Miles’ first appearance on Prestige was as part of an anthology, his music alongside that of other top modern jazz trumpeters of the day: Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, and Kenny Dorham. Unsurprisingly the LP was titled Modern Jazz Trumpets. Miles contributed three of the album’s nine tracks: the ballad “Whispering”—known by popular interpretations by bandleaders Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and, interestingly, Pete Rugolo, who produced the Birth of the Cool band for Capitol.
“Morpheus,” an obvious link to the contained impressionism of Birth of the Cool; and, revealing more of where Miles was heading was “Down,” with its relaxed bop swagger. Miles’ performances are not as strong or secure as he was then capable of, and in his autobiography he admitted as such, blaming his addiction and having two other recording dates on the same day. “I didn’t play well,” he wrote. “But I think everyone else played well—especially Sonny [Rollins].”
Sonny Rollins was a young, 18-year-old tenor player from Harlem when he first jammed with Davis in 1949. They became partners on stage and off, sharing gigs, recording sessions. It was through Miles that Rollins first came to record as a leader for Prestige in 1951; he was smitten by the tenor player’s sound from the start. “Some thought he was playing saxophone on the level of Bird. I know one thing – he was close.”
Miles’ rapidly growing stature at Prestige can be intuited from the album’s cover. The first edition featured text only, but on subsequent releases an image of Miles was added, with none of the other three.