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Miles Davis

Date: July 1969
Release: Jazz Door #1294
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Recommending a Miles record is a lot like making a public service announcement: it’s a strong statement of the obvious that surprisingly large numbers of people still need to hear, like smoking kills or friends don’t let friends drive drunk.

Without question, this hard to find European CD is one of the most important historical documents in modern music. It represents nothing less than a missing link in the well documented musical evolution of Miles Davis. This flawlessly recorded live set captures Miles at a pivotal moment: July, 1969. It was a time when massive changes were rocking his world. Miles was in the process of leaving large parts of himself behind–the standards, the mute, the sheet music. Something deep was happening to him and his music, something monstrous was brewing, and the world would soon be shaken by Miles’ voodoo. To put it in historical terms, July 1969 found Miles and band playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival just a few weeks prior to embarking on the epic Bitches Brew sessions. These were the final days before the bomb.

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Date: Jun 1, 1972 – Jun 6, 1972 (recording)
Release: Columbia/Legacy #63980
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An electrified and multidimensional burst of ass-shaking funk straight from the master himself. If Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix took a space ship to India together, they very well might have come up with something approximating On The Corner.

This utterly unique and unprecedented recording was savaged by a lot of the critics of its day. They blasted Miles for creating a new “anti-jazz” that fundamentally violated the genre’s integrity. Reviled as the jazz anti-Christ, his playing on this recording was indeed demonic. His trumpet spits out wah-wah distorted licks of fire and nastiness, and he grinds on the organ like it was a cheap date. He masterfully tangles and intertwines the varied sounds of the sitar, conga, electric guitar, tabla, organ, and electric bass to create thickly-layered rhythms of dazzling complexity. He throws in some heavy licks on top of it all, hitting hard with quick and punchy bursts from his horn that make the groove throb.

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Date: Feb 6, 1970 – Dec 19, 1970 (recording)
Release: Columbia/Legacy #65135
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There’s something about the way this music hits me. It’s not as if I haven’t been exposed to lots of hard, loud music – in fact, compared to some of the stuff that now gets called “fusion,” Miles Davis’ version can often seem quaint on the surface. At the time of the shows documented on this 1970 set, he was playing with a new band (something he was doing more often than in any period of his life theretofore), and playing music that, while broached in the previous couple of years by himself and very few others, was rather unheard of to most music listeners of the time, and certainly the canonical jazz guard.

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Date: August 19, 1969 – February 6, 1970
Release: COLUMBIA #65570
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No other musician in the 20th Century explored the possibilities of music as fiercely as trumpeter and bandleader Miles Davis. He frustrated critics and fans alike as he opened himself up to unexpected directions in musical thinking while continuously shaping and refining his remarkable skills on trumpet. Critics tried and tried to squeeze his musical journeys into a box called “jazz,” but Miles would have none of it. And then, in August of 1969, Miles decided he’d put all of us in an impenetrable box and dare us to break out.

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Date: 1968
Release: Columbia/Legacy #65362
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I never waited as impatiently for a boxed set to be released as I did for this one. I assumed that the only thing that could possibly be better than In A Silent Way was The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions, because there would be so much more of it. Now that I have it all to enjoy (!), I’m finally able to appreciate the full magnitude of the original release of In A Silent Way. After withstanding three decades of overplay, In A Silent Way remains a mysterious, urgently necessary, life-affirming masterpiece that stands outside anything Miles or anybody else has ever recorded. When I first got the box, I had the insane expectation that I was about to hear some unreleased music on par with the original album. Looking back, I don’t know how I could even think such a thing was possible. Maybe it’s because I vividly imagine a bunch of record label executives huddled together late at night in smoke filled rooms listening to the best music ever while secretly conspiring to keep it eternally locked in the vaults for their own sinister pleasure. But whether or not such theories hold their water, I have come to accept the old single-disc version of In A Silent Way for what it has always been: COMPLETE.

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