Miles Davis All-Stars – Broadcast Sessions 1958-59 (2008)

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There is a grail-like anticipation to these recordings, captured during four live performances just as trumpeter Miles Dewey Davis’s career transformed from a twinkling light at dusk into remarkable super nova.

Too, these aren’t your run-of-the-mill sideman constellations; they are, actually, all stars.

Namely, the band features a still-rising John Coltrane. Also Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley and Red Garland. Not to mention Gerry Mulligan, Wyn Kelly, Nat Adderley and Philly Joe Jones.

That sets up “Broadcast Sessions 1958-59” — due from Acrobat Music on Oct. 21 — as a major discovery for fans of this seminal period for Miles Davis, and for jazz.

Coltrane, it goes without saying, receives cover billing — having already played for a time with Miles and had well-received stints in groups led by Ellington sideman Johnny Hodges (a childhood hero of Coltrane’s), among others.

Of course, Coltrane would, eventually, prove to be the final piece of the puzzle as Davis began to dissemble the big band/bebop aesthetic. But, at this point, the First Great Davis Group — though we find no small amount of interesting asides in their earliest notions — had yet to fully coalesce. Davis was still honing a dramatic, yet introspective style — a critical element as the old sound dissolved into cool modernity. Meanwhile, Coltrane, in the years preceding these radio shows, was a mess. In fact, the talented saxist had been dismissed just a few years before by a recovering Davis when it became clear that Coltrane was under the spell of drugs. (Jones suffered a similar fate, to be replaced by Jimmy Cobb; Evans, who apparently used Philly Joe as a dealer, would eventually wander off on his own.)

Within the year, however, Coltrane had kicked the habit, crafted the early jazz masterpiece “Blue Train,” and made a celebrated return to the Davis group.

Together, they recorded a live radio broadcast just after the commercial release of “Milestones,” a May 1958 session that provided a quartet of cuts on “Broadcast Sessions 1958-59.” Things get under way with “Four” (credited to Davis, but actually said to be a Vinson composition), one of two takes on “Bye, Bye Blackbird” (also part of the first sessions featuring Davis and Coltrane in 1955), “Walkin’,” and Dizzy’s “Two Bass Hit,” one of the tracks from that early modal masterpiece “Milestones.”

The next three tunes on “Broadcast Sessions 1958-59” — “Sid’s Ahead,” “Straight, No Chaser” and another take on “Blackbird” — eventually surfaced on “Milestones,” as well. Then, there’s the never-before-released “What Is This Thing Called Love,” a more free-form jam from the old Art Ford radio show called “Jazz Party.” Finally, just before Davis issued his game-changing effort “Kind of Blue,” he performed during a two-week stand at Birdland, a period which included a January live broadcast for the Mutual Network’s “Bandstand USA.” “Bag’s Groove” and “All of You,” which round out the new disc, are from this radio program.

You hear unfinished genius, as Davis and Coltrane — two of American music’s most important artists — find their initial footing. Too, the informal setting allows for tunes with a loose, happy demeanor, something often missing in the closely managed studio recordings of the day.

Still, in the end, “Broadcast Sessions 1958-59” is more interesting than truly illuminating. It’s just too difficult to add much to triumphs looming just around the corner for Miles, Coltrane and the rest.

Kind of Blue,” of course, came next. And the night sky was never quite the same again.

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