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CLASSICS: SERIES INCLUDE MILES DAVIS’ `58 SESSIONS,’ DAVE BRUBECK, DUKE

SHARE CLASSICS: SERIES INCLUDE MILES DAVIS’ `58 SESSIONS,’ DAVE BRUBECK, DUKE

Columbia Records continues to do favors for those whose 35-year-old LPs - remember them? - have been ravaged by the ages, and for the younger set that missed the classics the first time around.

For five years, Columbia's Legacy Jazz Masterpieces have churned out more than 100 titles ranging from Louie to Bix to Duke and the Count. The latest batch features Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday.- "MILES DAVIS: '58 Sessions" (CD CK47835) is a combination of "Jazz Track" and "Jazz at the Plaza," and it's of particular interest because this is the period when Miles formed his fabled sextet by adding altoist Cannonball Adderley to join John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb and new pianist Bill Evans.

Davis, who passed away a few weeks ago, said in his 1990 autobiography, "The idea I had was to add the blues voice of Cannonball Adderley into this mixture and then to stretch everything out. I felt that Cannonball's blues-rooted alto sax up against Trane's harmonic, chordal way of playing, his more free-form approach, would create a new kind of feeling, a new kind of sound, because Coltrane's voice was already going in a new direction."

It didn't take long for Cannonball to adapt to the group, even though he told Miles that what Coltrane was playing sounded like the blues, but that it wasn't. "It was something else," which, perhaps coincidentally, was the title of the sextet's great album of 1960.

When Bill Evans replaced pianist Red Garland for the sextet, Davis said he "had to change the way the band sounded again for Billy's style by playing different tunes, softer ones at first. Bill played underneath the rhythm and I liked that, the way he played scales with the band. Red's playing had carried the rhythm but Bill underplayed it and for what I was doing now with the modal thing, I liked what Bill was doing better."

With Miles' muted horn on "Green Dolphin Street," plus "Stella by Starlight" and "My Funny Valentine" played with loving care, the restructured sextet shows why it's considered one of the most influential groups in jazz history.

- DAVE BRUBECK'S "Interchanges '54" (CD CK 47032) is a mixture of his original albums "Brubeck Time and Jazz" and the popular "Red Hot and Cool" recorded in 1954 and 1955. This quartet revolutionized small group jazz and was a hot item on campuses, even though Brubeck's playing was heavy-handed compared to his later works, and Joe Dodge's drumming was pedestrian measured against the quartet's sound when Joe Morello and his brushes subsequently took over the drummer's seat. This was a time when altoist Paul Desmond was at his lyrical best, caressing "Pennies From Heaven" and "A Fine Romance" on this 12-cut milestone recording.

- DUKE ELLINGTON'S "The Duke's Men: Small Groups, Volume 1" (CD C2K 46995) is a double CD featuring seven to nine players on 45 cuts recorded between December 1934 and January 1938. Many of the tunes I heard for the first time, even though there are a few like "Caravan" that became staples with Ellington's big band. The charm of these recordings is the looseness and informality usually associated with jam sessions, which basically is what this is. Joining Duke on this album are longtime associates Johnny Hodges on soprano and alto, Harry Carney on baritone sax, cornetist Rex Stewart, Cootie Williams on trumpet and clarinetist Barney Bigard. It's all good fun, and a valuable chronicle of an important time in the evolution of jazz.

- BILLIE HOLIDAY is a frequent contributor to the Legacy Jazz Masterpieces series, and the latest and last release is "Volume 9" (CD CK 47031), covering her recordings from 1940-1942. This is a period in her life her fans would like to remember before heroin and other self-destructiveness resulted in her death in July 1959. The album is Billie at her best on some of her greatest hits like "St. Louis Blues," "God Bless This Child," "Solitude" and "Gloomy Sunday." There are 18 cuts in all, and Billie is backed by such luminaries as Teddy Wilson, Benny Carter, Lester Young and Roy Eldridge.