MILES DAVIS, THE ORIGINAL MONO RECORDINGS


You can’t define Miles Davis with one word. He was 29 in 1955, the year he signed with Columbia Records, and already known as a provocateur, a trendsetter and genius. Today his brand is universally recognized, mostly as a prolific trumpeter and the quintessential jazz musician with a recording legacy that’s ripe for rediscovery with every generation. That legacy, which took root and flowered in the 1950’s, was cemented during his long-term tenure at Columbia Records where Davis’ creativity perhaps did more to advance jazz in the last half of the 20th century than any other single musician.

Evidence of the trumpeter’s dynamic artistry can be found from the outset on nine albums that Davis recorded at Columbia, spanning the years 1957 to 1964. Repackaged and assembled as a nine CD box set or individually on 180-gram limited edition vinyl, Miles Davis: The Original Mono Recordings provide compulsively listenable music in a sonic format that’s mostly been forgotten. The albums themselves are classics: ‘Round About Midnight, Miles Ahead, Milestones, Jazz Track, Porgy and Bess, Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain, Someday My Prince Will Come and Miles & Monk at Newport. The Jazz Track album adds three standout studio cuts to the collected music cues that Davis improvised for Louis Malle’s 1958 thriller, Elevator To The Gallows, and Milestones and Porgy and Bess reunite Davis with his Birth Of The Cool collaborator, Gil Evans.

The recording sessions that yielded these albums were carefully produced in both monaural and stereo sound, but we learn from the set’s notes that mono recordings were the preferred way popular music was recorded and marketed in the 50’s and early 60’s to consumers. It wasn’t until 1959 that stereo LPs were sold by Columbia as a way to reach upscale buyers who had the requisite hi-fi systems.

There’s no doubt of the viability in the marketplace that physical boxed CDs has limitations given the shifting demographics of their potential buyers. As handsome as the set is (Legacy slips nine CDs into mini-LP replica jackets together in the box with a 40-page annotated booklet) the vinyl editions of these mono recordings will be choice items for the flourishing turntable-owner set. Mastered from the original analog tapes by Mark Wilder, it’s worth noting that the audible difference between the mono CDs and vinyl is obvious.

Jazz fans have grown up hearing the stereo versions of these recordings, but their monaural counterparts, especially the vinyl, have a palpable depth-of-field with fine-grain instrumentation and a sonic richness that’s as satisfying as a timeless black and white movie. The experience of listening to the music is like being in the recording booth as Miles, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, John Coltrane and Red Garland play incomparable versions of standards and now classic jazz originals. It’s easier to describe this historic set in one word: cool, like Miles.

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JAZZ IN SPACE: MILES DAVIS, THE ORIGINAL MONO RECORDINGS

Thursday, December 5, 2013

MILES DAVIS, THE ORIGINAL MONO RECORDINGS


You can’t define Miles Davis with one word. He was 29 in 1955, the year he signed with Columbia Records, and already known as a provocateur, a trendsetter and genius. Today his brand is universally recognized, mostly as a prolific trumpeter and the quintessential jazz musician with a recording legacy that’s ripe for rediscovery with every generation. That legacy, which took root and flowered in the 1950’s, was cemented during his long-term tenure at Columbia Records where Davis’ creativity perhaps did more to advance jazz in the last half of the 20th century than any other single musician.

Evidence of the trumpeter’s dynamic artistry can be found from the outset on nine albums that Davis recorded at Columbia, spanning the years 1957 to 1964. Repackaged and assembled as a nine CD box set or individually on 180-gram limited edition vinyl, Miles Davis: The Original Mono Recordings provide compulsively listenable music in a sonic format that’s mostly been forgotten. The albums themselves are classics: ‘Round About Midnight, Miles Ahead, Milestones, Jazz Track, Porgy and Bess, Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain, Someday My Prince Will Come and Miles & Monk at Newport. The Jazz Track album adds three standout studio cuts to the collected music cues that Davis improvised for Louis Malle’s 1958 thriller, Elevator To The Gallows, and Milestones and Porgy and Bess reunite Davis with his Birth Of The Cool collaborator, Gil Evans.

The recording sessions that yielded these albums were carefully produced in both monaural and stereo sound, but we learn from the set’s notes that mono recordings were the preferred way popular music was recorded and marketed in the 50’s and early 60’s to consumers. It wasn’t until 1959 that stereo LPs were sold by Columbia as a way to reach upscale buyers who had the requisite hi-fi systems.

There’s no doubt of the viability in the marketplace that physical boxed CDs has limitations given the shifting demographics of their potential buyers. As handsome as the set is (Legacy slips nine CDs into mini-LP replica jackets together in the box with a 40-page annotated booklet) the vinyl editions of these mono recordings will be choice items for the flourishing turntable-owner set. Mastered from the original analog tapes by Mark Wilder, it’s worth noting that the audible difference between the mono CDs and vinyl is obvious.

Jazz fans have grown up hearing the stereo versions of these recordings, but their monaural counterparts, especially the vinyl, have a palpable depth-of-field with fine-grain instrumentation and a sonic richness that’s as satisfying as a timeless black and white movie. The experience of listening to the music is like being in the recording booth as Miles, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, John Coltrane and Red Garland play incomparable versions of standards and now classic jazz originals. It’s easier to describe this historic set in one word: cool, like Miles.

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