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Miles Davis - Miles Davis Quintet: Miles Smiles CD (album) cover

MILES DAVIS QUINTET: MILES SMILES

Miles Davis

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.17 | 140 ratings

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Walkscore
5 stars The best of the 60s quintet.

Such an unassuming album cover, one would hardly expect the music to be so excellent. This is in my opinion the very best of Miles' 1960s quintet, which itself was one of Miles' best-ever bands. My wife is not keen on progressive rock or fusion but thankfully she loves traditional jazz, and the 1960s Miles albums have featured strongly in our house. I have listened to these albums so many times so I know the music well, and this album consistently stands out among the rest. The tracks on this album are very musical, combining strong yet quirky melodies, and with enough twists and turns that it stays interesting. Only one of these tunes is actually written by Miles ("Circle"), while three were written by Wayne Shorter (sax); the remaining two written by Jimmy Heath, and Eddie Harris. Half of these tunes veer toward faster hard bop, each with an original angular head that matches up the two lead players really well (e.g. Wayne Shorter's "Orbits" and "Dolores", and Jimmy Heath's "Ginger Bread Boy"). The other half are slower tunes with some lineage to Kind of Blue (particularly "Circle", the one written by Miles), but here with more angular and experimental melodies, with Davis and Shorter often playing the quirky lead lines in unison. Shorter's "Footprints", and Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance", are my favourite tracks on this album, simultaneously introspective and tentative, and bold. Neither tunes jump out at you at first, but after many listens are like long-lost (but slightly eccentric) friends. But in fact every track is great, up there in the five-star category of Miles songs, and the album flows very well from one to the next. The quintet here is the classic with Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and the amazing Tony Williams. The band is very tight, giving the impression they had played this music many times before recording it. While Miles and Shorter are the main focus, the rhythm section is really on behind them. Miles' 1950s music was similar, but more 'straight' jazz, while his later 1970s are definitely far more 'out' with a very different avant-fusion-funk approach. I like all of it, but his music from the late 1950s through the late 1960s is his most special. Most listeners today who put this on in the background might think of this as pretty straight, but anyone who listens to it will realize the interesting musical things they are doing that even today hold up as impressive and experimental. I give this album 9.2 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 5 PA stars.

Walkscore | 5/5 |

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