The Concord Music Group recently released their latest additions to its “Definitive” series. This round of releases includes jazz greats Miles Davis and Bill Evans along with blues legend Albert King. Each set consists of over 20 songs spread along two discs and a full-color, 20-page booklet with newly written liner notes and song information.
Disc two features some of Davis’ more well-known songs as he expanded his band to a quintet which included at times the great John Coltrane. The songs on this CD were all recorded during one of Davis’ most influential time periods of his career. Highlights include covers of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts” and Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight”. The soft touches of “It Never Entered My Mind” and “My Funny Valentine” are welcome breaks from Davis’ trumpet of fire. The set closes with “The Theme (Take 1)” which was recorded just before Miles Davis signed with Columbia Records.
The second disc gives us a couple of Bill Evans’ solo pieces, “Spartacus Love Theme/Nardis” and “The Touch of Your Lips”. He also gives us a couple of wonderful live covers, “Isn’t Romantic” and “On Green Dolphin Street”. The mid-1970s found Bill Evans on a new record label and also a new found inspiration in his music. His trio now consisted of Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morell on drums which gave new life to Evans’ piano playing. The only track on the set that includes vocals is “Young and Foolish” which features the smooth voice of Tony Bennett amongst the backdrop of Evans’ piano. This set is a nice glimpse into the talents of Bill Evans.
Disc two of this set is really where Albert King gets engulfed in the blues beginning with “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven”. The song “Tell Me What True Love Is” has the blues guitarist teaming up with blues pianist John Mayall. A live version of “Match Box Blues” shows us the power in King’s performance in front of an audience. King gets his funk-blues on in the songs “I Wanna Get Funky” and “Playing On Me” which feature the Memphis Horns. Also included is his Christmas single “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin” which just shows how well-rounded Albert King was at playin’ the blues.
The sound on this latest batch of releases is great, with some minor variations depending on the year recorded. It’s great to have all of these early recordings together in one package, instead of just another rehashed “greatest hits” set. These sets give you get a glimpse at these artists at their most influential time. A must have for any collection.