Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis 1963-1964 is an anomaly among the retrospective sets that have been issued from the late artist's catalog. It does not focus on particular collaborations (Miles with Coltrane, Gil Evans, the second quintet), complete sessions of historic albums (Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way, and Jack Johnson), or live runs (Plugged Nickel and Montreux). Instead, it is a portrait of the artist in flux, in the space between legendary bands, when he was looking for a new mode of expression, trying to find the band that would help him get there. These seven CDs begin after the demise of bands that included John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and Wynton Kelly, after his landmark Gil Evans period, and even after his attempts at creating a new band with everyone from Frank Strozier and Harold Mabern to Sonny Rollins and J.J. Johnson.
In 1963, Miles Davis was at a transitional point in his career, without a regular group and wondering what his future musical direction would be. At the time he recorded the music heard on this disc, he was in the process of forming a new band, as can be seen from the personnel: tenor saxophonist George Coleman, Victor Feldman (who turned down the job) and Herbie Hancock on pianos, bassist Ron Carter, and Frank Butler and Tony Williams on drums. ~ AcousticSounds
SEVEN STEPS TO HEAVEN finds Miles Davis standing yet again on the fault line between stylistic epochs. In early 1963 pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb left to form their own trio, and Miles was forced to form a new band, which included Memphis tenor player George Coleman and bassist Ron Carter. When Miles next entered the studio in Hollywood, he added local drummer Frank Butler and British studio ace Victor Feldman, who ultimately decided not to go on the road with Davis.