Don’t forget that April is Jazz Appreciation Month! JAM is a creation of the folks at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History. Be sure to visit the JAM web site and sign up for your free copy of the 2015 JAM poster featuring Billy Strayhorn!
While you’re there, you’ll want to check out all the other JAM resources the NMAH offers, including their list of “112 Ways To Celebrate Jazz” for those of us who live outside the Washington, DC area.
This has been a busy and unseasonably warm day in the Portland metro area. As a result, I find myself sitting down to write this with barely two hours until deadline.
This leaves me with the choice of either a) announcing there will be no review this week, or b) scrapping for now the album I originally planned on writing about today and going with a known quantity, something from an artist (or artists) that require little by way of introduction.
And yet the album itself must be, if not unique, at least interesting. You’ll have to let me know how well I did. 🙂
Given those parameters, the album I want to tell you about was recorded on October 5, 1951 and is called “Dig.” It was recorded early in the lives of a group six of men, all of whom would go on to have outstanding careers in jazz. Most of them eventually would become leaders of their own bands.
There will be no unfamiliar names here.
Miles Davis, trumpet
Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone,
Jackie McLean, alto saxophone
Walter Bishop, piano
Tommy Potter, bass
Art Blakey, drums
Besides the high caliber of the musicians involved, and the choice of material to be presented, “Dig” is notable for another reason. As Ira Gitler wrote in the liner notes for the original vinyl LP release:
“These are some of the first ‘longer playing’ recordings, made possible by the advent of the LP. Recorded on October 5, 1951, this entire session has been remastered by top engineer Rudy Van Gelder.”
Of the seven tracks “Dig” presents us with, all but three were written by Davis himself. Even with its extended playing time, the original LP version only had room for five of the songs recorded that day. The other two were included on a separate album called “Conception.” The digitally remastered CD version, released in 1991, restores the missing “Conception” and “My Old Flame” as tracks six and seven.
It is no surprise to find that the title track, which also opens the disk, is a Davis tune. “Dig” cooks right from the opening notes and flies along with the entire ensemble. There is a slight gear change 30 seconds in, and the rest of the horns fall silent while McLean (then only 19 years old) takes the lead and runs with it magnificently. Davis (himself only 23 at the time) then steps up for a while, followed by Rollins. All the while the rhythm section drives the group forward.
Here are the guys performing “Dig”:
“Dig” is followed by the classic, “It’s Only A Paper Moon.” This song was written in the 1930’s by Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg and Billy Rose, and in the almost ninety years since it has been recorded by dozens of artists. The version here is excellent and each of the horns takes a turn soloing.
You can listen to “It’s Only A Paper Moon” here:
Skipping ahead a bit we come to one of my favorite songs on this album, “Bluing.” Another Davis composition, “Bluing” is also the longest song here, running just under ten minutes. Bishop and Potter take the lead for the opening and do indeed infuse it with a slow, bluesy feel. Davis takes over about a minute in and the blues-drenched notes flow eloquently. Three minutes later Davis steps aside and Rollins takes the lead. The tenor sax lends a warmth to the sound that is hard to come by with a trumpet, even one in the hands of a master like Davis.
“Out Of The Blue” follows. This one opens with all the horns up for action, and boy do they get it. This is a bit of a quieter song than what we’ve heard up to now, but the rhythm section’s cooking, especially Blakey’s, makes this is a don’t miss song!
I could write more, but I think this should be enough to give you an idea of what this disk is about. I am obviously certain that you will find the album “Dig” from Miles Davis with Sonny Rollins to be an outstanding addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night! 😉
Thanks for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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