Personnel: Miles Davis (trumpet); Jackie Mclean (alto saxophone); Sonny Rollins, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, George "Big Nick" Nicholas (tenor saxophone); J.J. Johnson (trombone); Don Elliot (vibraphone); Gil Collins, Kenny Drew, Billy Taylor (piano); Connie Henry, Tommy Potter, Charles Mingus (bass); Connie Kay, Art Blakey (drums).
Recorded live at Birdland, New York, New York on June 2 and September 29, 1951 and on May 2 & 3, 1952.
Given the strange, low-key appearance of these recordings, the lack of attribution in the liner notes, a latter-day picture of Miles (despite the fact that the recordings are from the early '50s), and the fact that this release is from Spain, Complete Birdland Recordings has all the marks of a bootleg. Nonetheless, much of the material here has great value to the Davis enthusiast. The first six tracks, recorded in 1952, feature a very young Jackie McLean on alto, Don Elliot on vibes, and Connie Kay on drums. The quality varies since the gig was obviously miked from the audience -- but Blue Note has put out worse legitimately. It's a jam session set (Charlie Parker's "Confirmation," Davis' own "Out of the Blue," and "The Chase," among others), and is notable for how fiery Miles was in the early '50s. McLean and Kay stand out as well, but only the latter for the right reasons. The next three tunes feature Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Kenny Drew, J.J. Johnson, and Tommy Potter. Unfortunately, the sound quality on these sides is really dodgy; it's difficult to even hear Rollins. Musically, it's awesome, tight, cutting-contest heavy. The remaining three tracks feature Charles Mingus, Billy Taylor(!), and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Two of the tracks are Tadd Dameron tunes and, again, poor sound quality notwithstanding, the performances are topnotch (there's a Lockjaw Davis solo on "Move" that is better than anything on his own records), rivaling anything in Miles' late-'40s to early-'50s period. Complete Birdland Recordings is a cool and curious document that's for die-hard fans only. ~ Thom Jurek