Two noteworthy music reissues

It’s amazing how Columbia continues to come up with new ways to repackage and re-release Miles’ music and in particular Kind Of Blue. But I guess a 50th anniversary is as good a reason as any to market the music once again to the public. Anyhow, such a landmark recording really does deserve a box set of its own and this one appears to have some worthwhile material for all Miles fans.

The Nina box set looks fine too, lots of great music along with a documentary.

MILES DAVIS – Kind of Blue: 50th Anniversary Collectors Edition 2-CD + DVD + LP + book + poster (Columbia/Legacy)

Originally released by Columbia Records on August 17, 1959, Kind of Blue heralded the arrival of a revolutionary new American music, a post-bebop modal jazz structured around simple scales and melodic improvisation. Trumpeter/band leader/composer Miles Davis assembled a sextet of legendary players — Cannonball Adderley (alto sax), Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums), John Coltrane (tenor sax), Bill Evans (piano) (Wynton Kelly plays piano on “Freddie Freeloader”) — to create a sublime atmospheric masterpiece.

Fifty years after its release, Kind of Blue continues to transport listeners to a realm all its own while inspiring musicians to create to new sounds — from acoustic jazz to post-modern ambient — in every genre imaginable.

Disc 1 of Kind of Blue: 50th Anniversary Collectors Edition will feature the original album in its entirety with the “Flamenco Sketches” alternate take, the rare “Freddie Freeloader” false start, and a selection of in-the-studio dialog from the Kind of Blue sessions.

Disc 2 is a CD of rare musical material circa the Kind of Blue recordings including the very first session by the classic Miles Davis sextet (May 26, 1958 — Davis’s 32nd birthday — with Adderley, Coltrane, Evans, Chambers and Cobb), more than a half hour’s worth of studio material — “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Fran-Dance,” “Stella By Starlight,” “Love For Sale” — previously available only on the two-time Grammy award winning Miles Davis & John Coltrane boxed set (“The Complete Columbia Recordings 1955-1961); and the first authorized release of two extended live performances: “So What” from the April 9, 1960 Den Haag Concert featuring Miles, Coltrane, Kelly, Chambers and Cobb; and “All Blues” from the April 8, 1960 Zurich Concert (featuring the same band).

The final disc, Disc 3, is a DVD including an in-depth documentary illuminating the story behind Kind of Blue; and the historic April 2, 1959 television program “Robert Herridge Theater: The Sound of Miles Davis” starring Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

This deluxe Collector’s Edition will also include a vinyl LP copy of Kind of Blue, a poster, and an LP-sized 60-page hardbound book.

NINA SIMONE – To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story
3-CD + DVD box set (RCA/Legacy)

Nina Simone was one of those controversial figures American pop music puts forward from time to time, with the notable exception that she started her controversy earlier in the 1960s than, say, Bob Dylan.

To see this African-American woman get angry about the racial situation in her country, right there on stage, was a shock to people who’d come to hear her sing “I Loves You, Porgy.” Not that she cared; she figured that it was the artist’s job to deliver the truth, and if the truth hurt, so be it. Of course, events wound up proving her right, but she never stopped being prickly about one thing or another. It was just part of who she was, and part of why her music has endured while that of some of her contemporaries has faded: she’s still contemporary.

Over the course of nearly four hours, To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story presents a comprehensive overview of Simones’s recording career from her first recordings for Bethlehem in 1957, through to her last major label album for Elektra, 1993’s A Single Woman. This box ably demonstrates that she was arguably the most eclectic musical artist of the twentieth century — elements of jazz, classical, blues, r&b, gospel/spirituals, folk, folk rock, rock, pop, Broadway, movie songs, Great American Songbook standards, French chanson, African music, reggae and protest songs, are all included. Between 1957 and 1973, Simone was a prolific artist, cutting some 27 albums for Bethlehem, Colpix, Philips and RCA. For the remaining thirty years of her life she recorded sporadically, but toured often.

In addition to three CDs of music, To Be Free also includes the Emmy-nominated short film, Nina: A Historical Perspective. Running 23 minutes, this 1970 TV special highlights rare performance footage filmed between 1968 and 1969 at various US venues and locations, including the Westbury Music Fair, The Village Gate, and RCA Studios in New York City. Also featured are candid and personal interviews with Nina herself, revealing her unique views on music and life.


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