Jazz Review: Dave Schildkraut and Miles Davis Play Solar

June 15, 2018

"Who is that?" Upon reading the name "Dave Schildkraut" in the title of this jazz review, everyone except a few jazz album collectors and experienced musicians would struggle with even pronouncing the name: the first guesses upon reading it would probably be closer to Sauerkraut than Schildkraut


First, we should probably help all of the readers with Schildkraut's pronounciation. Think of his name as being three separate sections: s-child-kraut. This should make the pronounciation relatively easy, but still, even most jazz fans have probably never heard of him, so this an opportunity to educate other jazz fans about the saxophonist.


The best way to describe alto saxophonist Schildkraut's earlier playing style is a combination of Paul Desmond and Charlie Parker, having a sound more like that of Desmond and improvisational material more like that of Charlie Parker. It would be hard to disagree that this is a good combination. 


Unfortunately, Schildkraut performed no studio albums as leader, although he did get the opportunity to record with one of jazz's best-known trumpet players, Miles Davis. By including Schildkraut in his quintet, Miles Davis was able to get quite close to the Charlie Parker quintet sound of the late 1940s, a quintet Davis had been a part of when he was only about twenty years old. Davis's most fluent playing was when towards the end of his period in the Charlie Parker quintet, and in the 1950s and early 1960s his playing became sparser and had fewer fast phrases. Also, Davis generally sounded better without a mute than with one: mutes change the generally make all trumpet players sound the same, and they often seemed to reduce Davis' technically ability when he was in the studio.The recording of Davis and Schildkraut reviewed here was done in the mid-1950s. 


But Davis' change in style didn't stop him from recording some good albums, including Walkin', which has the album cover of a pedestrian walk signal. (If you look at the album cover, you will notice that it only has two lights on it instead of the more common three because the signal is designed for pedestrians, and not intended for cars.) 


"Solar" by Davis and Schildkraut, the subject of this jazz review. You can see the album cover in this video. To watch the video on YouTube, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wszvzhsHI9U


Miles Davis' version of "Solar" is a rather addictive recording. Pianist Horace Silver's accompaniment chords create a rather mysterious air, and Davis' atmospheric and mysterious playing during his solo (using a mute) drives listeners to hearing this recording multiple times. You can definitely argue that the Solar recording was one of the times when Miles Davis sounded better on the mute.


After Davis' solo is Schildkraut. Schildkraut with Silver continues to build on the mysterious sound that Davis and Silver created. Schildkraut maintains a "cool" sound while playing fast phrases, making these fast phrases hardly noticeable unless you listen to him closely. Here and there, Schildkraut plays particularly Parker-like phrases. Unlike Parker, though, Schildkraut sometimes ends his phrases in mid-air. To add to the interest of Schildkraut's solo and to emphasize the Walkin' bass line (pun intended), Horace Silver plays no accompaniment at all in at least one place during Schildkraut's solo.


Silver's solo is generally not anything out of the ordinary, but Silver sometimes plays those discordant phrases that he became well-known for on his recording of "Song for My Father".


After Silver's solo, Miles Davis takes another solo and closes the recording.




The musicians: Miles Davis (trumpet, leader), Dave Schildkraut (alto saxophone), Horace Silver (piano), Percy Heath (bass), and Kenny Clarke (drums).

The video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wszvzhsHI9U

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