Search - Miles Davis :: Chronicle: 1951-1956

Chronicle: 1951-1956
Miles Davis
Chronicle: 1951-1956
Genres: Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #5
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #6
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #7
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #8

The expanse of Miles Davis's recordings for Prestige Records, the California analogue to New York's Blue Note, is huge. In terms of artistic development, the eight CDs in this box span Davis's development from tentative se...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Miles Davis
Title: Chronicle: 1951-1956
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Prestige
Original Release Date: 1/1/1990
Re-Release Date: 9/22/1993
Album Type: Box set, Original recording remastered
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Style: Bebop
Number of Discs: 8
SwapaCD Credits: 8
UPCs: 025218440028, 0090204102907

The expanse of Miles Davis's recordings for Prestige Records, the California analogue to New York's Blue Note, is huge. In terms of artistic development, the eight CDs in this box span Davis's development from tentative searching through the full bloom of his first great quintet, whose frontline boasted Davis and a young John Coltrane. The sessions captured on Chronicle begin in 1951, with Davis's grainy debut for the label in a sextet with Sonny Rollins, and continue with the fascinating Lee Konitz-led quintet that Davis was eminently adaptable to, even with the kind of angular sounds Konitz's band drummed up. Listing the remaining sessions would be an exercise in boasting, given the presence of so many virtuoso bop and postbop giants. Given that Davis may well have piqued Prestige founder Bob Weinstock's interest through his playing with Charlie Parker, Bird shows up on a 1953 date, doubling tenor saxes with Rollins. Some have remarked that the pre-1954 Davis dates don't show nearly the smarts of the 1954 and after works, but for all that huff, there's some deep stuff in the early sessions, from the twined tenor saxes of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims to Davis's own uneasily fragile tone that hadn't taken on the full heft of its later precision. Then there are the quintet recordings, which carve out a secure spot for Davis in the annals of ultracreative jazz. Recorded in three marathon 1956 sessions, the quintet works came out on several LPs, all of which remain in print today in their exact form. The group sculpts a liquid groove that's got sharp teeth, what with Philly Joe Jones's crackling drums, and immeasurable tonic depth. Davis stays active in the midregister, blasting off lines that do indeed sound slow and methodical but also emit unmistakable impressionistic qualities that would wow fans for decades. Coltrane, himself still in a developing phase, drops lots of hints that knew bebop's architectonics so thoroughly as to be on the brink of deconstructing them definitively (which he later did on Giant Steps). Given the full trajectory of the music and the artists on these sessions, this is a majestic collection. --Andrew Bartlett

CD Reviews

Some Indispensable Recordings, Some Forgettable Recordings
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I am a very, very big fan of the pre-electric Miles Davis. Not to take anything away from Satchmo, Duke, or any of the greats that peaked before this era, but in my mind the golden age of jazz is from about 1955 to 1965. There is a timelessness about the styles of this era, and the assortments of artists in this competitive mix make this a kind of Periclean age for the genre. You could paper a wall with the sleeves of jazz LP's that came out in 1958 or so, throw a dart at the wall blindfolded, and not come away with a booby prize. Still, if after a few throws you did not have something from Davis's first quintet, you might feel a bit cheated. This was not an era during which it was easy to stand out, but this box set includes recordings that are glitteringly exceptional.On this box set are songs so indispensable that my wife had better grab the kids if the houseboat starts sinking because I don't want to live without the best versions of such songs as "My Funny Valentine", "Diane", and "Surrey with a Fringe on Top" that Davis ever made. Discs Five through Eight, which are the original Miles Davis Quintet recordings, see a developing John Coltrane. Coltrane does not yet show the freedom and emotion of his Prestige box set, nor would Davis have tolerated it, but he was already a brighter talent than many saxophonists could ever hope to be, and he works well within the structured environment of these pre-modal Davis arrangements. (By the end of their collaborations, Coltrane's forays beyond even modal improvisation and his tendency toward the chaos of free jazz made him no longer a good fit with Davis). These discs are the work of perhaps the most legendary assemblage of jazz giants that has ever existed. In my book, this group was topped only by addition of Cannonball Adderley, the frequent substitution of Bill Evans for Garland, and the improved recording technology that had occurred by the time Davis moved to Columbia records and made Kind of Blue.The quality of sound is an issue with me on this box set. I suspect there is only so much that can be done with recordings made before the advent of stereo or, on the earlier discs, before even the existence of the LP. The sound quality is certainly adequate, but it is a distinct step down from the recent reworkings of Davis's Columbia recordings. Secondly, the first four discs do have some interesting pieces and some interesting sidemen, such as a young Sonny Rollins and even a cameo by the Bird. But if the houseboat sinks, I might trade one for the dog, or even a kid if I don't get another tie for father's day. The work is very uneven and even the best of it does not match the brilliance of the last four discs. Davis was struggling with a substance abuse problem during much of this period and it shows. These two reasons are why I give this set only four stars. I seldom listen to the first four discs, and I am contemplating trying the JVC reworkings of the original quintet recordings to see whether the sound quality makes these rather pricey single CD's worthwhile. The quintet's work is a must have, but if you must have one and only one box set, try the Columbia release of all of the work Davis and Coltrane did on that label."
Sean M. Kelly | Portland, Oregon United States | 09/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This collection of Prestige recordings are as much a biographical and historical look at Davis' ups and downs as a man as that of a musician.The listener has to be aware of Miles' life during the years of 1950-55 to better understand what they are listening to. Alas, much of this period starts and ends with his heroin habit. This habit was all consuming and certainly physically took its toll on Davis. His playing also suffers a lot of the time due to it. There are some sessions where he sounds together, and others (the gut wrenchingly sad "Round Midnight" take with Charlie Parker (a rare tenor sax appearance) right before Bird's death, where both Miles and Bird's playing sounds like they were nodding off on heroin during it) where it is close to disaster. Despite the downs, Miles WAS a professional and while his tone was at points very thin, he gave it his all.Discs 1-3 showcase that lost period, while discs 4-8 showcase Miles on the rebound from his habits, and the slow and steady recovery of his tone, chops, and musical career with it. Not surprisingly, the tracks, grooves, and voice that we love Miles for, improves dramatically on these discs, and discs 6-8 are the finest efforts, with Miles and his 1st great quintet's "Steamin," "Workin," "Relaxin," and "Cookin" lps featured.This collection is an amazing journey. If you are willing to take the great with the not so great, then this collection is for you. All Miles completists need this collection for its musical and historic value. At times rough and gut wrenching, and by the end glorious and astounding, but never dull, the set is a gem."
Some Difficult To Aquire Miles
wednightprayermeeting | Bellview, CA | 09/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Great bop/hard bop collection. Albums such as the classics "Cookin'" "Steamin'" Relaxin'" and "Workin'" are all included. Coltrane and Philly Joe Jones really shine on these sets.Even some harder to find albums appear on the first two disks of this set. "Bemsha Swing" from the MODERN JAZZ GIANTS album is a great Monk tune.Highlights include the jivin' "Trane's Blues," "Aigrin," "Half Nelson," "Night In Tunisia" and "Blues By Five."Not enough alternate takes for my total satisfaction, but none the less, essential music.Four and 1/2 stars."