In 1961, long after John Coltrane had left Miles Davis' band for good, Davis remained the undisputed titan of the non-"new thing" cocktails 'n' cuff links set. Perhaps his finest hour was the stint he did in April of that year at San Francisco's Blackhawk club. These sides have been issued in various configurations before, including the original two-record set, which, as the title indicates, encompassed the set on Friday, April 21, 1961. On this four-disc reissue, not only has that concert been reprogrammed in its entirety but the following night's set has been included as well. It's one of the last stands for Miles' Afro-infused hard bop.
Miles was still blowing hot air, in other words, but that's just like saying that the five-plus hours of fine-tuned schmaltz on this package is like a much-needed tropical breeze on a cold San Franciscan night. The band at this time was a seasoned troupe of pros like Jimmy Cobb (drums), Paul Chambers (bass), Wynton Kelly (piano), and Hank Mobley on tenor sax. Set two of opening night represents a peak for the band -- "Bye Bye Blackbird" features solos by Miles and Mobley that define the notion of solid jazz improvising. The whole band pulls out all the stops on the old Davis chestnut "Walkin. '"
My only complaint is the incomprehensible packaging, which makes details such as dates and even titles strictly guesswork.
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