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The Essential Miles Davis

Miles Davis

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Album Review

At first glance, it would seem like an impossible task to summarize Miles Davis' career into a succinct double-disc set. Still, a career as multifaceted and ever-changing as Miles' winds up having a clear narrative, one that can be told by just the highlights, which is exactly what Columbia/Legacy's excellent double-disc Essential Miles Davis does. There are certainly major pieces and recordings missing, which is a deliberate move, since the compilers have chosen no more than one track per record (with the exception of two cuts from 'Round About Midnight), so there are huge portions of Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain, E.S.P., and Bitches Brew absent, and such classic albums as Milestones, Miles Smiles, In a Silent Way, and A Tribute to Jack Johnson are entirely MIA. The funny thing is, in this context, they're not missed, because what's here — which is how this compilation should be judged — tells the story directly yet elegantly, touching on stages of his career. That means this is cross-licensed, opening with Miles as a sideman on Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time," then running through the Birth of the Cool sessions, before hitting on a selection from his lone Blue Note sessions and two cuts from his classic Prestige dates. After that come the Columbia recordings, with the Gil Evans collaborations and Coltrane years filling out disc one. On the second disc, his second classic quartet comes to the forefront, followed by terrific selections from the electric years, including a cut from On the Corner, traditionally disdained by jazz critics. Three tracks from the '60s round out the disc, completing an overview of astonishing scope and breadth. Yes, there is nothing particularly rare here (with the exception of "Generique," from Ascenseur Pour l'Échafaud), but this wasn't designed for the converted — it was designed to convert and it does its job superbly.

Customer Reviews

Great collection!

If you are relatively new to Miles Davis then this is an outstanding collection representing everything from his early bop years through cool jazz and fusion and finally his cover of a Cindi Lauper song in the 80s. I am not hugely knowledgable about Miles Davis and only have a handful of his CDs, but I think this collection does a good job of capturing the essential output of a musician who released more music than I can count. You've gotta listen to his version of Gershwin's "Summertime" as well as the classics "Round Midnight" and "So What".

Great music!

The musicianship featured on this CD is world-class. This is my first Miles Davis CD, but it will definitely not be my last.


What a great album for your collection. It has everything. Miles Davis along with a plethora of other fabulous musicians. This was my first Miles Davis experience that pushed me into his world, so to speak. This album got me "there".


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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