Just when I thought I’d thoroughly internalized all of Miles Davis’ official studio recordings, along comes a boxed set that serves up mono mixes of the late jazz legend’s first nine albums on Columbia — which is how they were originally released. Sony Legacy remastered the titles using the original master tapes, referencing them against pristine versions of first-edition LPs.
Does this constitute an aural revelation, a radically new way to experience Miles? No. It’s more like taking a time trip back to the late ’50s/early ’60s. Makes you wanna mix a Manhattan and tap time with a swizzle stick.
There are subtle but distinct differences between the stereo and mono mixes. I chose “So What” and “Freddie Freeloader” from Kind of Blue for an A/B comparison. To oversimplify things, the mono has more of a near/far perspective, compared to the stereo’s right/left. Stereo has more sparkle; mono has more warmth. It’s a matter of taste. If pushed, I choose stereo, but I’m glad to have both.
The nine CDs (one dedicated to each album, not crammed together) include small-group stuff (’Round About Midnight, Someday My Prince Will Come, Milestones, Kind of Blue), large-ensemble collaborations with arranger Gil Evans (Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain), a soundtrack for a French movie (Jazz Track) and a live album (Miles & Monk at Newport).