When the great Miles Davis was assembling his quintet in 1955 and chose a troubled young saxophonist named John Coltrane over more established and experienced players, many assumed the partnership wouldn’t last. While Davis was a reserved, dapper aesthete born to achievement, Coltrane was cut from coarser cloth but no less of a musical genius for that. Surely two such outsized talents were bound to clash, especially with the specter of Coltrane’s drug use looming overhead.
There were no pyrotechnics apart from the musical variety however, note Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington, authors of an illuminating book due out next week, Clawing at the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever—because “Coltrane was too humble, and Miles was simply too cool.” And thank god for it, or they might never have gotten around to laying down *Kind of Blue*.
- — Jared Paul Stern