On Miles Davis’s Birdland 1951, bop loves pop to death, squeezing the peachy-but-preachy “Get Happy” (via chord surgery, circular breathing, and speed) into “Out of the Blue” ‘s Paradise Now, as Miles’s trumpet, J.J. Johnson’s trombone, Kenny Drew and Billy Taylor’s pianos, Tommy Potter and Charles Mingus’s basses, and Sonny Rollins, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, and Big Nicholas’s tenor saxes hot-wire and drive their Jackson Pollock scroller coaster around and around Art Blakey’s spotlit cymbal. (Miles and Art co-motorvate two otherwise different lineups.) Birdland‘s (remastered yet) raw, live broadcasts are 67-plus New York minutes of uncut 1951: new discoveries and ex-bootlegs, jumping turnstiles between ’40s ur-bop, later ’50s hard bop, and ’00s ears. Pieces o’ woik in true progress.
Including (among 10 tracks total) two versions of “Half Nelson,” and three of “Move”—killer filler, especially when the third “Move” moves out of the second, and Sonny’s ax splits into those of Lockjaw and Big Nick. Secretly I associate Lockjaw and Big Nick’s names and agile brawn with r&b (not as “smart” as jazz). So mine is tainted love. But clean cool you will dig this too.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 7, 2004