Miles Davis’ 1958 concert in Newport was part of one of the finest programs of the legendary festival. Notably, the night of July 3rd was organized around Duke Ellington whose big band—with special guests Gerry Mulligan and Mahalia Jackson—shared the stage with Rex Stewart, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and Miles’ sextet. Caught in traffic jams on his way from the ferry to Newport, he arrived just in time to play, and John Coltrane had to be asked to reduce the length of his solos.
During “Ah-Leu-Cha,” the first piece, Coltrane jumped into the two choruses attributed to him and blew the harmonics to pieces. In the course of the concert, he asserted himself as the true star of the quintet. In contrast, Cannonball Adderley—at first welcomed with prolonged applause—seemed to fade into the background. A few months later, fascinated by his tenor’s development, Miles nailed down the alto’s more traditional style: “Why play all those notes that don’t mean anything?”