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The Miles Davis Complete Columbia Studio Recordings Project

Beginning in 1994 and continuing for the better part of ten years, Sony USA and Mosaic Records undertook a grand project to reissue most of Miles Davis' Columbia recordings. The first installment in what was called "The Miles Davis Complete Columbia Studio Recordings Project" was not a studio recording, but the 1965 live recordings from the Plugged Nickel Club in Chicago. My copy of the ten-LP set arrived on May 5, 1995. Over the next twelve years, eleven boxed sets were released. The last three were only issued on compact disc:

  1. The Complete Plugged Nickel Sessions (Mosaic Records MQ10-158) [May 1, 1995]
    The Complete Live at Plugged Nickel 1965 (Columbia Legacy CXK 66955) [July 18, 1995]

  2. Miles Davis/Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Recordings (Mosaic Records MQ11-164) [July 30, 1996]
    Miles Davis/Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (Columbia Legacy CXK 67397) [September 3, 1996]

  3. The Complete Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet (Mosaic Records MQ10-177) [April 30, 1998]
    The Complete Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet (Columbia Legacy C6K 67398) [March 24, 1998]

  4. The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (Mosaic Records MQ6-183) [December 9, 1998]
    The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (Columbia Legacy C4K 65570) [November 24, 1998]

  5. The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis with John Coltrane (Mosaic Records MQ9-191) [April 11, 2000]
    Miles Davis and John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings (Columbia Legacy C6K 65833) [April 11, 2000]

  6. The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions (Mosaic Records MQ5-209) [October 30, 2001]
    The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions (Columbia Legacy C3K 65362) [October 23, 2001]

  7. The Complete Blackhawk Sessions (Mosaic Records MQ6-220) [September 3, 2003]
    In Person: Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk, Complete (Columbia Legacy C4K 87106) [June 3, 2003]

  8. The Complete 1963-64 Columbia Recordings (Mosaic Records MQ10-226) [September 28, 2004]
    Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings 1963-1964 (Columbia Legacy C7K 90840) [September 28, 2004]

  9. The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (Columbia Legacy C5K 86359) [September 30, 2003]

  10. The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (Columbia Legacy C6K 93614) [December 27, 2005]

  11. The Complete On the Corner Sessions (Columbia Legacy C6K 06239) [October 2, 2007]

Early announcements concerning the project

Listed below are a few announcements and updates about the contents of the sets and projected release dates. The schedule was wildly optimistic, with sets often appearing several years after they were projected to appear. The receding release dates became a sort of grim joke among those involved in the project.

Original press release (Spring 1996)

NEW YORK -- (ENTERTAINMENT WIRE) -- May 24, 1996 --

Eight Definitive Boxed Sets Will Be Released Over The Next Three Years Featuring Groundbreaking Recordings & Unreleased Music From The Masterpieces of Miles Davis

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Miles Davis' birth (May 25, 1926) [sic], Columbia Records/Legacy is proud to announce the release of MILES DAVIS & GIL EVANS: THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA STUDIO RECORDINGS. The lavish 6-CD boxed set is the first installment in a series of definitive collections covering the entirety of Davis' studio recordings for Columbia Records. The Davis/Evans set is due in stores on August 27.

MILES DAVIS & GIL EVANS: THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA STUDIO RECORDINGS covers all of the pair's studio collaborations from 1957 through 1968 and includes the classic albums Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain in their entirety. Additional musical material includes the Davis/Evans collaboration on the album Quiet Nights, sessions with vocalist Bob Dorough, alternate takes, rehearsals, and two previously unissued sessions: "The Time of the Barracudas" and "Falling Water." More than 50% of the material included in the boxed set is previously unreleased.

An audiophile's dream, the Davis/Evans recordings were restored from the original session tapes and transferred without the compression, echo, and high-end equalization that were added during the mastering of the original vinyl releases in the 50's and 60's. The result is an astounding clarity of sound and a full natural musical ambiance. As Quincy Jones writes in his liner notes for the set, "This is as good as it gets. Timeless!" In addition to Jones' personal commentary on Davis, the 198-page booklet included in the box features notes by original Davis producer George Avakian, producer/arranger Bob Belden, and Bill Kirschner; annotations and a discography of the sessions by producer Phil Schaap; and many rare studio photographs.

Columbia Records/Legacy will continue to release definitive Miles Davis boxed sets over the next three years. Each of the eight boxed sets will feature music meticulously remixed and remastered via Sony Super Bit Map technology (SBM), original album graphics and liner notes, session photographs, and newly issued material. Each set will be simultaneously released on pristine high-petroleum content 180-gram vinyl via Mosaic Records. Mosaic's Michael Cuscuna is executive producer of the Miles Davis Complete Columbia Studio Recordings project. The series directors are Columbia Records' Steve Berkowitz and Kevin Gore.

In preparation for the Miles Davis project, every master tape from the Columbia vaults was brought to Sony Music's New York studio where all issued and unreleased material could be reviewed and researched.

