For nearly half a century, Miles Davis (1926-1991) was arguably the preeminent innovator in jazz - rarely staying in the same place twice, experimenting with the most cutting-edge styles and ideas he could imagine. This year, some of Miles' most enduring works for Columbia Records are collected the way they were originally heard: MILES DAVIS: THE ORIGINAL MONO RECORDINGS. Each CD, newly remastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios, is housed in a mini-LP replica jacket, faithfully replicating the original LP sleeves. They are encased in a quality slipcase, alongside a 40-page booklet with rare photos and brand-new essay offering in-depth, first-hand accounts from George Avakian, who signed Miles to Columbia in 1955, AND play-by-play from mastering engineer Mark Wilder. This is the true genius of Miles Davis as most people first heard it, the way it was intended to be heard: in mono.
THE COMPLETE BITCHES BREW SESSIONS won the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Boxed Recording Package. Released in 1970, BITCHES BREW undeniably changed the shape of jazz to come. Fundamentalists groan that it diluted the form, bringing on the fusion plague and sowing the germs of smooth jazz. But a cross-section of adventurous listeners recognized it for the monumental sonic breakthrough it was: slabs of free jazz mixed with hard-funk rhythms, rock's electric textures and a meditative blues spirit, with the studio used as the editing desk to tie these elements together.
MILES DAVIS QUINTET The Complete Blackhawk Sessions (Incredible 2003 US audiophile SIX LP limited edition boxed set, remastered & pressed on high quality 180gm virgin vinyl for the ultimate audio experience & featuring the classic sessionsrecorded live at the Blackhawk, San Francisco on April 21 & 22, 1961. The set is complete with an individually numbered 20-page illustrated booklet & housed in a superior textured picture box.
Produced with loving care by Claude Nobs, founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, with no edits or overdubs, this document of Miles Davis's Montreux performances shows through never-before-released material how Miles and company transformed his music live, with their fire, invention, and interplay. The list of sidemen on these dates is a who's who of today's superstars, including saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarists John Scofield and Robben Ford, keyboardists Adam Holzman and Kei Akagi, bassist Michael Henderson, and percussionist Mtume. Most of the music on these discs features versions of Davis's fusion "hits." The funky and R&B-ish ditty "Ife" and the bouncy "Calypso Frelimo" are rendered with more gusto than their studio versions, as are the in-the-pocket, mid-'80s tunes "Star People" and "New Blues." A package this big has more than a few surprises, however. Chaka Khan lends her powerful pipes to Davis's unique cover of the Michael Jackson sleeper, "Human Nature," and "Al Jarreau" is an upbeat (though too short) tribute to the great vocalise master.
This eight-CD set captures Miles Davis's second great quintet at its fiercest, loose with both the blossoming of familiarity between the players and the broadness of its attacks on the mostly well known tunes the group called during two nights at Chicago's Plugged Nickel in 1965. And you can hear it all, from "The Theme" that closed the quintet's sets to multiple, radically different takes of several tunes. Davis formed this band with just its heated potential in mind, opting for youth in Wayne Shorter's tenor sax, Herbie Hancock's piano, Ron Carter's bass, and, especially, Tony Williams's unlocked rhythmic energy. It does the mind good when listening to these takes on "If I Were a Bell," "Stella by Starlight," and the polarizing "All Blues" and "No Blues" that Williams was under 20 when punching this group's forward motion. These live shows make clear that Davis was a savvy cat, sticking to the tried 'n' true when playing live and then indulging new tunes that eschewed formulaic jazz structures on the string of his new quintet's explosive studio recordings that began months earlier with E.S.P. (all of them found on the Grammy-winning Complete Columbia Studio Sessions, 1965-'68 box set). But the Plugged Nickel tunes show that familiar or not, these tunes are platforms for scrappy creative apexes when played live. Davis's trumpet is typically midrange, except when he deconstructs even his own range limitations with squawks and artful miscues. Shorter braves convolutions that tear into his tone, taking his solos far afield from the harmony and melodies at hand only to reshape the tunes. As live jazz, this collection is possibly some of the best in recorded history, adventurous without leaving the ears boxed and powerfully enlightening about where Miles Davis would go in the 1960s.