Miles Davis and John Coltrane – Green Dolphin Street (1960)

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by Nick DeRiso

The last time Miles Davis and John Coltrane played together, as best I can tell.

Recorded in Holland in April 1960, the stirring song cycle was later issued stateside by the little-known Natasha Imports. One version, from the 9th, had just So What, ‘Round Midnight, On Green Dolphin Street (obviously), Walkin and The Theme. Later copies, I think from other nights, had additional tracks. All featured Wyn Kelly, Paul Chambers and (the great, if erratic) Jimmy Cobb, as well.

What you hear from Coltrane is an amazing deconstruction of the blues, a kind of foreshadowing of his work for Impulse! called “Africa Brass,” during a period when he seemed to grow somewhat distracted by the framework of Davis’ stuff.

Coltrane was, even than, testing the waters on longer, freeform structures. It led to more than few heated exchanges, including one recounted by soulful saxist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, another former Davis bandmate:

MILES: “Why did you play so long, man?”
COLTRANE: “It took that long to get it all in.”

He wasn’t long for this band, and that’s why Sonny Stitt also appears on various releases from this period, standing in for Coltrane.

As with all endings, this one is notable, sad, terrific and in no small way definitive. You hear in these solos the first yearnings, the initial embryonic ideas, that would shape Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” — the title track of which might just boast one of mainstream jazz’s most complex chord progressions.

And Coltrane was just getting started. He wasn’t the only one; Miles — having been pushed around artistically — would then hire a pride of brilliant young pioneers who then formed the foundation for his second great group.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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