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Complete Jack Johnson...
Complete Jack Johnson...

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More or less what you'd expect., 24 Jun 2014
This set includes basically everything Miles Davies recorded in the studio from February to June of 1970, before he took a 2 year break from the studios before returning with On The Corner in 1972.

This was an intensely prolific period in Davis' life and although the set covers only four months of recording it includes over six hours of music. Some of this has been released before in some form or other, such as the original Jack Johnson LP (tracks included here), as well as forming parts of Big Fun, Live-Evil, Directions and Get Up With It, but the majority is available only here. The original Jack Johnson LP was one of the classic Miles Davis fusion albums, a watershed in Davis' career that really showed how he'd moved away from a more traditional "jazz" sound and embraced a rock-derived sound.

As in all such products, there's a general sense that the previously-unreleased material was previously-unreleased for a reason.
Because of the way Miles was making his music in this period, a lot of the music does not consist of whole, coherent performances but rather loose jams that neither really begin nor end, which were ultimately stitched together into the final product. For example, the set begins with almost a full hour of "Willie Nelson", a track which consists only of a simple repeating vamp with short improvised passages over the top and was edited down to just a few minutes of the track "Yesternow" on the original LP. Those interested can pour over every minute and figure out which passages were used in the final version... all very interesting but it doesn't add up to much as a listening experience: an hour of shuffling vamp with no extended solos, doesn't go anywhere and was never intended to be listened to in this way. You get a similar experience with "Right Off" and "Go Ahead John", albeit not at quite the same length. I really love this period in Miles' career so I'm not just writing this off because I don't like fusion, but even for me, I've found that a great deal of this set is pretty difficult to listen to simply because it was never intended to be. The LP version contains the Willie Nelson riff as it was intended to be heard; the rest of this is just noise, rather like seeing the chunks of marble a sculptor chips away from the finished statue.

Fortunately, some of the other unreleased material is much better, like "Duran", a funky tune that really builds to some intensity and "Konda", a fleeting glimpse of what a studio album by the Cellar Door band with Keith Jarrett might have sounded like. For the most part though, the music here will appeal mainly to completists, and those who own the original Jack Johnson album can rest assured they already have the definitive edition of the music on offer here.

Another minor quibble: my version is double the height of a normal CD, which means that not only can it not fit on the CD shelves with the rest of my collection, it also looks out of place alongside the other Columbia Davis "Complete X sessions" sets, which are all DVD-sized.This is not a huge issue as I do have other large sets, but I'd definitely have preferred a CD- or DVD- dimensioned set, as, I expect, would most people. At least it doesn't have the disc-destroying clamps the other Columbia boxed sets have.

Contrary to what some other reviewers seem to be saying, my version definitely has the original LP tracks in full, with the spoken commentary and everything. It seems this has been reissued at least once so perhaps others have an older version.

The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings
The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings
Price: £18.48

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Completists only, 23 Mar 2014
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Miles Davis & Gil Evans' collaborations are among the most highly-regarded Big-Band Jazz albums of their era - well, three of them are at least; Quiet Nights is widely regarded to be a rubbish and Miles didn't want it released - and they should be in any Jazz collection (although, personally, I think Sketches of Spain is over-rated).

Why then the relatively low rating? Well, two main reasons. Firstly, the shoddy packaging that has been noted by many other reviewers. Earlier editions of this set (and all the other Miles "Complete" boxed sets) came in CD-sized boxes with robust sleeves that were easy to get the CDs out of without damaging them, but later editions in the DVD-sized box that resembles a book - while rather smart and good-looking on one's shelf - are very tricky to use without damaging the discs.

