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Miles Davis: Bags' Groove

Album Notes

Personnel: Miles Davis (trumpet); Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone); Milt Jackson (vibraphone); Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver (piano); Percy Heath (bass); Kenny Clarke (drums).

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey on June 29 and December 24, 1954. Originally released on Prestige (7109). Includes liner notes by Ira Gitler.

BAGS' GROOVE is drawn mostly from a June 29, 1954 session reuniting Miles with his "Walkin'" rhythm team and old cohort Sonny Rollins. In addition to two fine takes of Gershwin's "But Not For Me," Rollins italicizes his commanding return with three originals which became instant jazz classics. To fill things out, there are two takes of Milt Jackson's epic blues line "Bags' Groove," drawn from the legendary December 24, 1954 session.

The common denominator to both sessions is the remarkably swinging rhythm team of drummer Kenny Clarke and bassist Percy Heath, who provide shimmering, understated locomotion without ever getting in the way--aided and abetted by the bluesy, sanctified piano of Horace Silver. Among the highlights are Sonny and Clarke's muscular Afro-Cuban vamp introducing Rollins' anthemic tribute to Nigeria, "Airegin," and the grinding, vaudevillian blues airs of "Doxy." But "Oleo" (a provocative new melody based on the "I Got Rhythm" changes) is a masterpiece. Piano and drums lay out at key points during the arrangement, adding dramatic textural contrast. Muted trumpet and tenor announce the serpentine theme over Heath's punchy bass line; Miles' little boyish timbre and Rollins' airy Lestorian (Young, that is) detachment animate these classic solos, while Clarke's dramatic switch to brushes fires up Silver's puckish line.

Of two excellent takes on Jackson's "Bags' Groove," the longer first take is the more magical. The elegant shape and bluesy details of Miles' melodic lines, his suspenseful use of silence, the bulbous, burnished tone, all suggest that Miles had finally discovered his true sound. Jackson's carillon tone and drum-like accents turn up the heat, setting the stage for Monk's spare, Charlie Christian-like blues chords, telling rests and affectionate parodies of Miles' solo. BAGS' GROOVE is what great jazz is all about.


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