Columbia/Legacy are throwing a birthday party for Miles Davis -- and they want everybody to attend. May 26 is the 75th anniversary of the late trumpeter's birth in Alton, Ill., and the label is markin

Columbia/Legacy are throwing a birthday party for Miles Davis -- and they want everybody to attend. May 26 is the 75th anniversary of the late trumpeter's birth in Alton, Ill., and the label is marking that occasion (and the 10th anniversary of Davis' passing, on Sept. 28, 1991) with a flood of releases and a coordinated sales campaign devoted to the company's best-selling jazz-catalog artist.

The program kicked off April 17 with the release of "The Best of Miles Davis & John Coltrane (1955-1961)," a nine-track distillation of Legacy's Grammy-winning 2000 boxed set "Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings, 1955-1961" (the new compilation disc is No. 14 on Billboard's Top Jazz Albums chart this week).

On the same date, Legacy issued four remastered, bonus-track-enhanced albums featuring Davis and Coltrane -- "Round About Midnight," "Milestones," "Jazz at the Plaza," and "Newport 1958." Also, May 15 saw the release of the deluxe two-disc compilation "The Essential Miles Davis."

Two new releases will focus on Davis' electric period. On July 17, Legacy will release "Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970) -- It's About That Time," a two-disc set of a previously unheard live performance, cut at the fabled New York rock ballroom by a rampaging electric sextet that featured Davis with saxophonist Wayne Shorter, keyboardist Chick Corea, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and percussionist Airto Moreira.

"Live at the Fillmore East" showcases what the label calls "the great lost band" -- a transitional Davis group that was noted for its live performances but that was hitherto unrepresented on record. Producer Bob Belden found the material during a search of Sony's vaults.

DeJohnette says of the perhaps underrated music Davis was making at that time, "I believe he was trying to carry what went on in the studio to the stage, basically, and play the music in uninterrupted suite form. It's documented on the live albums: There aren't too many breaks. [He maintains] a continuous flow."

Yet the music on "Live at the Fillmore East" is unusually loud, feral, and unrestrained, in marked contrast to some of the comparatively introspective material Davis was cutting in the studio during that period. "The difference is that the studio is more controlled," DeJohnette observes. "Everything's new, it's fresh, and people are a little more tentative there. You have a calmer, trance-like, meditative feeling that comes from that. I knew [the music] was experimental. It was challenging, and it was fun. I was completely absorbed."

Finally, on Sept. 11, the fifth boxed set devoted to Davis' Columbia studio work will be released. "The Complete 'In a Silent Way' Sessions" encompasses 1968-69 recordings that led up to the groundbreaking album of Davis' electric/ambient "directions in music," "In a Silent Way." That same day, Legacy issues a DVD of "The Miles Davis Story," a two-hour documentary by English filmmaker Mike Dibb that first aired in April on the BBC's Channel Four.

For more on Legacy's Miles Davis birthday celebration, see the May 26 issue of Billboard.

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