The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet (1965-8)

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Columbia/Legac
ALBUM TITLE: Miles Davis
PERFORMER: Miles Davis (t), Wayne Shorter (ts); Herbie Hancock (p); Ron Carter (b); Tony Williams (d), etc
CATALOGUE NO: C6K 67398 (distr. Sony Jazz)

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The first small group recording Davis made in the Sixties was Seven Steps to Heaven in 1963 with a group that was still in transition, but the New York dates brought together the rhythm section represented here, and with George Coleman on tenor sax their live recordings at Antibes and New York’s Lincoln Center saw the blooming of a new phase in Davis’s career. Sparked by a rhythm section that, along with John Coltrane’s of the same period, would have a profound effect on jazz, Davis once again found himself at the forefront of the genre.

Arguably, his rhythm section was the most influential, remaining intact until 1968. Its ability to change textures, moods, metres and rhythms at any moment still remains widely imitated in jazz today. Its significance was in the emancipation of the whole rhythm section from the prevailing hard bop certainties into something more dynamic, dramatic and unpredictable.

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In 1964, Wayne Shorter joined Davis. Not only was he perhaps the most accomplished saxophonist in jazz apart from Coltrane, he was an extremely inventive composer. His compositions combined unusual conjunctions of chords with subtle, undramatic melodies. Shorter moved the Davis quintet from a band that played standards to a wholly original repertoire while giving great latitude to the rhythm section. On numbers like ‘Eighty-One’, ‘Masquelero’ and ‘Felun Brun’ the unmistakable rhythmic patterns of rock began echoing through Davis’s music. The next step was to go electric, a period in Davis’s evolution as an artist that has overshadowed these recordings. However, these tracks remain among the most important (and neglected) not only in jazz, but in all 20th-century music. Stuart Nicholson