Concord Records is issuing this week a two-disc retrospective of Miles Davis’ recordings for Prestige Records,The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige.” The two discs bring together over two hours of music in the twenty four performances selected and cover the period between 1951 and 1956. These are when Davis established his reputation, but prior to his time with Columbia Records with whom he would produce his most famous body of work. The Prestige catalog of Miles has been mined and reissued extensively over the years, and there are of course CD box sets of his recordings for that label. This two disc compilation serves as an overview of some of Davis better known recordings for the label. Ashley Kahn provides a discussion of the specific recordings and their context in MIles’ life and career at this time.
The first of the two discs covers Davis’ recordings from 1951-1954. The opening Morpheous and George Russell’s Ezz-Thetic (from a Lee Konitz album) carry forth echoes of The Birth of the Cool. There are such famous numbers as Dig and Four as well as Compulsion, with Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker both on tenor (one of Bird’s few tenor recordings). Davis’ distinctive range, most often when he employs a mute is becoming evident especially iconic ballads like I’ll Remember April, as well as on Richie Carpenter’s Walkin’. There’s the first recording of the Sonny Rollins’ gem Airegin, as well as a lively Bag’s Groove with Jackson and Thelonious Monk. It is instructive how Monk lays out during Miles’ solo, an illustration of Miles’ distaste for Monk’s accompaniments.
Disc 2 is devoted to the 1955-1956 recordings by Miles quintet with the great rhythm section of pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Jo Jones, along with John Coltrane on tenor sax. Trane sits out three of the twelve selections on this disc. The twelve selections include Surrey With The Fringe On Top, If I Were A Bell, Round Midnight, Rollins’ Oleo, My Funny Valentine (sans Coltrane), and The Theme. Some of these tunes became part of Miles’ repertoire for the next several years after he had changed labels, going to Columbia, and a good number likely are familiar to many of you. It completes this nice retrospective of Davis’ early recordings as a leader.
My review copy was supplied by the record company.