The other reason is simply that the three albums that make up this set (four, if you really want Quiet Nights) are very easily available on their own for rather less than the cost of this box (and without the packaging issues). More than 50% of this set consists of alternate takes. Nothing inherently wrong with that - it does say "complete" after all - and while a large number of those alternates are also on single-disc reissues of the albums lots of them are only available here. It's just that casual listeners will probably not be interested in, for example, the *12* (Yes, TWELVE) different takes, rehearsal versions, false starts and fragments of "I don't want to be kissed by anyone other than you". Not since Charlie Parker has music been issued in such detail. I couldn't disagree more with the reviewer who suggests this set as a "good place to start" with Miles' music! The collaborations with Gil, while an essential part of the Miles canon, aren't particularly representative of his music as a whole, and people "starting out" with Miles or Jazz in general are almost certainly going to be put off by all those alternates.

The huge quantity of unreleased material is great if you're a collector, or you want to get an idea of how this music was made (there was some overdubbing involved, particularly with Miles Ahead, and this set features the original tracks and the solos on their own), or are a student who wants to analyse this music in detail. But I think most casual listeners will want to just listen to the albums as they were originally issued - which you can do with this set, as the original masters are all programmed first; but if this is all you want to do, why spend the extra money on all these extra bonus tracks? I'm a rather obsessive collector of Miles' music but I can't honestly say I'm likely to listen to all of these bonus tracks a great many times.

Alternate takes aside, there are a couple of things here which, as far as I know, are not available on CD anywhere else, such as the track "Blue Xmas" (as bad as it sounds to be honest) and the unissued 1968 suite "Falling Water". But these alone will not be enough reason for most people to want to splash out for this (generally, I find, with Miles, if something was unissued, then there was a good reason) - unless you're a completist, collector, or student, stick to the original albums instead.

Up For It: Live In Juan-Les-Pins
Up For It: Live In Juan-Les-Pins
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.73

3.0 out of 5 stars Unquestionably good, but does it stand out?, 17 Mar 2014
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That Jarrett's standards trio is one of the great small ensembles in Jazz, and that the music the produce together is of a consistently high standard is undisputable.

So why the comparatively low rating? Well, first, three points:
1) This group has set itself very high standards (no pun intended).
2) This group has released a LOT of albums, the vast majority of them, like this one, being live albums consisting entirely of standards.
3) Although the treatment of individual songs has varied over the years, the basic approach to the music as a whole is not a great deal different now to how it was back when this group first recorded, in 1983.

Now, there's nothing wrong with any of these three facts in and of themselves, but what they do mean is that for a particular individual album to stand out it needs to really be special, simply because it has so much competition from other albums which are almost identical in conception. I mean, just looking at the Jarrett albums that I personally own - nowhere near every live Jarrett standards album - I have no fewer than three which, like this one, contain versions of BOTH Autumn Leaves and My Funny Valentine (this one, Still Live, & Tokyo '96). The question is, is there a particular reason to own this record rather than any other particular Jarrett live standards album? Are the versions of the songs recorded here better than the versions he has recorded previously?

In my view, there isn't, and they aren't - there's nothing wrong with this one but I just don't find myself playing it as often as those others. Maybe it'll grow on me, but, as I've said, as the basic conception is so similar, it seems unlikely to supplant them in my esteem.

The Columbia Albums 1971-1975
The Columbia Albums 1971-1975
Price: £24.94

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly all the Weather Report you need., 13 Feb 2014
There seem to be two camps of Weather Report fans - those who prefer the funky, accessible, danceable grooves of the Jaco Pastorius years (1975-80) and those who prefer the spacey, ambient, avant-garde music the group was making in its earlier years (1971-73). Obviously, with this set, you get much more of the latter, which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. In mine, it's a good thing - sure, Heavy Weather's a great album, but Mr. Gone, Night Passage, the 1982 disc called Weather Report etc. aren't, and in my view the group went downhill after Heavy Weather. Regardless, my point is, if you listened to "Birdland" (not included here!) on YouTube and thought "Wow, that's great", then DO NOT rush out to buy this set as it's very different in style and tone.

