For many a jazz fan John Coltrane's A Love Supreme is their personal desert island pick, the one recording they would not hesitate to live their days out listening to. Recorded on December 9, 1964, the session has endured as a document of the saxophonist's faith, as it was the proclamation of his rebirth from the jazz life of alcohol and substance abuse.
Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis 1963-1964 is an anomaly among the retrospective sets that have been issued from the late artist's catalog. It does not focus on particular collaborations (Miles with Coltrane, Gil Evans, the second quintet), complete sessions of historic albums (Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way, and Jack Johnson), or live runs (Plugged Nickel and Montreux). Instead, it is a portrait of the artist in flux, in the space between legendary bands, when he was looking for a new mode of expression, trying to find the band that would help him get there. These seven CDs begin after the demise of bands that included John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and Wynton Kelly, after his landmark Gil Evans period, and even after his attempts at creating a new band with everyone from Frank Strozier and Harold Mabern to Sonny Rollins and J.J. Johnson.
An interesting project that works quite well. The already-distinctive pianist McCoy Tyner utilized bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Elvin Jones, and two Latin percussionists to interpret a full set of Duke Ellington songs (although "Caravan" was actually composed by Juan Tizol). In addition to some well-known standards, Tyner debuted an unrecorded Ellington piece, "Searchin'," and revived "Mr. Gentle & Mr. Cool." This is an excellent outing that displays both Tyner's debt to the jazz tradition and his increasingly original style.
Sublime sounds from the always-amazing Ahmed Abdul-Malik – a jazz bassist at heart, but also a musician with a great ear for Eastern instrumentation as well! Ahmed cut a few key records at the end of the 50s and start of the 60s – and this spellbinding set may well be one of his strongest – a set that moves past some of the more gimmicky use of exotic instrumentation on other albums, and focuses on a jazzy core that really shines strongly on the album's long tracks! There's still a nice sense of the East on the record – thanks to Hamza Aldeen's oud – but the set also features great jazz solos from Seldon Powell on flute and tenor, and the great Ray Nance on both cornet and violin. Drummer Walter Perkins plays with a fluid style that's perfect for the date – and pianist Paul Neves has a lyrical approach to piano that works wonders for the groove.