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Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis 1963-1964

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Album Review

Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis 1963-1964 is an anomaly among the retrospective sets that have been issued from the late artist's catalog. It does not focus on particular collaborations (Miles with Coltrane, Gil Evans, the second quintet), complete sessions of historic albums (Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way, and Jack Johnson), or live runs (Plugged Nickel and Montreux). Instead, it is a portrait of the artist in flux, in the space between legendary bands, when he was looking for a new mode of expression, trying to find the band that would help him get there. These seven CDs begin after the demise of bands that included John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and Wynton Kelly, after his landmark Gil Evans period, and even after his attempts at creating a new band with everyone from Frank Strozier and Harold Mabern to Sonny Rollins and J.J. Johnson. The transition period depicted on recordings here is the one that would lead directly to the second great quintet, beginning with the addition of bassist Ron Carter and eventually Tony Williams in 1963 on Seven Steps to Heaven. That band also included pianist and composer Victor Feldman, drummer Frank Butler (before Williams), and saxophonist George Coleman. The album Seven Steps to Heaven is extended here with two previously unissued alternate takes of the title track and an amazing alternate of "Joshua" that opens the entire box, both of which were written by Feldman and added dimension to Miles' tried and true songbook. The track "Summer Nights" from this session is present here as part of these sessions even though it was originally released as part of Quiet Nights. Herbie Hancock enters the picture in July of 1963, replacing Feldman for the Live in Europe recording. The box includes unreleased performances of "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "The Theme" in addition to the original album.

Other unreleased material here includes a fine "Autumn Leaves" from the live dates that resulted in the albums Four & More and My Funny Valentine as well as those recordings in their entirety. These years also contain the Miles in Tokyo performances. These are uneasy yet utterly compelling recordings that star Sam Rivers on tenor as Coleman's replacement. Williams recommended Rivers when Coleman decided the band was becoming too adventurous for his tastes as a soloist. While these cuts don't necessarily work on a symbiotic level in terms of communication, they do help define the terms in which Miles decided how "out" to get with his developing band. By the time Wayne Shorter comes on board for the Miles in Berlin date, the picture is complete and the perfect balance has been found leading to the studio sessions that began in 1965 with the new quintet. All tolled there are seven unreleased musical performances as well as a handful of spoken band introductions to concerts that have never been available before. As is customary for Legacy, the music is all painstakingly remastered. The box itself is an art object, with a hard backing board, bound by a chrome metal frame, and resides in a handsome hard gray slipcase. It contains loads of photos, has obsessively detailed discographical information, and essays by Michael Cuscuna and Bob Blumenthal. In other words, for Davis fans this is another essential addition to the catalog.

Customer Reviews

The Best Jazz Quintet in History

This is the story of the putting together of the best jazz band in history. Herbie Hancock p, Ron Carter B, Tony Williams d, Wayne Shorter ts, ss. Miles put together a group of young, hungry, kids that were not afraid to take risks & get lost in the music. They were all brilliant composers & Miles gave them all the room they need to stretch. They pushed Miles. The 2nd great quintet. But also the greatest quintet. Hancock, Carter, Williams may un-doubtably be the best trio to ever have been assembled. They recorded for years on each others sessions when they where not playing or recording w/ Miles. They where all psycically linked, masters of improvisation. Check out Hancocks 'Empyrean Isles' w/Freddie Hubbard on trumpet. I recommend you get this in the stores because then you will get all the set/recording/live dates. Plus the history of the band. Box sets should be tangible. I happened to be listening to this & thought I would wright.

one star because of "album only"

Thanks ITunes. We can either spend $69 (and buy again a lot of music we already have) and buy nothing.

Don't Overlook

On paper, it sounds like a 'tweener, but actually this is one of the stronger sets in the entire "brass spined" Miles box sets. Miles, even in transition, especially in transition, sparkles.


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...
Full Bio
Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis 1963-1964, Miles Davis
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  • $39.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Hard Bop
  • Released: Mar 21, 2003

Customer Ratings