So, what you do get here is the group's first five studio albums (Weather Report, I Sing the Body Electric, Sweetnighter, Mysterious Traveller & Tail Spinnin'), plus the 2-disc live album Live in Tokyo. While the discs from Sweetnighter onwards show an increasing transition to the funky style of the second half of the 70s (which, again, may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view), lots of the music here, particularly on the first two albums, is quite avante-garde and ambient, although not exceedingly so (if you "get" Bitches Brew then this should pose no problems). The music is based more around space and colour, less groove and beat. There aren't really much in the way of "solos" on the earlier discs, but by the later ones here the transition to a more accessible, funky style is well underway and solos (particularly from saxophonist Wayne Shorter) get more obviously defined.

The music isn't always consistently great - there are longeurs on many tracks and Joe Zawinul's synths can often sound pretty dated, but it's here for what it is, and if you like it then this is a pretty good set to go for.

I'm not really an audiophile but the sound seems somewhat better to me than on the previous CD versions I've owned.

Perhaps the main reason to get this set if you already own the discs is the bonus tracks, of which there are at least one to every album except the Live set. Most of these are live versions of the studio tracks, and it's really interesting to see how the two compare. Usually, the live tracks are louder, groovier, more drum-heavy and perhaps more obviously "Jazzy". The live version of "Nubian Sundance" doesn't work nearly as well, but "Cucumber Slumber" (both of these from Mysterious Traveller) is given a gloriously over the top performance that lasts over ten minutes. My only gripe is that it would have been good to hear one of these unreleased live sets in its entirety (given the number of live bonus tracks from different dates here, I'm guessing Columbia must have loads of unreleased recorded material stashed away somewhere), with a bonus disc, like they did on the Mahavishnu Orchestra set; but perhaps I'm complaining too much; there is over an hour of bonus material here (although I could personally have done without the hip-hop remix of 125th-street congress).
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 21, 2014 3:25 PM BST

8 Classic Albums [Audio CD] Duke Ellington
8 Classic Albums [Audio CD] Duke Ellington
Offered by produXa UK
Price: £11.38

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bits and pieces, 30 Jan 2014
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This set contains a selection of the Duke's albums from about 1957-1961. This was an uneven period for him - lots of excellent music but plenty of sets which are merely ordinary, or even downright bad. What you get here are four suites (Black, Brown & Beige, Such Sweet Thunder, The Nutcracker, Anatomy of a Murder), one live Big Band album (at the Bal Masque), a small group disc with horns (The Cosmic Scene), a collaboration with Louis Armstrong (also small group) and a trio record (Piano in the Foreground).

So first, the suites. Such Sweet Thunder is to me the best album on the set, and one of Duke's very best big band suites. The concept - a suite of music inspired by Shakespeare's plays - seems pretty bizairre, but this really is one of the Duke's best suites and contains some really atmospheric, brooding and beautiful music. Black, Brown & Beige is *almost* as good, but is hampered by the fact that it isn't complete (not because the makers of this set have omitted anything - this album version doesn't have the full suite as it was originally conceived) and it always feels more like an "excerpts from" than a whole coherent work, which is exactly what is.

I find less to recommend in the other two suites. Anatomy of a Murder seems to be quite popular but it's always seemed quite anonymous music to me, when compared with Ellington's best. The Nutcracker - well, this one is certainly entertaining. Throw it on at Christmas for an alternative seasonal soundtrack. I'm never quite sure whether this one was supposed to be a serious attempt or a bit of a laugh on Strayhorn/Ellingtons' parts. Personally, I like it, but find it pretty difficult to take it seriously and certainly wouldn't rate it up there with the better discs on this set.

