MILES DAVIS Birdland 1951 (Blue Note) Rating: NNN
The landmark Birth Of The Cool recording was a already a distant memory for Miles Davis in 1951. He'd been dropped by Capitol and picked up a heroin habit that restricted his New York gigs to off-night fill-ins at Birdland with pickup bands. Fortunately, this was a time when the pickings included Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, J.J. Johnson, Charles Mingus and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, who all appear alongside a spirited Miles in these high-energy performances drawn from three Symphony Sid radio broadcasts. Birdland 1951 isn't a revelation since much of the material - except four tracks from a date with Rollins - has been widely circulated on bootlegs, and there's not a dramatic improvement in sound quality here. What you get is an aural snapshot capturing a transitional period between bop and hard bop when musicians of varying backgrounds could come together in a snap, play their asses off and have a great time doing it.