Recent listening, current

Monday, February 18, 2013

38. Miles Davis / Ballads (1990)

Talk about the quintessential nonessential Miles Davis CD, this is it. Columbia compiled a scanty eight tracks recorded between 1961 and '63, and released them here with a ballads-only theme. Very little about Miles Davis in the sixties sounds dated or anachronistic to my ears, but in today's climate of iPods and customized playlists, such a compilation album doesn't have the same role it did in 1990. And this product, as a whole, hasn't aged well even if the opposite is true for the selections themselves. I say it didn't age well but I'm not sure it would have made sense 20 years ago, either. First, it's an odd choice of material if you're trying to showcase what Davis could do with a ballad. Five tracks by the Gil Evans orchestra, two by the quintet with George Coleman and a live cut by the Mobley quintet is a rather baffling sequence. Are we doing Evans, or a club date? Because the two are so unlike each other that the program seems interrupted when the group changes. The very context of the Gil Evans orchestra was so different than that of a street group, any street group, that a ballad within its fold is a thing transmuted, a wholly different musical animal. Good work from everyone involved musically, but shame on Columbia for ever selling this.

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