I'll be honest - Louis Armstrong is an artist I can take or leave. I love his trumpet playing, but I tend not to like his choice of themes and his singing, iconic though it is, doesn't grab me. There's nothing particularly to fault with Together Again, his small group collaboration with Duke included here, but it just doesn't do it for me personally - Armstrong sings more than he plays, and by 1961 his playing had declined a little (though it would do so much more over the next few years). The Cosmic Scene, the other small-group-with-horns album here, features a mindblowingly good uptempo "Body & Soul", a feature for Tenor Saxophonist Paul Gonsalves (not that you'd know, as this set gives you nothing beyond a track-list of course) which is probably the greatest single track on this set and ranks up there with some of the very best interpretations of the tune - it's just a shame that the rest of the record is rather forgettable by comparison. Piano in the Foreground must be one of the most inappropriately named albums ever, as you'll not find a more restrained and reserved piano trio album this side of Ahmad Jamal: Duke never was really much of a pianist; his place in the Jazz canon was earned through his skill was as a bandleader, composer and arranger and it's often remarked that he put little effort into his occasional spotlight piano records. Again, nothing wrong with it, but not much to recommend either.

My least favourite of the albums included here is the live one, At the Bal Masque. It opens with "Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?". Now, I know Jazz artists have often made much of slight material (e.g. Coltrane's "My Favorite Things"), but this isn't one of those occasions and the album as a whole is simply utterly forgettable.

So, on balance, while there's some very good stuff here, it's probably not overall a great set to go for by the standards of these 8-album sets - there's too much average stuff in among the good stuff to make it a high priortity purchase.

7 Classic Albums Volume 2 [Audio CD] Sonny Rollins
7 Classic Albums Volume 2 [Audio CD] Sonny Rollins
Price: £7.43

4.0 out of 5 stars More excellent Rollins., 15 Jan 2014
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This second volume of Sonny Rollins albums from RealGone Jazz contains more excellent albums by legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins. While the previous volume covered the period 1954-1957, the albums in this set are generally later, including two from 1962 (after his temporary self-imposed exile) and the rest mainly 1957-1958, with the exception of 1956's Sonny Boy (more on that in a moment).

Although this volume, like the first, is excellent value and a great way to pick up these albums very cheaply, the set can't quite be considered as essential as the first. The music is perhaps a little less high quality than on the first set: Way Out West and Freedom Suite are Sax-Bass-Drums only trio efforts without a harmony instrument and though not necessarily 'worse' musically than the quartet/quintet efforts on the last volume are certainly less immediately accessible. The other albums are generally better though, with Newk's Time up there with Saxophone Colossus and Tour de Force, probably my favourite two Sonny Rollins albums ever. The most frustrating inclusion on this set however is Sonny Boy: this is basically the same album as Tour De Force, with a single track from Sonny Rollins Plays for Bird (not included on either set). Tour De Force is a great album but as it was already on volume one it's totally unnecessary duplication to include Sonny Boy here, especially when there are still several other 1950s Sonny Rollins albums not on either set (Sonny Rollins Plays for Bird, & The Modern Jazz Quartet, the Sound of Sonny, Sonny Rollins & the Contemporary Leaders). The two 1960s albums are also easily available in "Original Album Classics" sets by Sony, so it's pretty much impossible to avoid duplication (although in this case it's more forgivable as they're from different companies at least). So, overall, less essential than volume one, but still worth buying.

His Prestige Albums
His Prestige Albums
Price: £31.56

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for completists, not for casual fans..., 9 Jan 2014
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This review is from: His Prestige Albums (Audio CD)
Although John Coltrane was only at Prestige Records for two years, he recorded a huge amount of material for them during that time, as leader, co-leader, featured sideman, general sideman (most famously for Miles Davis but also frequently for Red Garland, and for other less well-known musicians) and in leaderless 'all-stars' sessions. Although only three albums under Coltrane's name were released by Prestige during that two-year period, as his career progressed with other labels and his star rose, Prestige decided to cash in by releasing the rest of the unissued material, but also by re-issuing the all-star and some of the sideman sessions under Coltrane's name.

Coltrane's Prestige period thus has a complex discographical history: what exactly constitutes a 'John Coltrane Prestige album'? There have been upwards of twenty different discs sometimes marketed as John Coltrane albums which include lots of material that, although featuring the saxophonist, were originally in fact albums by others ('Two Tenors' and part of 'The Believer'; originally Elmo Hope's 'Informal Jazz' and Ray Draper's 'Ray Draper and John Coltrane' respectively), unreleased sessions by other leaders ('Cattin' with Coltrane and Quinichette', which was really a Quinichette session with Coltrane as guest soloist (he doesn't even play on some tracks) despite Coltrane getting top billing on all releases of the album) or all-star sessions ('Dakar', 'The Cats', 'Wheelin' and Dealin' among others).

