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The Definitive Miles Davis On Prestige

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Album Review

It's compilations like this that make adjectives all but meaningless. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige is a two-disc, budget-priced compilation produced by Nick Phillips that pulls together cuts from Davis' early period with the distinguished label between 1951 and 1956 just prior to signing with Columbia. The word "definitive" here is what's in question, simply because it is so utterly subjective that virtually any hardcore Davis aficionado might have picked no less than half-a-dozen cuts that are different from what appears here, and be no less correct. Presented as a chronological compendium, they do reveal his development as a trumpeter and bandleader. The vast majority of these tracks are taken from the series of Miles Davis Quintet & All Stars dates including Walkin', Steamin', Relaxin', Cookin', and Workin'. They account for 11 of the 24 cuts. Ironically, one of Davis' finest outings for the label, Dig: Miles Davis Featuring Sonny Rollins, is represented only by its title track. Likewise curious are the inclusions of John Lewis' "Morpheus," from Miles Davis and Horns, his debut outing for Prestige, the reading of George Russell's "Ezz-Thetic," from the Lee Konitz-led Conception recording, and "Four" from Blue Haze. Other cuts are taken from the New Miles Quintet, The Musings of Miles, Collector's Items, Bags' Groove, and Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants offerings. The earlier material doesn't hold up to the Quintet and New Quintet sides, and the cuts from the Collectors' Items disc are debatable choices, even if Ashley Khan's fine liner notes make a case for their inclusion. This is a decent but far from definitive introduction to Miles Davis on Prestige.


Born: May 26, 1926 in Alton, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Throughout a professional career lasting 50 years, Miles Davis played the trumpet in a lyrical, introspective, and melodic style, often employing a stemless Harmon mute to make his sound more personal and intimate. But if his approach to his instrument was constant, his approach to jazz was dazzlingly protean. To examine his career is to examine the history of jazz from the mid-'40s to the early '90s, since he was in the thick of almost every important innovation and stylistic development in the...
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