Miles Davis Quintet – Relaxin’ (1956) – Prestige/ Analogue Productions CPRJ 7129 SA SACD mono, 36:39 ****:
(Miles Davis – trumpet; John Coltrane – tenor sax; Red Garland – piano; Paul Chambers – bass; Philly Joe Jones – drums)
In 1956 the Miles Davis Quintet recorded in two studio sessions enough sides that could produce four classic albums, with each given a nickname that to some effect showed all styles that the quintet played. There was Workin’, Cookin’, Steamin’, and Relaxin’. As part of the SACD series of 50 Prestige re-release titles (25 mono sessions and 25 of stereo), Relaxin’ made the cut along with Steamin’.
Each of the four Davis’ sessions has been released several times over the years both in Miles’ box sets, and in CD and LP versions. For the Prestige SACD release series, Analogue Productions was chosen for their expertise with audiophile mastering, and Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio has done a superb job of remastering this session. Mono CD releases often sound flat and lack the warmness and clarity of a well-pressed vinyl reissue. Not so on this issue of Relaxin’.
Immediately evident here, is how “alive” this SACD sounds. Paul Chambers’ walking bass is as steady as a Rolex. Red Garland blues driven piano choruses sparkle, and Philly Joe’s cymbals have a snap and resonance that inspire both Davis and Coltrane (as well as the listener).
The simpatico between Miles and John is evident throughout all six tunes. The clarion call of Garland on “If I Were a Bell” is answered by Miles muted trumpet. (All of the selections on this album have muted trumpet with the exception of “Woody’ N You.”) Coltrane follows Miles with his swinging solo and the rest of the rhythm section follows suit.
“You’re My Everything”, after a false start, has Garland’s block chords set the stage for Miles at his lyrical best. “If I Could Write a Book” provides lots of melodic improvisations especially for an up-tempo Coltrane.
“Oleo” was written by Sonny Rollins and was a staple of the Davis quintet. Philly Joe’s brush work shines as the horns and piano restate Sonny‘s well known theme.
“It Could Happen to You” shows the group’s skill in stating and then going off in new directions with the melody. Red Garland shows here how he was an integral part of the quintet and now just an accompanist for the horns.
“Woody ‘N You” comes alive as we hear Miles unencumbered without his mute, playing some searing lines. Coltrane, accordingly rises to the occasion showing that he was Davis’ equal in presentation.
For those that want to hear this quintet in true high fidelity, this SACD is the way to go…
TrackList: If I Were a Bell, You’re My Everything, I Could Write a Book, Oleo, It Could Happen to you, Woody ‘N You