Absolute Coltrane completists will probably want every single one of these sessions of course. The publishers of this set appear to have taken a strict definition of a 'Coltrane album' however by including (for the most part) only the albums recorded in sessions for which Coltrane was actually the leader. You get the three 'official' Prestige albums:

- Coltrane
- Traneing In (originally 'John Coltrane and the Red Garland Trio')
- Soultrane

plus the following seven, which are by any definition 'real' Coltrane albums:

- Setting the Pace
- Lush Life
- The Last Trane
- Bahia
- Black Pearls
- Stadust
- Standard Coltrane

The remaining two are

- The Believer
- Dakar

The former makes sense because it consists 50% of Coltrane-led sessions. It's not clear why 'Dakar' was included however, which was originally part of a Prestige All Stars record called Baritones and French Horns, because there doesn't seem to be any particular reason to include it while not including 'Wheelin and Dealin', 'Tenor Conclave' etc.

So, all this aside, should you buy it? While there's obviously nothing inherently wrong with the music on the All-Star and sideman sessions, there is a significant difference in the kind of music Coltrane was interested in making as leader and the kind of stuff he was taking part in elsewhere.

This set probably won't appeal to completists though, because for not much more cash you can get the Complete Prestige sessions which includes several more albums than this.

What if you're a casual fan? In that case I'd avoid this set to be honest. Coltrane's standout album from this period is Blue Train, not included here because it was a Blue Note session rather than a Prestige one, and if you only want a selection of his Prestige work then the three 'official' albums (Coltrane, Traneing In and Soultrane) are very much the strongest ones in this set: the rest, while not in any way 'bad' albums, are weaker and generally less coherent (which is unsurprising really as if they weren't they would have been released in the 50s, not just later on to try and cash in on Trane's success).

I like this set becase because I like to have all of a given musician's albums but I don't like the thought of music being falsely attributed and am not that bothered about having absolutely everything: you have to draw a line somewhere and this seems like a fairly logical place to draw it. That said, as it's not for either completists or casual fans, it's difficult to say who exactly this set will appeal most to and thus it's going to be a fairly marginal purchase for most people. I'd give it three and a half stars if I could, but I'll stick to three to counteract ratings inflation.

David Murray - The Complete Remastered Recordings On Black Saint & Soul Note Vol.2
David Murray - The Complete Remastered Recordings On Black Saint & Soul Note Vol.2
Offered by Englishpostbox
Price: £19.97

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best jazz musician of the 1980s, 14 Nov 2013
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This second set of albums by saxophonist David Murray on Black Saint is highly welcome. While the Octets, collected on the first volume, are considered by some to be the peak of his career, they have only ever been a tiny proportion of his total output (I count 7 albums, out of more than 150!) so it's great to have easy access to some of his other 1980s music once more. One of the problems with David Murray is that the majority of his discography is out of print, and thus expensive even when you can find discs - mainly because he recorded on smaller labels, but also because the sheer number of his records must make it difficult to decide what to reissue. With that mind, getting 7 albums for £20 is a real bargain! These cover the period 1979-1993 and feature Murray in quartet, trio (w/bass & drums) and duo (w/piano) settings. Individual albums vary but I'd say that on the whole this is more accessible music than on the Octets, and Murray himself gets more space (inevitably), making it perhaps a better place to start than the first set (even though the octets are, of course, essential). Each album is different and will appeal to different kinds of listeners. "Body & Soul" features the title-track, which all tenor saxophonists in jazz seem destined to record eventually - and while this is a great contribution to that tradition, the earlier version on "Morning Song" is if anything even better - more adventurous and lacking the rather lacklustre lyric. There's a bit of repetition of tunes across these discs, which I consider a good thing - it's nice to see how a musician, especially in jazz, re-treats the same material at different points in its career. My favourite of these albums at the moment is Morning Song - but they're all good, and it's such a welcome to have these easily available that it's impossible not to grant this the full five stars.

