1. One of the weaker of the four “Apostrophe With the Miles Davis Quintet” albums recorded in two days of 1956 … which is to say it’s still pretty fucking good. And with the first two tracks, I’m always, always, always tempted to give this one an ‘A.’ Opener “It Never Entered My Mind” ties for the most gorgeous track from those four albums (the other is “My Funny Valentine”, from Cookin’), and if Red Garland’s piano intro hasn’t already rolled you round, then I got nothing; I didn’t think I could get much higher but then Miles Davis enters with his soulful melody over-top, and later, Garland actually reaches heaven in his solo. To me, this is on par with stuff like Claude Debussy’s “Arabesque #2” or the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning”: music so impossibly perfect, so beyond ineffable, so mood-agnostic (as opposed to certain other sad songs that require you to be sad to get the most out of them), that sometimes I can’t believe it exists. Too purple? You’ll deal. Interesting that both “It Never Entered My Mind” and “My Funny Valentine” has Coltrane sitting out. For the best, methinks: his typically more aggressive, or at least, jumpy sound (even by 1956’s Coltrane standards) wouldn’t have worked on either. Since Philly Joe Jones got delegated to simple if understated brush-work on “It Never Entered My Mind”, he comes roaring in on “Four” in a military inspired swirl. It should be a horrible sequence, from clouds to earth, from half band to whole, but Jones’ transitioning introduction somehow works – never sure how. Through sheer force of Godly musicianship?
2. The rest of this album is merely good, which isn’t good enough by the standards set by the first two tracks or the other three albums. I get nothing out of any of the solos from “Trane’s Blues”, which is the longest track here, or “Ahmad’s Blues” after the solos from Red Garland and Paul Chambers (maybe because both Davis and Coltrane sit out?), which is the second-longest track here. That the band sounds so energized on “Half Nelson” might be because of the tempo, or it might be because it’s the only track recorded in the October session.
3. Hearing Joe Jones bang his way through the second take of “The Theme” makes it my third favorite track (he does something similar on “Ahmad’s Blues”). Which is a bit of a problem since it’s the shortest and most superfluous one.