Miles Davis was in his mid-forties when he completed his transition from traditionalist to improvisational jazz-funk maestro, and most of his in-between work is captured on Complete On the Corner Sessions, a six-and-a-half-hour collection on six CDs that includes all 16 of his known recording sessions from 1972 to 1975.
Three earlier albums — Big Fun, Get Up With It, and On the Corner — were culled from the aggregate. What’s here almost completely transcends Davis’ Bitches Brew sessions (1969) and might be more appropriately called “space funk.” When the sound came out, the critics —traditionalists all — hated it. Naturally, it wasn’t traditional enough for them. Maybe as a middle-finger to them, the box set indeed has a few Ellingtonian elements, but the focus is clearly on the space-funk, touched up here and there by some electronic washes and artistic edits by Davis’ long-time producer Teo Macero.
Though outré then, the sound today is pretty standard, but Complete On the Corner hasn’t lost any of its freshness. The songs are playful rather than pretentious. Half have never been released before, and the ones that have been released in one form or another (see: “Big Fun/Hollywuud”) don’t compare to the originals here. Complete On the Corner also includes contributions from heavy hitters like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Hart, Carlos Garnett, Bennie Maupin, Lonnie Liston Smith, and others. The package also comes with a 120-page booklet, including liner notes and photos. Complete On the Corner Sessions is the last of eight in the Miles Davis Series from Columbia/Legacy, a series that has won eight well-deserved Grammy awards since 1996 and will surely win another soon.-Tom Geddie