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Loving the Jazz way

Lyrical collection from a many-sided genius

Love Songs
Miles Davis
Sony Music
Rs 100

The apparent incongruity strikes you almost at once: how does one associate one of the great innovators of modern jazz with love songs? Part of the answer: much of Miles Davis's work was in the genre of cool jazz, the relaxed reaction in the '50s to the frenetic energy of the be-bop of the '40s. Its laid-back approach is well suited to inducing the feeling of warmth that popular love songs often aim for. It's equally important, however, that jazz musicians of all schools have always managed to use the great love songs of Broadway and early American pop music and give them a jazz twist, retaining or even enhancing the emotional intensity while throwing out the sentimentality.

So it is with these eleven numbers. Davis's trumpet, always muted, dominates all of them. He's mostly content with playing out the theme with his exquisite sense of timing the lengths of the notes and the pauses between them. The languid, lyrical effect is especially apt for love songs. On the whole, the improvised solos characteristic of jazz are short and spread thin. They most often come from supporting musicians instead of from the leader, slipped in quietly to produce a contrasting effect to Davis's trumpet and thus heighten it: tenor saxophonists Hank Mobley on I thought about you and Old folks(both 1961) and John Coltrane on Stella by starlight (1958); pianist Victor Feldman on I fall in love too easily(1963).

On Some day my prince will come(from 1961), for instance, Mobley and Coltrane come up with brilliant mutually contrasting solos which show off their different sound production techniques. Wynton Kelly follows each of them with a solo on piano. Then, on My funny valentine(from 1964), which reverts to be-bop, Herbie Hancock starts off with a brief languid intro on piano, Davis slips into it, then articulates the theme and reels off a rare solo improvisation, George Coleman follows on tenor sax, and Hancock and bassist Ron Carter improvise a duo interlude before the finale. Davis's relaxed trumpet permeates even the last two numbers (from 1985) - Time after time and Human nature - against a slightly hectic background from the supporting cast in jazz-rock fusion style.

Read the feature on this cool jazz artiste here


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