Miles Davis is still the Icon of Cool with ‘Cool and Collected’

For the past half-century, when the subject turns to the simple question, “What defines ‘cool’?” there has always been one perfect answer: Miles Davis.  Beyond his defiant stance, his piercing glare, his amorous conquests and those one-of-a-kind Issey Miyake fashion statements – there was and always will be the music of Miles Davis.
 
‘Cool & Collected’ is the first single CD anthology to zero in on a baker’s dozen of the recordings which created the swirling mythos of ‘cool’ that defines Miles, spanning 1956 to 1984, with a new previously unreleased bonus remix track to close the program. 

This definitive package of all-classic selections, which will be supported by one of the most aggressive multi-tiered consumer lifestyle marketing campaigns ever launched by Legacy Recordings, is now in stores on Columbia/Legacy Jazz, a division of Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Underscoring the ‘hip’ factor associated with ‘Cool & Collected’ is its fascinating cover design by Bert Stefano of Instituto Europea of Design in Italy.  His design won a contest arranged with top design schools in 12 countries around the world.  Students from these schools created their artwork based on Legacy’s criteria for this Miles Davis album (demographics, marketing concept).

Other schools enlisted for the design competition were: New York’s School of Visual Arts; ESDI (Escola Superior de Desenho Industrial) of Rio de Janeiro; Tokyo Gakugei University; Chelsea College of Art & Design in London; Köln International School of Design in Germany; Royal Academy of Arts at the Hague; CEV (European Volunteer Centre) of Barcelona; Instituto Europea of Design in Rome and Milan; and Instituto Europea of Design in Madrid.

If ‘cool’ is the magnet that has been drawing jazz hipsters together for these past fifty-five-plus years, then nowhere is that synergy better represented than on the brand new remix of 1969’s “It’s About That Time” heard on ‘Cool & Collected.’ Newly recorded parts by Carlos Santana (lead guitar), drummer Vince Wilburn, Jr. (Miles’ nephew and former band-member), bassist Charley Drayton, Geri Allen on Fender Rhodes piano, guitarist/programmer Pat Thrall, and African drummers Azize Faye and Ndongo Mbaye are engaged in the remix of the original track (from the In A Silent Way LP sessions) that featured Miles on trumpet, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Joe Zawinul on keyboards, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, bassist Dave Holland, guitarist John McLaughlin, and drummer Tony Williams.  Thrall’s remix was produced by Wilburn, Thrall and Drayton; and was executive produced by Steve Berkowitz and Wilburn.

The remix of 1969’s “It’s About That Time” is the icing on a collection containing music that ranges from Miles’ second year of recordings on Columbia – 1956’s “Bye Bye Blackbird” and ’Round Midnight” (both with Miles’ so-called “first great quintet” featuring tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, as heard on the ’Round About Midnight LP) all the way through the two cover versions from his final Columbia album, 1985’s You’re Under Arrest, namely Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” (with John Scofield on guitar) and the Michael Jackson hit “Human Nature” (with John McLaughlin on guitar).

The late 1950s were abundant with Miles Davis recordings that re-established him as the paradigm of cool, long after the “Birth of the Cool” sessions (released in 1950) that signaled his graduation from the frenetic bebop movement of the ’40s.  ‘Cool & Collected’ lives up to its title by gathering a brilliant quartet of 1958 sides – “Milestones” (the first session in which Coltrane was joined by Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on alto saxophone), “Stella By Starlight” and “Fran-Dance” (from the first session in which pianist Bill Evans joined the quintet), and the Gershwins’ “Summertime” (from Porgy And Bess, arranged and conducted by Gil Evans) – topped off by this CD’s opening gem, “So What,” from the undisputedly coolest jazz LP ever recorded, Kind Of Blue.
 
In December 1957, Miles took a side-trip to Paris where he hooked up with old friend and expatriate musician, drummer Kenny Clarke for sessions that yielded the French LP movie soundtrack on Fontana for Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator To The Gallows).  The third track on the album, “Générique,” marks an extremely rare and historic appearance of a recording from that LP on a Columbia anthology.
 
The 1960s are represented by two crucial recordings: 1963’s “Seven Steps To Heaven” was the title tune from the first LP to spring forth from Miles’ new quintet of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and saxophonist George Coleman; a year and a half later, 1965’s “E.S.P.” was the title tune from the first LP (and first record date) by the fully-formed “second great quintet” – Hancock, Carter, Williams, and Wayne Shorter.  Both of these tracks hold primal positions in the annals of cool.
 
When Miles Davis became the first (and only) modern jazz figure ever to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this year, it demanded reflection upon his impact on popular culture in general – not just the worlds of jazz and rock that he forever welded together at the hip in the late 1960s.  Decades later, in this landmark year of 2006 – in which Miles would have turned 80 years old on May 26th, and in which the 15th anniversary of his death is commemorated on September 25th – his mystique looms as large as ever on the landscape of ‘cool.’  The world of hip belongs to Miles, to paraphrase a line from Ol’ Blues Eyes’ handbook, and we are all just guests.

‘Cool & Collected’ is now available at Amazon. Visit the music database for more information and a complete track listing.

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