Miles Davis’ first session for Blue Note Records took place on May 9, 1952, when, along with JJ Johnson (trombone), Jackie McLean (alto saxophone), Gil Coggins (piano), Oscar Pettiford (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums) they recorded six different songs over nine takes at WOR studios in New York City.
Much of this material was released on 10” albums shortly after it was recorded. The tracks from this 1952 session, dubbed Miles Davis – Young Man With A Horn, also appeared in Blue Note’s Modern Jazz series. Two of the songs from the 1952 session, along with others he recorded during a second Blue Note session, held on April 20, 1953, at the same studio (and for which Jimmy Heath’s tenor sax replaced McLean’s alto, Percy Heath took over bass duties and Art Blakey sat in on drums), appeared on Miles Davis Volume 2.
Miles’ third session for Blue Note was his first at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio, in the producer’s New Jersey living room. Held on March 6, 1954, this time he worked with a quartet featuring Horace Silver on piano, and Heath and Blakey as the rhythm section. This material, along with the cuts from the earlier two sessions, were gathered together to become the first two 12” LPs issued by Blue Note in 1956.
The 1952 session was far from Miles’s finest; he was seriously addicted to heroin and didn’t have a regular band. However, as the three sessions progressed, so did the arc of a musical story, showing how Davis was moving beyond pure bop to create his own unique musical vision and style.
“That’s what makes jazz the exciting thing it is, illuminating the character of the man who makes it, fabricating moods and transmitting thought vibrations in the very moment of creation. And in this process Miles is a past master.” Leonard Feather, liner notes of the original issue
The 1953 session is indispensable and worthy enough to follow on from the seminal Birth Of The Cool. The tracks Van Gelder recorded feature Miles’ trumpet, without the saxophone, and allow him full control. On “Take Off” and “The Leap” he demonstrates just how to construct the perfect trumpet solo. Back in 1955, when this session came out on a 10” album, Down Beat suggested that it would have “benefitted from the addition of an extra horn.” We beg to differ.