Slated for March 1997 release:

The 6-CD set covers all the studio material -- spanning January 1965 to June 1968 -- from the Quintet consisting of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams.

The box will include material from E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Nefertiti, Water Babies, Miles in the Sky, Sorcerer, and Filles de Kilimanjaro, as well as alternate takes and unpublished photographs.

Future Miles Davis boxed sets will include:

This 3-CD set covers Davis' transitional period between "The Quintet" and Bitches Brew and features the masterpiece In a Silent Way.

This set begins with Bitches Brew and runs from Jack Johnson through the music recorded prior to Davis' two-year hiatus from the studio.

This set spans 1955-1961 and includes such seminal works as 'Round About Midnight and Kind of Blue.

This set is a breathtaking document of the evolution of Davis' music from Seven Steps to Heaven to the development of the classic Quintet.

Supplementing and complimenting the eight boxed sets of Miles Davis' complete Columbia studio work, Columbia will release several significant live Miles Davis sessions from various stages of his career. These include Davis' 1961 Blackhawk and Carnegie Hall dates, the unissued 1970 Fillmore East gig (Wayne Shorter's last performance with the group), and the recently-released critically acclaimed boxed set MILES DAVIS: THE COMPLETE LIVE AT THE PLUGGED NICKEL 1965.

The Miles Davis Complete Columbia Studio Recordings Project has the complete involvement and cooperation of the Miles Davis Estate.

For more information, please contact Don Lucoff, DL Media, New York, 212/353-2334 or Fran DeFeo, Columbia Records, Media, N.Y., 212/833-5784

Update: From Mosaic Records Brochure #20 (Summer 1997), p. 1:

Bob Belden and I started working on this set [sc. The Complete Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-1968] two years ago and it is a relief to finally see it realized. Since details of this set are found elsewhere in this brochure, I'd like to lay out the rest of our plans for this series as they stand at this point in time (i.e., etched in sand).

In May 1998, Columbia will issue a two-CD set of the complete Miles Davis 1961 Carnegie Hall Concert, which doesn't fit conceptually into any boxed set.

Next September, Columbia will release a four-CD set that begins in August 1969, when Miles recorded Bitches Brew, and extends six months to February 1970, after which Wayne Shorter left the group and Miles scaled down his large Bitches Brew-size recording ensembles. It is doubtful that Mosaic will issue this one on LP for several reasons. With reconstructed editing of new mixes, it may be impossible to keep this set in the analog domain. Also, we're not sure that this era of Miles will be of interest to Mosaic LP buyers. Scream if you disagree. [Ed. note: Mosaic's email address is mosrec@ix.netcom.com]

The complete Miles Davis studio recordings from September 1968 to February 1969 are scheduled for February 1999. This set covers all the recordings made after Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter left the quintet and before the Bitches Brew sessions. The three-CD/five-QLP set will begin with two selections from Filles de Kilimanjaro and end with In a Silent Way, plus an extended session made two days later.

The two final boxes in this series will come in 1999 and 2000. Their release order has yet to be determined. The sets are: 1) the remainder of the 1970 studio sessions that produced Jack Johnson after which Miles left the studio for a year and a half; 2) all the sessions with the quintet and sextet that included John Coltrane; and 3) the 1963-64 recordings that began with Seven Steps to Heaven and ended with Miles in Berlin, chronicling the evolution and fine-tuning of what became the quintet that we are celebrating in the current boxed set.

Along the way will be the 1961 Blackhawk sessions, probably issued by Columbia as two two-CD sets and by Mosaic as a six-LP set.

With the exception of some live '69-'70 sessions, this will cover all the Columbia Miles from 1955 until 1970. After so many years of haphazard releases, it is a joy and relief to see his legacy given a complete, long-view treatment, and it is an honor to be part of it.

Update: From Mosaic Records Brochure #24 (Winter 1998), p. 24:

Mosaic had had its eye on Miles Davis' extraordinary legacy at Columbia Records for some time when Columbia contacted us in 1994 to help plan a series of definitive reissues on Miles. In short order, we devised a plan for a series of seven complete boxed sets dealing with the trumpeter's major periods from signing with the label until mid-1970 when he took a two-year hiatus from recording.

The sets are:

  1. All concert and studio sessions by Miles' group with John Coltrane
  2. The complete Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaborations
  3. The 1963-64 studio and concert recordings during which his second great quintet evolved
  4. The complete studio recordings of the second great quintet
  5. All the studio sessions covering the In a Silent Way period
  6. All the studio recordings covering the Bitches Brew period
  7. All the studio sessions during the guitar-dominated Jack Johnson period

Along the way, Miles did a number of live club recordings which generated a hefty amount of quality music which merit boxed sets of their own. The 1965 Plugged Nickel recordings are the first of these, with the 1961 Blackhawk material to follow next.

When completed, this series of nine releases will represent one of the most important and diverse bodies of work in 20th century music, with the best possible sound, definitive documentation, and in complete form.

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