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.
This CD compilation presents, on 8 discs, 17 recording sessions made between 1951 and late 1956 by the extraordinary trumpeter, leader, composer, and perpetual catalyst–Miles Davis. Featured in this collection are such major artists as Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Lee Konitz, and the original Davis Quintet: John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. The expanse of Miles Davis's recordings for Prestige Records, the California analogue to New York's Blue Note, is huge. In terms of artistic development, the eight CDs in this box span Davis's development from tentative searching through the full bloom of his first great quintet, whose frontline boasted Davis and a young John Coltrane.