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.
Though on the surface Bitter Tears is just another installment in the seemingly endless series of Americana albums that Johnny Cash released in the '60s, it was a more daring collection than any of its predecessors or successors. Where Cash's previous Americana albums had previously concentrated on cowboys and Western pioneers, Bitter Tears is all about Native Americans and their trials and tribulations. It isn't a crass move – it's a sensitive, clear-eyed take on the unfair treatment of the American Indian that uses traditional folk ballads and newly written songs in the same vein. It's stark and moving, his best Americana album of the '60s.
Pianist Don Friedman first collaborated with Hungarian guitarist Attila Zoller as part of Herbie Mann's 1964-66 rhythm section. But the pair first explored the depths of their musical relationship in this excellent and aptly titled quartet session. Recorded in 1964, the same year Zoller won Down Beat's Talent Deserving Wider Recognition award, Dreams and Explorations is a challenging, evocative program of creative, improvised music that is never as predictable as traditional bop nor as ponderous, pretentious or piercing as free jazz.
Unlike some of his other Riverside recordings, the accent on this Jimmy Heath CD reissue is very much on his tenor playing (rather than his arrangements). Heath is in excellent form with a quintet that also includes pianist Wynton Kelly, guitarist Kenny Burrell, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath. The instantly recognizable hard bop saxophonist performs four standards and three of his own compositions, including the original versions of "Gingerbread Boy" and "Project S." It's a good example of his playing talents.
Digitally re-mastered reissue of Sergio's debut album with his trio. Initially, Sergio moved from Brazil to New York to work as pianist with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Art Farmer (amongst others). He recorded this album plus a second album entitled Girl from Ipanema before forming the band that would eventually become Brasil '66. Bossa Nova York is closer to authentic Brazilian music than his later, more commercial recordings and these early sides are adored by Jazz purists. Originally recorded in New York and released in 1964.