Miles Davis Quintet 1965-'68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings
Miles Davis Quintet 1965-'68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £74.21

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not enough here to justify the cost., 30 Oct 2013
That the music on these discs is mostly excellent goes without saying. However, I don't feel this is a 5-star or priority purchase for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, the huge amount it'll cost you is pretty poor value for money considering the quantity of discs on offer here. £50+ for 6 discs isn't a very good deal, especially when the individual albums are all still available and generally for much less than this.

And while I'm mentioning the individual albums - E.S.P. and Miles Smiles are all here in their original order, but the rest of the original studio albums are out of sequence and/or not intact. There's no "Nothing like Me" on Sorcerer (no great loss to be honest) and half of "Filles de Kilimanjaro" isn't here - in these cases it's presumably because they were not by the same lineup as the rest of the music here. "Nothing like Me" is on the Complete Miles/Gil Evans boxed set and the second half of "Filles" is on the "Complete In A Silent Way Sessions" so there's no overlap nor missing tracks *if* you're collecting all these expensive Miles boxed sets, but casual buyers would probably want these tracks all in the same place, as they were originally released.

Nefertiti and Miles in the Sky are all here but not in the original album order, and spread in both cases over several discs. The extra quintet material has mostly been issued before, on "Water Babies", "Circle in the Round" and "Directions" - only one or two tracks are genuinely new. By containing all the sessions up to those included on "The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions" there's a nice sense of completeness to be had by owning the two, but there just doesn't seem to be enough here to justify the cost, especially to the average buyer, to whom I would recommend simply buying the original albums separately.

Quiet Nights
Quiet Nights

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For Miles completists only, 28 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Quiet Nights (Audio CD)
I have to admit - and I realise that to many this is sacrilege - that I've never really understood why Miles Davis & Gil Evans' collaborations have the reputation they do. There are some good bits on Miles Ahead and Porgy & Bess, but for the most part I find them all rather bland. Compared to, for example, the 1960s Jazz suites of Duke Ellington, Evans' arrangements seem like an an uneasy synthesis of Big-Band-Jazz and classical music that's doesn't particularly play to the strengths of either genre.

With this in mind it's perhaps inevitable that I've little good to say about Quiet Nights, Davis & Evans' fourth and final collaborative album, generally regarded - when it's even remembered at all - as one of the low points of the Davis canon. Neither Davis nor Evans had intended Quiet Nights to be released (at least, in this form) and it seems to make little sense as an album The 'suite' itself - if it can be called that - is just a sequence of bland, anonymous, vaguely latin-flavoured tracks that finish before they go anywhere, barely amounting to 20 minutes of music (perhaps Evans had intended to write some faster, longer pieces to fit between them?).

The two bonus tracks are generally better than the album itself, although not so much as to redeem it. 'Summer Night' is an out-take from the session that produced Miles' album 'Seven Steps to Heaven' and has nothing to do with Gil Evans nor with this album's bossa-nova concept. It's a reasonable track but it doesn't really belong here and is actually present on CDs of Seven Steps to Heaven (it's on mine, anyway), which is obviously its proper context. The second bonus track, "The Time of the Barracudas", was another Evans-Davis collaboration that's actually better than Quiet Nights, although here again the sections end before they really get going (although it's programmed as a single 13-minute track, 'Barracudas' is actually a suite of 5-6 separate pieces).

So there's nothing really worth having here, from most peoples' perspective. Buy it if you want to complete a Miles Davis collection, or if you absolutely loved the 3 famous Evans-Davis collaborations and want to hear more, although be prepared to be disappointed if you're expecting the same quality here. One suspects that Miles' heart simply wasn't in this.

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