By Mike Zwerin
20 December 2001 - Reissues and belated new releases keep coming
from the past. The bottom of the vault has not yet been scraped. Here
are some newly packaged and repackaged items of note for late holiday
Highlights From the Complete Miles Davis at
Montreux (Warner Music / Switzerland)
This eight-track CD
serves as a sort of best-of prequel to a comprehensive 20-CD box
scheduled for release by Montreux Sounds in May. Producer Claude Nobs,
who founded the Montreux
Jazz Festival, has a legendary, mostly unreleased post-Bitches
Brew Davis archive going from 1973-1991. The sound is better than
good, the audience unheard. Most tracks are under 10 minutes, short
compared to other live electric Davis, just long enough. The leader's
trumpet chops are in unusually good shape for the period. The
ensembles are tight - John
McLaughlin's "Pacific Express," for example. Soloists
John Scofield, Dave
Liebman, Bob Berg and
Kenny Garrett are at their most lucid, inspired by the likes of Daryl
Jones and Al Foster on bass and drums. A significant body of
politically-correct thought holds that Miles Davis's rock incarnation
was fabricated to be commercial and is thus irrelevant. "Highlights"
goes a long way towards proving otherwise.Available only in
Lincoln, "Abbey Sings Billie" (Enja/2CDs)
number of female vocalists being irrationally compared to Billie
Holiday, Lincoln is in the select company that deserves it. Not
because she copies, on the contrary, you know who it is right away.
Parallel but separate, she and Holiday have organically similar
deliveries and textures. These are live performances from 1987
re-released by the Munich-based internationally distributed Enja
Records. The accompaniment features the lyrical, underrated tenor
saxophonist Harold Vick. "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "God
Bless The Child," "Lover Man," "Strange Fruit"
and so on.
The Art of Jazz (Dreyfus Jazz)
bargain-price (27) three-CD boxes of assorted pre-1950 (pre-LP)
recordings. Knowledgably programmed by the French magnate and
connoisseur Francis Dreyfus, the cross-stylistic collections are
divided into "Piano" (Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Bud Powell),
"Saxophone" (Charlie Parker. Lester Young, Sidney Bechet), "The
Band" (Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie), and so on.
Informative notes in French and English. Distribution in Europe and
Japan but not the US where the public domain begins years later.
Marley and the Wailers, "Exodus" (Island/2CDs)
Gaye, "Let's Get It On," (Motown/2CDs)
earlier reissues of "Catch A Fire" and "What's Going
On," respectively, these additional two-CD boxes, both labeled "deluxe
edition," continue the renewal of the work of two of the most
interesting pop musicians of the '70s. In addition to the (remastered)
original classic LP, the Marley includes a concert at the Rainbow
Theater in London on a good night in 1977: The 11-minute live version
of the title-song is about as convincing as reggae ever got. Added
tracks incorporate the funky "Punky Reggae Party,"
previously released on a 12" single under the name Jamaican Tuff
Gong. A booming-bass dub version of Curtis (Superfly) Mayfield's "Keep
On Moving" keeps you moving on. Gaye's creative liftoff from
earlier r&b;pleasantries arrived suddenly and dramatically and
late in his career. It takes an awful lot of listening to get tired of
it. Unpolished alternate tracks, instrumental mixes, live concerts,
demos and out-takes from "What's
Going On" are like short unfinished symphonies. These are
limited editions, they will be hard to find after awhile. Both were
released during the second half of 2001.
Coltrane, "Live Trane, The European Tours"
Recordings of concerts in Stockholm,
Paris and Berlin in the early '60s, including previously unreleased
versions of "My Favorite Things," "The Inch Worm,"
etcetera. The classic quartet (McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin
Jones) was at its peak, as was its leader. Seven CDs as close to the
cutting edge as these might be called a body of work all by itself.
Trane was booed during one Parisian concert. Afterwards, the French
producer apologized for his callow countrymen: "John, you just
went too far for them." The saxophonist shook his head: "No.
I didn't go far enough."
Zwerin has been jazz and rock critic for the International Herald
Tribune for the last twenty years. He was also the European
correspondent for The Village Voice. Zwerin is currently writing a
book called "Parisian Jazz Affair" for Yale University Press
and he is the jazz editor of Culturekiosque.com.