THE BEST OF SEVEN STEPS is a single-disc distillation of the seven-disc box set SEVEN STEPS: THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA RECORDINGS OF MILES DAVIS 1963-1964. THE BEST OF cherry-picks the highlights from the box, and provides a highly compressed overview of this intensely transitional period. Here the legendary trumpeter moves away from the graceful post-bop that had characterized his work with his first great quintet (which included John Coltrane), building on the expressionistic modal approach of KIND OF BLUE, and experimenting with edgier, more free-jazz-influenced flourishes.
Davis was also searching for the perfect alchemical combination of players, and THE BEST OF SEVEN STEPS documents this process as well. After finding a rock-solid, inventive bassist in Ron Carter, Davis went through drummers (Frank Butler), pianists (Victor Feldman), and saxophonists (George Coleman and Sam Rivers), before locking in with pianist Herbie Hancock, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and wunderkind drummer Tony Williams. Though the material includes standards ("Autumn Leaves") and Davis classics ("All Blues," "Walkin'"), one can hear the musicians deconstructing and reinventing these songs with an increasing ear toward freer conceptions of rhythm and harmony. This is a fascinating collection, and a great place to start for those wary of the full box set.