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Miles Davis: The Original Mono Recordings

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There’s a tendency to consider monaural recordings as stuff for the hoi polloi, what you got back in the late 1950s and early ’60s if you weren’t well-heeled enough to have high-end stereo equipment. But as this nine-disc box makes plain, mono, so far as Miles Davis’ ’56 to ’61 Columbia recordings go, has a crunch and a fullness to it that will essentially banish any stereo sets you have to the back of your record collection.

Anyone interested in jazz, of course, knows the bulk of this material, and there’s a decent chance it had a major role in getting you into the music in the first place. Still, fresh joys await, tops amongst them the handy Jazz Track, one of the rarities of the Davis canon, and something of a twin bill-10 cuts from the Elevator to the Gallows soundtrack, coupled with three songs from the Kind of Blue band, waxed prior to that epochal session. The opening “Générique” presents what is also a sonic theme throughout this box: a lusciously unfolding depth of field as the soundscape seems to pull from every direction, a warmer invite than we’re used to with this material. And while Kind of Blue has taken on a life as jazz’s answer to The Dark Side of the Moon, with each listener having a preferred sonic iteration, there’s more of a live feel to this latest offering, on account of a slight speed correction. Here’s a contender for a definitive version of jazz’s top dog.

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