A unique all-star set recorded in various combinations between 1949 and 1951, Conception is an underappreciated masterpiece of cerebral cool jazz. Although Miles Davis gets top billing, he appears on only half the album and then most often as a sideman with only occasional solos. Saxophonists Lee Konitz, Stan Getz, and Gerry Mulligan are the true stars of the album, with Konitz particularly shining. His two duets with guitarist Billy Bauer, a relaxed take on Victor Herbert's standard "Indian Summer" and his own "Duet for Saxophone and Guitar," are outstanding examples of cool jazz as the term was originally understood before it came to signify new age-leaning elevator music; Konitz's solos in "Indian Summer" disassemble the melody entirely while remaining accessibly tonal, and Bauer's filigree guitar lines stay clear of the uninspired comping of so many jazz guitarists while never sounding overly busy. Of the full-band pieces, Davis' solo spotlight on George Shearing's "Conception" finds the trumpeter in transition from the still soundscapes of the Birth of the Cool sessions to the more aggressive playing of his Capitol sets, and Stan Getz's two showcases, the originals "Prezervation" and "Intoit," feature the saxophonist in his early role as a committed Lester Young disciple, fronting a solid rhythm trio featuring the underrated pianist Al Haig. An excellent album featuring some outstanding and varied tracks, Conception is well worth seeking out.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason