Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jazz On Sunday: Miles Davis

Miles Davis (trumpet; b. 1926 - d. 1991)
The Columbia Years 1955-1985 (Columbia/Legacy)

So this is a short entry today. I had been thinking as we head into the holiday season and people start thinking about gifts to give others---why not think about what you want. You deserve it. Right? RIGHT!

An album I've been listening to a lot lately is Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955 - 1985. This four disc boxed set usually gets lost in the discussion of Miles' boxed sets and other multitudes of Miles Davis collections. The reason being, because all of the most recent boxed sets have been extremely focused on particular periods or styles of the great legend's music (e.g. Bitches Brew, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Silent Way, etc.).

There has also been a very nicely curated The Essential Miles Davis (Legacy Recordings), a 2 disc set, that covers the most significant moments spanning his entire career with the labels OJC, Prestige, Fontana, Columbia and Warner Bros. While this is a perfect gift for any Miles newcomer or all around jazz newcomer, I think The Columbia Years still deserves a place on someone's shelves this year. If not as a gift, be stingy and get it for yourself.

The Columbia Years represents the best of Miles material and is pretty comprehensive in what was chosen for the set. You get one of the earliest tracks, "Generique" from a little known label Jazz Track (which also served as the soundtrack for French film Elevator To The Scaffold). The iconic "So What" from the best jazz album in history Kind Of Blue to "Flies Of Kilimanjaro," "Miles Runs The Voodoo Down," to "What It Is" from one of the later albums Decoy.

This definitely is a set covering an extensive amount of Miles material during his most prolific period and may be too much for some newcomers, but I think you may also be able to find this boxed set pretty cheaply now due to the aforementioned boxes being available now.

The Columbia Years boxed set is divided into five sections over four discs: 1) Blues based material. 2) Standards. 3) Miles' original material. 4) Mood or atmospherics and lastly 5) Electric Fusion.

The other significance of The Columbia Years was that this was the very first ever boxed set of Miles Davis material. It was released on vinyl, cassette (yes cassette) and CD. At this point in 1988 there were absolutely no boxed sets out for jazz artists so this was a big deal.

I, for some nostalgic reason, always gravitate to this box when I have company over or when I just want a nice long dose of Miles for a Sunday afternoon. So if you are thinking of being a greedy little pig this holiday season let me recommend Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955-1985 as something well worth your schilling. Enjoy...

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