This reissue of jazz classic is the best


POSTED: Monday, February 02, 2009

When I heard that this essential Miles Davis modal jazz classic was being reissued, my immediate response was “;What, again?!?”;




”;Kind of Blue: 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition”;

Miles Davis





This latest iteration on compact disc is the fourth that I know of since the album's original re-release in digital format in 1997. Two other versions were marketed more toward audiophiles—a Super Audio CD (which required special hardware to play) in 2001, then a double-sided DualDisc version (including a 5.1 sound mix and a DVD documentary) in 2005.

The just-released anniversary edition comes as a two-disc affair, as well as a pricey super-deluxe boxed set meant only for the die-hard fan (of which there are many—with quadruple platinum sales, it's the best-selling jazz album ever). I'm assuming that this reissue will be the last one (in my lifetime, at least), and I must admit it's the best, remixed and remastered under the supervision of the venerable producer-historian Michael Cuscuna.

; The first disc includes the original album in its entirety—anchored by perennial favorites “;So What”; and “;All Blues”;—and includes the previously released alternate take of the closer, “;Flamenco Sketches.”;

The remainder of the disc is filled out with short studio sequences that document Davis and the band—the legendary grouping of saxophonists Julian “;Cannonball”; Adderley and John Coltrane, pianist Bill Evans and the rhythm section of Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb—working out various musical passages. It's not crucial stuff, but it does add a bit of flavor to what the recording sessions in March and April of 1959 ultimately produced.

It's what's on Disc 2 that elevates this particular reissue. First, it reassembles all of the studio tracks the band recorded a year earlier, including two previously unreleased tracks, a lengthy exploration of Cole Porter's “;Love for Sale”; and an alternate take of “;Fran-Dance,”; inspired by Davis' then-wife, dancer Frances Taylor.

The cherry on top of this project is the first authorized release of a live performance of “;So What,”; recorded in 1960 at a Holland concert.

Taken at a quicker tempo, it features solos by pianist Wynton Kelly and Coltrane. The saxophonist was already planning to leave Davis' band to pursue his own music, and Coltrane's nine-minute solo here is an intriguing precursor to the exploratory work he would be better known for in later years.

All things considered, this is the “;Kind of Blue”; to buy.