How many Miles boxes is a box too far?

The latest temptation

The latest temptation

A good friend has just sent me the following text: “New miles 4 cd set – sigh”. The “sigh” comes from a restless urge he will now feel that he must get his hands on this new Miles Davis set. It’s an urge that many will feel, I guess, and is probably most ardently experienced by those who already own a healthy number of Miles Davis CDs, and probably a few box sets too.

After all, the Miles Davis fan was well served by Columbia during the trumpeter’s life and even better served by Sony since his death. As someone who is lucky enough to have a number of those original square-boxes, complete Davis/Coltrane, Davis/Gil Evans and Seven Steps among them – I managed to acquire them having traded in my vinyl collection at a lovely little jazz shop that once existed in the Gun Quarter in Birmingham – I can attest only too acutely to the lure of these things.

But, as the repackaging and inclusion of yet more alternate takes and unreleased tracks seems to continue without any sign of the Davis recording lake drying up, how about this for a debate topic: Can one have too much Miles Davis to listen to?

To expand, how often do you return to Kind Of Blue, or Sketches Of Spain, or Nefertiti, or Bitches Brew rather than listen to some hitherto unreleased concert from the late ’70s in a completist box the size of a brick? My own favourite, and for personal reasons as well as musical ones, is In A Silent Way.

So here’s the follow-up question: Which Miles album could you not do without? If, in time-honoured Desert Island Discs fashion, a wave were to threaten your entire Davis collection, which one would you save?

Answers in Comments below, please. Oh, and by the way, that new Miles set is called Miles At The Fillmore: The Bootleg Series Vol 3, and, oh all right then, you can pre-order it here.



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6 replies

  1. I couldn’t do without ‘A Tribute To Jack Johnson’ with ‘In A Silent Way’ not far behind. But I return to almost all of Miles’ Columbia catalogue regularly….even the dreaded ‘Panthalassa: The Remixes’ just to remind myself how truly awful that project was. Loved ‘Panthalassa’ though!

  2. I think there does come a point when enough is enough. As for the “desert island” question, I don’t know. I was always partial to Workin’, Cookin’, Relaxin’, and Steamin’ with the MDQ. Not in that they were very innovative, but (I think) the spirit of how/why they were done and the feeling of being live were very Miles Davis-esque.

  3. A simple and predictable answer – ‘Kind of Blue’ closely followed by joint second place ‘Milestones’ and ‘Miles Smiles’.

  4. As a long time Miles fan & the owner of a number of those boxed sets this is a difficult question to answer. So many great albums to choose from. The first I bought when new was Bitches Brew. I bought it having never heard a note of the music. The artwork & liner notes reeled me in. When I played it I travelled to another world, somewhere I’d never been before. The album began a journey. I’m still on that journey. Subsequently I discovered Miles earlier recordings while following his forward progress. ‘In a Silent Way’ inhabits a sound world like nothing else in Miles music. I never tire of hearing it. But predictably it has to be ‘Kind of Blue’ that I would have to choose. It always sounds “real”, still moves me after all these years & unlike so much great music is a genuine work of art with not an ounce of fat or a wasted note.

  5. I’d rescue ” In a Silent Way ” from the tsunami. Have always found it to be other worldly and every hearing is a brilliant adventure. And it sparked a later interest in Weather Report/ Zawinul.

  6. It would have to be Agharta or maybe Star People as I am still trying to get my head around what the Penguin Guide to Jazz sees in it exactly…

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