Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings Miles Davis 1963-1964
Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings Of Miles Davis, 1963-1964
This seven-disc box set documenting the final phase of what is generally referred to as the "transitional period" between two of the greatest Miles Davis bands, details some of the innovative trumpeter's finest work, including the complete recordings of his often neglected quintet with tenor saxophonist George Coleman.
The set begins with the first of Coleman's studio sessions with Davis, featuring the short-lived group that began bassist Ron Carter's tenure with Miles and also included two fine players from L.A.: pianist Victor Feldman and drummer Frank Butler. Disc one is devoted entirely to this group and includes the previously unreleased original takes of Feldman's "Joshua" and "Seven Steps To Heaven" (two compositions that would become staples in Miles' repertoire), along with three ballads recorded without Coleman "I Fall In Love Too Easily," "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" and "Basin Street Blues" and versions of "So Near, So Far" and "Summer Nights" that were left off the original Seven Steps To Heaven LP. The music is all swinging and delineates a smooth evolution from earlier Davis groups, with Coleman synthesizing the sounds of Coltrane and Hank Mobley, Carter sounding much like Paul Chambers and Feldman and Butler playing in the Bill Evans/Wynton Kelly and Philly Joe Jones traditions, respectively.
The set's second disc debuts the Davis quintet with Coleman and the renowned Herbie Hancock-Ron Carter-Tony Williams rhythm section, beginning with a previously unreleased rehearsal take of a reworked (now classic) arrangement of "Seven Steps" that starts with Carter's bass and ends with a typically raspy "That's how it goes, Teo" declaration by Davis. Following are the released takes of the tune and "So Near, So Far" and "Joshua" that were originally found on Seven Steps To Heaven. While the band is already tight on these tracks, there is little to forecast the great things to come. The group's groundbreaking innovations are hinted at on the July 1963 concert recorded live in Antibes (first released as Miles In Europe), which takes up the remainder of disc two and all of disc three. Heard here in its entirety for the first time, the date includes extended versions of "Autumn Leaves", "Joshua" and "All of You" that were edited on earlier releases, a rare take of "I Thought About You," blistering renditions of "Milestones" and "Walkin'" and previously unissued performances of "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "The Theme." The session is notable for its high energy level, with Miles in extremely good form and Coleman proving that he was a more than worthy addition to the band (his solo on "Milestones" alone should have disproved any disparagements of his role as an innovative virtuoso). Importantly, there are also the initial intimations of the band's forays into abstract impressionism, driven by the rhythm section's inventive tempo modulations.
Discs four and five reissue the February 1964 Lincoln Center concert first heard on the My Funny Valentine and Four and More albums. Beginning with a previously unreleased take of "Autumn Leaves," the group revisits classic Miles material like "So What," "Four," "Walkin'" and "All Blues," as well as several standards popularized by earlier Davis bands, plus the quintet's newly minted hits "Joshua" and "Seven Steps." The nearly hour-and-a-half of music reveals the subtle developments in the band's innovative rhythmic and harmonic approach to the familiar material. Clearly demonstrated is the powerful virtuosity of all the players, especially Coleman, who rarely receives the credit he deserves for these powerful performances and Davis, whose daring ventures into new territory would drive the trio to revolutionize the whole concept of the rhythm section's role in jazz.
On disc six, which was first issued on LP in Japan as Miles In Tokyo , Sam Rivers replaces Coleman on tenor. One has to wonder why Rivers' coupling with Davis is so often described as an "uncomfortable fit." His playing, though admittedly not in the Coltrane lineage Miles generally favored, was fresh while remaining well within the boundaries that the band had been expanding; and his personal approach to the material - "If I Were A Bell," "My Funny Valentine," "So What," "Walkin'," "All Of You" and "Go-Go" was pleasantly provocative. Listening to this music now, one can easily imagine that had the tenor saxophonist remained with the group, the band would have gone on to blaze trails similarly innovative to the ones it successfully explored after his departure, as well as some equally creative different ones.
The collection ends with the first recording of Wayne Shorter with the soon-to-become-classic quintet. The Berlin concert recording of "Milestones," "Autumn Leaves," "So What," "Stella By Starlight" "Walkin'" and "Go-Go" clearly reveals Shorter's affection for the sound Trane had with Miles and the date can be seen as the saxophonist's last look back at the classic material that influenced him, before moving on to create the groundbreaking music of his own that would have a profound influence on generations to come.
Miles Davis (trumpet), Ron Carter (bass), George Coleman (tenor saxophone on discs 1-5), Victor Feldman (piano on disc 1), Frank Butler (drums on disc 1), Herbie Hancock (piano on discs 2-7), Tony Williams (drums on discs 2-7), Sam Rivers (tenor saxophone on disc 6), Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone on disc 7)
Disc 1: Joshua; I Fall in Love Too Easily; Baby Won't You Please Come Home; So Near, So Far; Basin Street Blues; Seven Steps to Heaven (take 3); Seven Steps to Heaven (take 5); Summer Night.
Disc 2: Seven Steps to Heaven (rehearsal take); Seven Steps to Heaven; So Near, So Far; Joshua; Introduction by Andre Francis; Autumn Leaves; Milestones; I Thought About You.
Disc 3: Joshua; All of You; Walkin'; Bye Bye Blackbird; Bye Bye (Theme).
Disc 4: Introduction by Mort Fega; Autumn Leaves; So What; Stella By Starlight; Walkin'; All of You; Go-Go (Theme and Announcement).
Disc 5: Introduction by Billy Taylor; All Blues; My Funny Valentine; Joshua; I Thought About You; Four; Seven Steps to Heaven; There is No Greater Love; Go-Go (Theme and Re-Introduction).
Disc 6: Introduction by Teruo Osono; If I Were a Bell; My Funny Valentine; So What; Walkin'; All of You; Go-Go (Theme).
Disc 7: Milestones; Autumn Leaves; So What; Stella By Starlight; Walkin; Go-Go (Theme).