Miles Davis, 'The Complete Columbia Album Collection'

Got Miles?
Looking for miles of Miles? Miles for days?
Look no further than

OK, that would be 70. All of Miles' 52 officially released Columbia albums are included, as well as a previously unreleased 1970 Isle of Wight concert and lots of bonus tracks--all packaged in Japanese-style mini-LP jackets.

Far and away Miles' most significant work was done for Columbia, and includes his mid-'50s post-bop phase; his landmark venture into modal experimentation, which culminated in the historic Kind of Blue (1959); his eminently fruitful period in the mid '60s with his Great Quintet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter); the entirety of his sometimes messy electric period, beginning in the late 1960s with the sublime In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew and ending with the barely listenable Agharta and Pangaea.There's also his final, uneven spell of six 1980s records, which took a decidedly commercial direction.

Miles Davis, 'The Complete Columbia Album Collection'

The opulent set's most revelatory component is not a CD, but a bonus DVD that captures the Great Quintet at the peak of their powers. In late 1967, the Miles Davis group was still playing in an exclusively acoustic format and, after years of non-stop live dates and recording, was making some of the most interactive and sophisticated music in jazz history.

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The 75-minute DVD, in crisp black-and-white and with remarkably clean sound reproduction, is absolute heaven-sent material, with the soloists building expansive improvisations, pairing off, sometimes playing solo, and generally allowing the moment to determine where the music goes. Absolutely sublime, first note to last. Tony Williams--whose work with Miles was arguable the greatest drumming ever--manipulates the accelerator, pushing and cajoling, or backing off into more subtle dynamics.

Although these are very serious jazz sets, they're fun to watch. Miles' aloof charisma is on full display. The band members wear plain black tuxedos with bow ties, while Miles dons a natty Mad Men suit.

I can only hope, and reasonably expect, that the Live in Europe 1967 DVD will at some point become available as a stand-alone product. Until then, the list price for the boxed set is $364.98 ... but wait, I checked Amazon and it's 10 percent off: only $328.49.


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