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It's easy to pigeonhole this '63 Miles Davis recording as a "transition" period between his classic quintets, but one thing is quite clear: Miles was always in transition. Each Davis band was going through a musical or personnel metamorphosis, so we might as well simply take the music on its own terms and forget about the historical context. On that standard alone, Seven Steps to Heaven is an absolute gem.
Recorded in two locations, Miles, Ron Carter, and George Coleman hooked up with the "Los Angeles" quintet, featuring Victor Feldman (piano) and Frank Butler (drums), for a set of dreamy, moody and ultra hip versions of songs not usually associated with '60s modal music. On "Basin Street Blues" and "Baby Won't You Please Come Home," Miles, armed with his mute, is spellbinding as he squeezes notes for all of their glorious agony. His interpretation of "I Fall in Love Too Easily" makes Chet Baker's version seem insouciant by comparison.
Relocating three thousand miles to New York with Herbie Hancock (piano) and Tony Williams (drums) taking over, the quintet was on its way to become the standard by which all subsequent bands would be measured. Introducing two future classics, Miles and company tear through "Joshua" and "Seven Steps to Heaven" and set the world on notice: life in the music world would never be the same again.
If you've only heard of Miles because of Kind of Blue, this would be a great next step.
Track Listing: Basin Street Blues; Seven Steps to Heaven; I Fall in Love Too Easily; So Near, So Far; Baby
Won't You Please Come Home; Joshua; So Near, So Far; Summer Night.
Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; George Coleman: tenor saxophone; Herbie Hancock, Victor Feldman:
piano; Ron Carter: bass; Tony Williams, Frank Butler: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.