Miles Davis – Enigma – Blue Note Records (2014) 10-inch vinyl

Miles Davis – Enigma – Blue Note Records LP 5071 B0021529 (2014) 10-inch mono vinyl [11/28/14] ****:

(Miles Davis – trumpet; J.J. Johnson – trombone; Jimmy Heath – tenor saxophone (A1); Jackie McLean – alto saxophone (B1-B2); Percy Heath (A1) – bass; Oscar Pettiford  – bass (B1- B2); Gil Coggins – piano ; Art Blakey – drums (A1-A2); Kenny Clarke – drums (B1-B2))

Any previously unreleased Miles Davis material is noteworthy. To jazz fans it is as significant as unearthed Beatles or Dylan music is to rock fans. In conjunction with Record Store Day, Blue Note has released four “new” tracks, recorded in 1952-1953. On this 10” disc (just like his original 10” Blue Note recordings), there are four alternative takes.  It is a glimpse into the impending, meteoric rise of a jazz icon. This is hard bop with a stellar ensemble of musicians. (The graphic on the left also shows the back cover.)

Side One opens with “Enigma alternate (take 1)”. Davis begins with his signature vibrato-free lead. There is a group horn/reed accompaniment that is followed by a brief tempo change (with some chord shifts). Davis captures the melodic poignancy of this J.J. Johnson tune. Jimmy Heath pursues a counter lead, and Gil Coggins adds a concise solo. The next track, “Kelo alternate (take 1)” is up tempo hard bop. Art Blakey’s propulsive drumming (with brilliant drum fills) sets the band in motion for intense swing. Davis cooks on his solo. In rapid-fire succession, Jimmy Heath, Johnson (also the composer has a smooth, flowing solo) and Coggins all contribute. (Note: there are no extended jams, so the solos tend to be brief).

Side Two features two takes on Oscar Pettiford’s “Chance It”, bristling with a furious pace. Kenny Clarke anchors the driving improvisation with nimble cymbal play. Davis’ lead is assured, and Jackie McLean percolates on alto with complex timing. Johnson keeps up the speed on his solo. The rhythm section is flawless in lockstep with the prominent instrumentalists. The second cut (“alternate take 4”) is one wild ride. Pettiford’s bass initiates a high-energy, explosiveness that is met enthusiastically by McLean and Davis, who is an inspired band leader. He can push himself as an instrumentalist and still demonstrate considerable skill in arrangements that sound crisp and original.

While Enigma is not an essential recording, it is artful and enlightened jazz. For Davis fans, this is a collector’s item (but with an expensive price tag for a 10-incher, up to $20). There is a vintage, black and white photograph of Miles Davis (relaxing in a chair playing), and incisive 2014 liner notes by Ira Gitler. The sound quality of the vinyl is very good. All of the instruments have great tonality. The acoustics reflect the looser, organic vibe of early fifties Blue Note records.

TrackList:

Side 1: Enigma alternate (take 1); Kelo alternate (take 1)
Side 2: Chance It alternate (take 3); Chance It alternate (take 4) 

–Robbie Gerson

 

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