Review: The Definitive Miles Davis On Prestige

An overview of the jazz legend's early years.
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Miles Davis CD coverCollecting the works of Miles Davis can be a daunting task. The jazz giant had dozens of albums and was at the forefront of numerous jazz movements, many of which were radically different from one another. From 1951 to 1956, Davis recorded for the Prestige label, transformed his sound from Cool Jazz to Hard Bop and led some of the greatest bands in 20th century music. Twenty-four of these recordings are collected on The Definitive Miles Davis On Prestige.

Disc one leads off with "Morpheus" from his initial Prestige sessions in 1951. The sound is exciting and experimental with Davis and Sonny Rollins trading lighting fast, yet melodic runs on trumpet and tenor saxophone respectively. Along those same lines is "Ezz-Thetic," which features more subdued, but no less experimental playing from Davis.

Davis played with a number of well-known musicians during his career, including the legendary Charlie Parker. The track "Compulsion" is notable not only for featuring the unusual combination of Parker and Sonny Rollins both on tenor saxophone (Parker normally played alto) but also because it was the last time Parker and Davis ever played together.

Disc two continues Davis' journey into Hard Bop and introduces the listener to tracks from his first great quintet, which featured fellow giant John Coltrane on tenor saxophone. Davis and his band took on a number of gems from the Great American Songbook, including a pretty "It Never Entered My Mind," which featured Davis' signature muted trumpet sounds. "Salt Peanuts" is a frantic workout, with intense playing from the band, including a lengthy drum solo from Philly Joe Jones while "My Funny Valentine" marries a gorgeous melody with more muted trumpet from Davis.

While obviously not career-spanning by any means, The Definitive Miles Davis On Prestige is a fine look into Davis' important, early years. For those looking for an introduction to the man's music, this would be a good place to start.