Miles Davis ‘Porgy and Bess’ (Poll Winners) 5/5

Miles-DavisSome albums are destined to become instant classics and this superlative collaborative effort between trumpeter Miles Davis and arranger Gil Evans is truly a musical marriage made in heaven. It has to be said that the album as a whole is utterly irresistible with highlights galore throughout and this is simply one of the finest ever examples of classical and jazz styles coming together. The fact that composer George Gershwin intended the compositions to chronicle the African-American experience lends itself to a jazz interpretation and Davis and Evans combine on an album that for many rivals and even tops ‘Sketches of Spain’. Either way, it is an enthralling musical voyage one is taken on. It is the intensity of the sound that still never fails to greet the listener on each new occasion one listens to the album and something new is gained, a sure sign of an all-time classic recording. Of course the all-star big band line-up contributed greatly to creating a unique and at times tense atmosphere and then recent Miles band members Cannonball Adderley, Philly Joe Jones and bassist Paul Chambers were all on hand as were trumpeter Johnny Coles and Gunter Schuller to provide some stunning accompaniment to the leader. However, seldom has the sensitive balladry of Davis been exemplified as beautifully as here on the stunning ‘Summertime’, and the tempo shifts upwards on an equally compelling ‘It ain’t necessarily so’. Just tow of a host of exquisite performances from Davis who was about to hit one his numerous career peaks.

The excellent re-issue packaging includes evocative early-mid 1950s photos of Miles who was always that most photogenic of jazz musicians, the original Downbeat review by Gene Lees from 1958 as well as the extensive original vinyl back cover notes written by critic Charles Edward Smith which are faithfully reproduced. Four bonus cuts include two takes on ‘But not for me’ and ‘The man I love’, both Gershwin compositions, but taken from separate 1954 sessions that include a stellar cast of Monk, Milt Jackson and Kenny Clarke among others. Any self-respecting devotee of music irrespective of the genre needs to have a copy of this album in at least one format and preferably in several, so essential is it to twentieth century music.

Tim Stenhouse