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Miles Davis: Dig

Album Notes

Personnel: Miles Davis (trumpet); Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone); Jackie McLean (alto saxophone); Walter Bishop (piano); Tommy Potter (bass); Art Blakey (drums).

Recorded in New York, New York on October 5, 1951. Originally released on Prestige (7012). Includes liner notes by Ira Gitler.

Digitally remastered by Joe Tarantino (1991, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California).

Miles Davis' third Prestige session of 1951 is notable for the presence of two youngsters who'd mature into identifiable voices on their instruments: 21-year-old tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins and 19-year-old alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. The spirit of their idol Charlie Parker seems to hover over the proceedings (in fact, Bird was a visitor at the date).

DIG opens with the shifting canvas of George Shearing's "Conception," which, as jazz historian Dan Morgenstern points out, bears the mark of Miles' group conception on BIRTH OF THE COOL. Davis sets the pace with vigorous, dancing lines--an imposing statement with which to inaugurate a session when you're just getting your chops together. Elsewhere, the contrasting medium tempos of "Out Of The Blue" and "It's Only A Paper Moon" inspire Miles' most direct melodic statements, full of expressive smears and rhythmic variations.

Art Blakey and pianist Walter Bishop, Jr. fervently feed each soloist on "Denial" as if their lives depend on it, and the relaxation and harmonic flow of Miles' lines are remarkable considering the tempo. Keyed by Bishop's taciturn opening chorus, the trumpeter's "Bluing" is a perfect illustration of his lyric feel for traditional blues materials, and by the time this take was cut his tone had ripened into something more akin to voice than horn. Rollins ups the rhythmic ante, and McLean responds with his most soulful solo of the date. But it's the title tune, with its steeplechase line, stop time breaks and epic drive, that will inspire the most return visits. Each soloist shines, but Miles' behind-the-beat game of cat and mouse with Blakey is a gem.


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