August 2001


Miles Davis - "Milestones"

Here again, we have another compilation from the box set "The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis/John Coltrane". This remastered recording differs from the original, which was Miles debut recording for the Columbia label. There are nine tracks on this release including three alternate tracks of "Two Bass Hit", "Milestones" and "Straight No Chaser". The package is very attractive and the sound quality is simply wonderful.

The making of Milestones was Davis' first really serious involvement with modal jazz, a success that gave birth to the ever-popular "Kind of Blue". The opening track "Dr.Jekyll", a Jackie McLean composition, starts off with a nice tempo, which allows the band members plenty of space to display their talents. "Sid's Ahead" finds Coltrane in a relaxed, laid back mood, while the breathless Adderley seems to soar higher and higher with every note played.

The diversity of tunes, tempo and performances are the highlights of this CD, and the addition of Philly Joe Jones on drums breathes new energy, allowing the sextet to play more aggressively. Pianist Red Garland's talent is demonstrated on "Billy Boy", a tune tailor made for his style.

This is a well-balanced CD in all musical aspects, and a must for any serious jazz collector. CS

Columbia CK 85203

Miles Davis - "Jazz at the Plaza Volume 1"

What may have been a very notable recording by a remarkable band was marred by its dismal recording quality. Jazz at the Plaza Volume 1 (recording date: July 28, 1958), is plagued with the problem of barely being able to hear Miles Davis, especially on the opening track "If I Were a Bell", and the mostly absence of Bill Evans on much of the recording.

There are four tracks on this short recording, which is also part of the much praised Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis and John Coltrane - "If I Were a Bell", "Oleo", and a different version of "My Funny Valentine" without the participation of saxophone giants John Coltrane and Julian Cannonball Adderley. The set closes with Thelonious Monk's "Straight No Chaser", giving ample space to this dynamic saxophone duo to strut their stuff.

Miles chose to play without a mute, while Bill Evans lays out during most of the saxophone choruses. What we are left with as a final product, is a good solid performance by an excellent band (Miles Davis - trumpet, Cannonball Adderley - alto, John Coltrane - tenor, Bill Evans - piano, Paul Chambers - bass, Jimmy Cobb - drums) working in a not so ideal situation - given the quality of the recording, and the fact the audience is sometimes louder than the band.

The overall playing on this CD will, no doubt, seem pleasing to hard core Miles Davis fans. I honestly believe if one can wade through the clutter of excessive noise and poor recording balance, they will, I am sure, discover music played the way that only Miles could. CS

Columbia CK 85245

Miles Davis - "Round About Midnight"

This current Miles Davis recording of "Round About Midnight" is one of five remastered jazz masterpieces that were issued to celebrate his 75th anniversary, and is a superb presentation of one his greatest recordings.

This reissue has four new tracks added, and it is interesting to note that the original recording was Miles' debut on Columbia. The quality of the remastering is good, and the quintet format works well in blending with the selection of tunes, all contributing to a superb presentation.

The title track featured the trademark of Miles Davis' muted trumpet, I also like the treatment given to the old Swedish folk song "Dear Old Stockholm" (arranged by Stan Getz). The personnel on this offering are Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers. If you are looking for a well-played, well-produced, well recorded Miles Davis CD, this is it. CS

Columbia CK 85201

Miles Davis - "At Newport 1958"

This date represents the first live recording of a Miles Davis working band. Listed among Miles attributes, was his ability to assemble and maintain a band of talented musicians, as he has done here. From the moment the leader counts off Charlie Parker's "Ah-Leu-Cha", the band was in full flight. This CD is one of five jazz masterpieces released in celebration of Miles 75th anniversary.

All the tracks are culled from the ever-popular box set "Miles Davis, John Coltrane Complete Columbia Recordings (1955-061). With the exception of "Fran-Dance" a tune dedicated to Miles' then wife Francis, there are no new compositions on this recording, which includes "Two Bass Hit", "Straight No Chaser". "Bye Bye Blackbird" provides Coltrane's longest solo of the session with a display of mixed and wailing sounds, put to good effect. I like the playing of this intense, flexible and soaring sextet, with a front line of three very powerful, yet very distinctive personalities, not to mention the swinging rhythm section led by the melodic, percussive and sometimes dominant drumming of Jimmy Cobb and ever present time keeper Paul Chambers.

Add the mellow playing of Miles and the exuberant and happy styling of Cannonball Adderley to the understated and sometimes swinging approach of Bill Evans, then you are left with an excellent live recording that has a place in everyone's collection. CS

Columbia CK 85202

Miles Davis & John Coltrane - "The Best of Miles Davis and John Coltrane 1955-62"

In the beginning, there was Bird and Dizzy, later followed by Ellington and Strayhorn. Then in 1955, enter Miles Davis and John Coltrane, one of the most powerful pairings in jazz. This stellar trumpet and saxophone combination worked together for a period of 5 years. Two masters, two different schools of thought.

Together they created some of the most important music in jazz history. This latest remastered Columbia release is a compilation taken from the Grammy winning 6 CD Box set, is an absolute gem. There are 9 selections on the CD beginning with "Two Bass Hit" which provides the first opportunity for Coltrane to cut loose, aided by some magnificent drumming by Philly Joe Jones.

Tracks 1-4 all feature the quintet, with Cannonball Adderley added for the alternate take of Thelonious Monk's "Straight No Chaser" with Bill Evans and Red Garland. Both sharing the piano chair, the set closes with the popular "Someday My Prince Will Come", with the very melodic playing of John Coltrane, equally supported by the talented Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone.

From the beginning to the end, this CD is a winner. There is no doubt in my mind this has got to be short-listed as one of Miles' best offering. Add it to your collection. CS

Columbia CK 61090

Sarah Vaughan - "Two Classic Albums"

Long regarded as one of the greatest singers in American popular music, the late Sarah Vaughan has one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century. Her wide range, expressive abilities and popularity earned her the names "Sassy" and "The Divine One". Sarah sang in church as a child, and took extensive piano lessons that helped her develop into a more than competent pianist, not unlike the late Carmen McRae.

This reissue offering "Two Classic Albums from Sarah Vaughan on the Verve label is a collection of some her most popular singles recorded in sessions that began in 1949 and lasted until 1953. Although some of the songs may sound dated, titles such as "My Tormented Heart", "Singer of Saint" and "I Confess" are true demonstrations of Sarah's exquisite sentimental and sometimes playful vocal styling.

In my opinion, this is simply good, middle of the road pop material that will, no doubt be seen acceptable by die-hard Sarah Vaughan fans like myself, who have always found great pleasure in her music. When you play this CD I am sure you will discover the magic in her voice, and find that whether singing with a large orchestra or a small group she cuts through the selections with ease and sophistication, the only she knew how. CS


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