Miles Davis – Cookin’ at the Plugged Nickel ★★★★★

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Miles DavisColumbia/Legacy

Miles Davis (t), Wayne Shorter (ts), Herbie Hancock (p), Ron Carter (b) and Tony Williams (d). Rec. 1965

Was this the apotheosis of jazz? The exaltation of jazz improvisation to such a divine level it has never been surpassed? Quite probably. On this album there are just four tracks, all recorded on the 22 December 1965. In the 1995 box set Miles Davis The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 there are three CDs documenting the first, second and third sets from that evening, from which those the four tracks on this album – ‘If I Were a Bell’, ‘Stella by Starlight’, ‘Walkin’, and ‘Miles’ – where taken while there are four CDs from 23 December detailing four sets. Taken together, it s a remarkable body of music.

This album provides a window into those sessions and demonstrates how Davis had taken the conventions of improvising in time over cyclical chord progressions to such a level of sophistication, interaction, spontaneity and creativity it left him with nowhere else to go. Davis’ genius was of course to realise this and within 36 months he had launched out in a new direction entirely, leaving subsequent generations of musicians and fans to look on in awe and wonder at his towering achievement on those two nights in Chicago in December 1965.

– Stuart Nicholson