mono SACD released in 2004, except that Red Garland’s piano sounds slightly less dulled/muffled on the SACD than on the CD. (I didn’t have the exact same disc, but did have the Relaxin’ disc, which was recorded at the same time with the same musicians. Along with Workin’ & Steamin’ – all came from the same two days of recording in 1956 at Van Gelder’s!)

The sessions were of marathon length but relaxed because the idea was to emulate the quintet doing a show at a New York City jazz club. 24 extended performances were taped and there were no second takes. It was a new quintet because of the addition of John Coltrane, and everybody was hitting on all cylinders. The big hit on this particular album was the opening “My Funny Valentine,” which was the first time Miles recorded it; it was to become a Miles classic. Miles had recorded the closing “When Lights Are Low” three years earlier, but now in this relaxed setting – without watching the clock – the quintet spun out their new version for over 13 minutes.

TrackList: My Funny Valentine; Blues By Five; Airegin; Tune-Up/ When Lights Are Low.

—John Henry

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