Miles Davis - Relaxin' With The Miles Davis Quintet
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Recorded across two sessions in 1956, Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet remains one of the Dark Magus’ most highly regarded Prestige albums.
To get the full story, let's travel back to the summer of 1955. Miles, then signed to Weinstock’s indie jazz label, Prestige (where he’d released several albums since 1951), joined up with Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan in an hastily assembled all-star band to play at George Wein’s Newport Jazz Festival, then it its second year. While he was a prominent figure on the US modern jazz scene, Miles wasn’t yet the revered, iconic figure he is today. In fact, as he wrote in his book, Miles: The Autobiography: “I think my name in the clubs was still shit and a lot of the critics probably still thought I was a junkie. I wasn’t really popular at the time, but that began to change after I played the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955.”
Indeed it did. Miles’ sensational performance at Newport, where he used a mute on some spellbinding ballads, marked the starting point for his transformation into a bona fide jazz star and household name. Columbia producer George Avakian witnessed Miles’ performance and immediately wanted to sign him. The only problem was that Miles was signed to Prestige, with a year left on his contract. Avakian negotiated with Weinstock to buy Miles’ contract and an agreement was struck whereby Miles would sign with Columbia but they wouldn’t release anything until his Prestige contract had expired. As a parting gift, Miles would give Weinstock four albums’ worth of material.
By this time, Miles, urged by Avakian and Weinstock, had assembled his first proper band. It was a quintet comprising a relatively unknown tenor saxophonist from Philly named John Coltrane, along with pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones on drums. They had a residency in the newly opened Café Bohemia in New York, where they were able to hone their material and then, during two long studio sessions for Prestige at recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s highly-regarded New Jersey studio (in May and October of 1956) they laid down the tracks that became the four Prestige LPs Workin’, Steamin’, Relaxin’ and Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet.
Not one given to nostalgia, Miles rarely gave his career a backward glance, but he evidently looked back at those final Prestige recordings with fondness. “That was some great music we made at both those sessions and I’m really proud of it today,” he wrote in 1989, three years before his death.
Authentic vinyl reissue pressed by Original Jazz Classics for Prestige Records in 2005.