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Music Review: Miles Davis – Cool and Collected

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One could sum this up with a single sentence: Miles is cool. This CD is subtitled "The Very Best Of," which is somewhat of a stretch, but this one succeeds as a great single-disc selection of Davis' cool jazz for a party.

Miles Davis' career covers 50 years and encompassed roles including bandleader, trumpeter and composer. Davis' Kind of Blue is often cited as the ultimate jazz album, the one jazz CD a music fan should have in his collection if only one were an option. Given his influence on classic jazz, it's hard to imagine condensing his best work into a skimpy 13 track CD. Only in its extreme ambition does this collection fail; it succeeds glowingly as a teaser, an overview of the great man's work that is easy to listen to and includes enough well-known material to keep a casual fan interested. It adds other quality album tracks and lesser known material that both help respect the artist's "cool" reputation while being strong enough to motivate a new listener to explore.

The compilation starts with "So What" from Kind of Blue, that title's only representative here, which starts the album off with an easy swinging tone. Other well known tunes represented here include "Summertime," the Gershwin number from Porgy and Bess; and "Milestones," the fantastic up-tempo masterpiece. The fantastic "Seven Steps to Midnight" features an up tempo bass line and great interaction between Miles' horn and the piano, and shows his evolution after the disbandment of the Kind of Blue quintet. Mixed in with the other classic selections is a rarity for Davis single disc compilations, the relaxing track "Générique" from the 1957 French film Ascenseur pour L'Echafaud. Altogether, there's plenty of great music to keep listeners entertained, relaxed and amazed.

The material spans from 1956 to 1984, unfortunately skipping his earliest recordings for other labels. While most of the selections from the 1950s and 1960s are intriguing, the decision to skip Davis' jazz/rock experimental work in the 1970s and to feature two pop music covers from the 1980s is slightly surprising. "Time After Time," an interpretation of the Cyndi Lauper hit, and the Michael Jackson single "Human Nature," while part of Davis' exploration of pop music interpretation in his later career, add accessibility rather than coolness to the collection.

The CD ends on a high note with a remix of a 1969 track called "It's About that Time" featuring Carlos Santana on guitar; this is a nice touch that complements the fantastic sidemen featured in the rest of the album's work — such as John Coltrane, 'Cannonball' Adderley, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea among others. Overall, the disc is a great — if slightly unpredictable collection of tracks from the most influential part of Davis' career, and is strongly recommended.

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About JP

  • Vern Halen

    Although you didn’t mention it, I assume there’s material from his early 60’s quintet, Wayne Shorter, et.al. – as much as I love Coltrane, I always loved the overall strength of his “Miles Smiles” group.

    Skipped the jazz/rock experiments? Very odd indeed! Many rockers came to learn about jazz through Bitches Brew or On the Corner – should have had at least one cut on a career compilation you’d think.

  • This article has been placed at the Advance.net websites, a site affiliated with about 12 newspapers.

    One such site is here.

  • Congrats! This article is an Editor’s Pick this week!

  • JP

    I saw that..thanks! I’m flattered.

    And Vern, yes — though E.S.P. appears to be the only representation.