The Miles Davis mind-blower, 40 years later
MILES DAVIS: Bitches Brew 40TH Anniversary Collector’s Edition and Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
Forty years ago, Miles Davis confounded many of his long-time fans — and won thousands of new ones — when he unleashed a mind-expanding double LP that forever changed the face of jazz and rock. Bitches Brew brought the trumpet player to a young audience, jump-started the fusion genre and earned him his first gold album.
You’d think Columbia had exhausted the Bitches Brew material with the four-CD box set released in 1998. But archivists have unearthed more previously unreleased material for this anniversary edition – a CD of live performances from 1970 and a DVD of a 1969 set in Copenhagen. Players featured tackling such Bitches material as blues-laced “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” and “Spanish Key” included keyboard players Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. These extended improvisational jams still sound contemporary.
The aptly named Collector’s Edition also includes an audiophile version of the original gatefold double LP, an album-sized book, a poster and other memorabilia. (The more budget-priced Legacy Edition includes the original album plus bonus material over two CDs plus the Copenhagen DVD but excludes the Tanglewood disc and LP set.)
JOHN COLTRANE The Definitive John Coltrane on Prestige and Riverside (Concord)
THELONIOUS MONK The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside (Concord)
SONNY ROLLINS The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary (Concord)
Concord Music Group, the ever-growing record label owned by iconic TV producer Norman Lear, continues to curate the vast jazz catalog it acquired from Fantasy Records. These latest double-disc anthologies — featuring the early work of icons John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins in the ’50s — offer excellent overviews of the hard-bop period.
For all three artists, the music collected on these discs present a glimpse of emerging artists developing their individual styles. Coltrane’s work with minor-key melodies hints at the improvisational adventures the saxophone giant would explore in the early ’60s. Monk’s decade here includes early versions of the now standard compositions he would re-record multiple times throughout his career. Rollins – who at 80 is the only survivor among these jazz greats and is still recording and touring – was making a name for himself both as a writer and performer in the ’50s, as compositions he wrote for some Miles Davis sessions included in his anthology underscore. Extensive liner notes and great sound mark this strong introduction to three of the greatest.