One of the great bands of all time, Miles Davis’ sextet with John Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball” Adderly on saxophones set the gold standard for jazz ensembles of the late 50’s. Their recordings, including the sublime “Kind of Blue,” have become the canon for jazz students who pour over each note and phrase with tremendous fervency.
Behind the rollicking front line of horn players, whose work I will write about in a later post, is the tremendous engine of the band: the rhythm section comprised of the drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers, and the incredible Wynton Kelly. While other pianists who worked with Miles are better known by name–Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock come to mind–Wynton Kelly’s work in Miles’ band was consistently thoughtful and wildly swinging.
While studying with one of my teachers, the late, great Enos Payne, he explained that Wynton Kelly and Red Garland were hip to the rhythms of boxing. This, he said, accounts for the rhythmic thrust of their left hands, which are consistently sounding the offbeats throughout their solos. It’s an interesting insight, and one that helped me study that rhythmic style in my own playing.
Recently I have been listening to a number of Wynton’s records as a leader: Kelly at Midnight, Kelly Great!, and Comin’ in the Back Door, to name a few. These are classic records–but rarely named in lists of the greatest records of all time. That’s too bad–but then again, getting hip to Wynton’s talents is like unearthing a subtle but invaluable jewel. If you haven’t heard it yet, check out “Soul Station” by Hank Mobley, which has some of Wynton’s greatest playing. Listen to Wynton–I’m sure you’ll dig him!
PS: you can find my new swing band here: www.thesmokerings.com