The 2014 double-disc anthology Take Off: The Complete Blue Note Albums compiles tracks jazz trumpeter Miles Davis recorded for Blue Note Records during the '50s. These are recordings made after Davis left Prestige, but not including the 1949-1950 sessions later released as the classic 1957 album Birth of the Cool. Here, instead, we get recordings that were initially released as 10" LPs titled Young Man with a Horn, Miles Davis, Vol. 2, and Miles Davis, Vol. 3. Also included are all of the alternate takes that accompanied the original releases. Backing Davis on these sessions is a veritable who's who of future jazz hall of famers, including drummer Art Blakey, pianist Horace Silver, saxophonist Jackie McLean, and others. These recordings were made during a comparatively fallow period in Davis' career, just as he was emerging from his initial bout with heroin addiction. Here, cuts like the sanguine "Yesterdays" and the poignant "It Never Entered My Mind" reveal a darker, if no less melodic, version of the trumpeter who had previously paid his dues, chasing the shadow of Dizzy Gillespie in Charlie Parker's quintet. In fact, Davis tackles several Gillespie-associated compositions here, including "Woody 'N You" and "Ray's Idea," delivering them in his own understated, if no less bravura, style. This is the beginning of Davis the minimalist, eschewing flowery asides for straightforward, unadorned melodic line readings and improvisations played in a vibrato-free eighth-note style. In that sense, these cuts prefigure the more aggressive hard bop and harmonically challenging post-bop of the '60s; styles that Davis later helped to innovate with his "first great quintet." Ultimately, the tracks on Take Off: The Complete Blue Note Albums point the way toward Davis' landmark Columbia albums that transformed him from one of the best jazz trumpeters on the N.Y.C. scene into an international superstar.
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