By the late 1950s, trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist Sonny Rollins had already established themselves as two of the most influential jazz musicians of their generation. Five decades later, their iconic status is undisputed - not just in jazz, but in the performing arts in general.
The first glimmers of their greatness were already evident in the early 1950s, during a series of intermittent sessions they recorded together for the Prestige label between 1951 and 1956. During this relatively brief but seminal period, they assimilated the fundamental elements of bebop - the prevailing jazz language of the day - and developed distinctive voices that launched brilliant individual careers and ultimately reverberated throughout jazz for the next half century and beyond.
Concord Music Group has assembled these Prestige sessions in their entirety - 25 tracks in all - on a two-disc set that showcases the early genius of these two iconic figures. Miles Davis & Sonny Rollins: The Classic Prestige Sessions, 1951-1956, is set for release on August 4, 2009.
"Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins proved to be two of the most influential artists in the history of jazz, and here we hear them together early in their respective careers, while both artists were quickly developing their distinctive individual voices," says Nick Phillips, Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R at Concord and producer of the compilation. "It's interesting to hear these recordings more than fifty years after they were made - to hear that budding genius while also knowing what these two artists went on to do separately later, and knowing the indelible impact they both ultimately made in the history of jazz. So aside from being a collection of great music, it's also a really important historical document. In one two-CD collection, we can hear everything that these two iconic artists did together on Prestige, at the genesis of their extraordinary careers."
The Classic Prestige Sessions traces five recording dates in various locations in New York and the famed Rudy Van Gelder studio in New Jersey between January 1951 and March 1956. In addition to Davis and Rollins, the sessions also feature performances by Art Blakey, Tommy Flanagan, Roy Haynes, Charlie Parker, Horace Silver and several other talented session players who went on to establish prolific and influential careers of their own in subsequent years.
The compilation also includes extensive liner notes by veteran jazz historian and journalist Ira Gitler, a staffer at Prestige at the time of the historic sessions. Gitler's notes provide a first-hand account of the sessions and the various circumstances surrounding them, with fascinating details about Miles, Rollins and the various other figures in the studio during the recording process. Through Gitler, we're given a unique glimpse of not only the technical aspects of the music and the production, but also the musicians' personalities, their artistic perspectives, their individual aspirations, even their subtle mood swings and idiosyncrasies.
"In the early 1950s, [Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins] developed a friendship and working relationship that produced some of the best and most important jazz of that decade," says Gitler, "and were then propelled, each in his separate orbit, to musical triumphs in the '60s and beyond."
Miles Davis & Sonny Rollins:
The Classic Prestige Sessions, 1951-1956
3) Blue Room (take 1)
4) Blue Room (take 2)
6) I Know
8) Out of the Blue
12) My Old Flame
13) It's Only a Paper Moon
2) The Serpent's Tooth (take 1)
3) The Serpent's Tooth (take 2)
4) 'Round Midnight
7) But Not for Me (take 1)
8) But Not for Me (take 2)
10) In Your Own Sweet Way
11) No Line
12) Vierd Blue
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