The Best Of The Miles Davis Quintet (1965-1968)
Columbia / Legacy Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/18/1999
The older I get, the more I truly grow to appreciate jazz. I love the unbridled, unscripted feeling of the music, though chances are the music is often very carefully arranged to get that sort of feeling. I don't claim to be any expert on the subject, but the more I listen to artists like Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, the more I find myself picking up their albums in my trips to the music store.
Had it not been for Davis, jazz probably would not have evolved to the music form it is today. His unique style of trumpet playing, and his uncanny knack of working with only the best in the business, helped raise people's awareness of jazz to the point where, in the early '70s, Davis and his style of "cool jazz" was reshaping the music scene.
The Best Of The Miles Davis Quintet (1965-1968) is a highlight disc from the six-CD box set that should make anyone who is even remotely interested in jazz very hungry to hear as much of Davis's work as they can. If you don't have the cash to fork over for the complete box set, or you just want a taste of how remarkable this line-up was, then this is the disc to own.
Comprised of nine tracks (including two alternate takes found only on the box set), Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams all had to have known that they were creating something very special in this music. Hancock (who the MTV-generation knew thanks to his "Rockit" video) demonstrates just how magical of a pianist he was - and still is today. Hearing the frantic fretting of Carter's bass work and the fills Williams played on the drums raises the listener's pulse rate almost to the point where your heart is beating in time with the music. Shorter's saxophone work melts together with Davis's horn; together, this quintet is almost unstoppable.
"E.S.P.," the title track from the album of the same name, kicks things off solidly, working its way into a frenzied rhythm that you hope will never end. Of course, when it finally does, it leads the listener into "Eighty-One," another track that should get your toes tapping to the beat.
There are only two mis-steps on The Best Of The Miles Davis Quintet (1965-1968), and I'm sure jazz purists will disagree with me on these. "Circle" is a little too slow for my tastes, and reminds me of the slower, more methodical work of John Zorn and Naked City (who came around two decades after these sessions). "Nefertiti" also doesn't pique my interest, seeming like it's just a little too repetitive. (There still is some promise in both tracks, meaning I wouldn't make a dive for the "skip track" button on the CD player when these came on.)
But, for the most part, this disc captures everything good musically about this group. "Gingerbread Boy," "Masqualero" and the alternate take of "Country Son" just blow me away every time they come on the speakers, and I'm sure they'll do the same to you.
After listening to this disc, you might wonder what's your next musical step when it comes to Davis's work. If you, like me, love this disc, you might wish to pick up albums like E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer or Nefertiti, where these tracks (except for the alternate takes) can be originally found. Or, you might want to do some free-lance Davis surfing (the only other Davis album I have waiting for me in the wings is Sketches Of Spain). Whatever the case, this disc is a wonderful place to start your musical journey - and it just might have me plunking down $90 for the box set in the near future.