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Miles Davis Quintet: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings

In a remarkably fertile three-and-one-half-year period-January of 1965 to June of 1968-the second great Miles Davis quintet ushered in a new era of improvised music. Shedding Tin Pan Alley conventions and bop cliches in favor of more unencumbered, free-flowing forms that were both rhythmically and harmonically ambiguous, they exercised an unprecedented musical interaction and independence that changed the course of modern jazz. The 1995 boxed set Miles Davis: The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 (Columbia CXK 66955) documented the special chemistry that took place on the bandstand between Miles and Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. This staggering boxed set (440 minutes of music comprising 56 tracks, 13 of which have never been issued before) captures their magic in the studio, chronicling the continual evolution of their group sound from E.S.P (1965) to Miles Smiles and Sorcerer (both 1967) to Nefertiti and Miles In The Sky (both 1968) and Filles De Kilimanjaro (1969).

Of course, every serious fan of jazz has already heard these landmark recordings. They have been pored over, dissected and discussed, transcribed, recreated and emulated by generations of scholars, students and working musicians. They represent a kind of Rosetta Stone for the so-called Young Lions movement of the mid-’80s. Indeed, Wynton Marsalis, who in essence sparked that much-hyped movement, revealed the profound influence that this mid-’60s Miles period had on him in his own 1985 recording, Black Codes From The Underground. But even that fine album, and the scores of other Miles quintet wanna-be recordings that have followed in its wake, can’t touch this. Stunning technique and pure intent aside, they lack the inherent magic that prevailed on these fabled sessions. Most of all, they lack that overall visionary concept of one Miles Dewey Davis.

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