Sorcerer, the third album by the second Miles Davis Quintet, is in a sense a transitional album, a quiet, subdued affair that rarely blows hot, choosing to explore cerebral tonal colorings. Even when the tempo picks up, as it does on the title track, there's little of the dense, manic energy on Miles Smiles – this is about subtle shadings, even when the compositions are as memorable as Tony Williams' "Pee Wee" or Herbie Hancock's "Sorcerer." As such, it's a little elusive, since it represents the deepening of the band's music as they choose to explore different territory. The emphasis is as much on complex, interweaving chords and a coolly relaxed sound as it is on sheer improvisation, though each member tears off thoroughly compelling solos. Still, the individual flights aren't placed at the forefront the way they were on the two predecessors – it all merges together, pointing toward the dense soundscapes of Miles' later '60s work.
The two obscure sets reissued on this single CD from Original Jazz Classics were originally released as 10" LPs by the Nocturne label. The first six numbers are West Coast cool jazz by a sextet featuring baritonist Virgil Gonsalves, valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen, and tenor saxophonist Buddy Wise. These concise renditions of five standards and the obscure "Bounce" find the musicians in excellent form, making the most of each note. The second half of the CD is an unrelated quartet date by the eccentric tenor saxophonist Steve White, who is joined by pianist Jimmie Rowles, bassist Harry Babasin, and drummer Roy Harte; trombonist Herbie Harper is a big asset on "Topsy." White's sound was quite influenced by Lester Young, while his odd singing (heard on "My New Jet Plane") is certainly unique. An interesting if not essential reissue.
Two years after the death of pianist-composer Thelonious Monk, this very unusual and quite memorable double-LP tribute was put together. Producer Hal Willner's most successful project, the 23 interpretations of Monk originals all feature a different group of all-star players and stretch beyond jazz. Some of the performances are fairly straightforward while others are quite eccentric; certainly the crazy duet on "Four in One" by altoist Gary Windo and Todd Rundgren (on synthesizers and drum machines) and the version of "Shuffle Boil" featuring John Zorn on game calls (imitating the sound of ducks) are quite unique. There are many colorful moments throughout the project and the roster of musicians is remarkable: Bobby McFerrin with Bob Dorough, Peter Frampton, Joe Jackson, Steve Lacy, Dr. John, Gil Evans, Randy Weston, Roswell Rudd, Eugene Chadbourne and Shockabilly, the Fowler Brothers, NRBQ, Steve Khan, Carla Bley, Barry Harris, Was (Not Was) and many others. There is not a slow moment or uninteresting selection on this highly recommended set.
With their second album, Miles Smiles, the second Miles Davis Quintet really began to hit their stride, delving deeper into the more adventurous, exploratory side of their signature sound. This is clear as soon as "Orbits" comes crashing out the gate, but it's not just the fast, manic material that has an edge – slower, quieter numbers are mercurial, not just in how they shift melodies and chords, but how the voicing and phrasing never settles into a comfortable groove. This is music that demands attention, never taking predictable paths or easy choices.
Reissue with latest remastering. Comes with liner notes. Hardbop albums don't get any better than this – and although drummer Dave Bailey only recorded for a brief stretch as a leader, this session's one that shows that he was a heck of a force to contend with! The record's got an intensity that easily rivals the best by Art Blakey over at Blue Note during the early 60s – but Dave's also got a slightly looser groove too – a bit more sense of humanity, and one that allows for really organic interplay between the players. There's a slight soul jazz undercurrent – especially in the piano lines of Billy Gardner – and other players in the quintet include Bill Hardman on trumpet, Frank Haynes on tenor, and Ben Tucker on bass. The group wails on an early version of Tucker's classic "Comin' Home Baby", plus other great originals like "Coffee Walk", "Lady Iris B", and "Two Feet In the Gutter".