Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And if rare cheese has not made your holiday shopping list, here's another gift option, something for the music lover in your life. A warning, though: This present could give even a robust Santa Claus back pain.

It's the box set of all of Miles Davis' recordings for Columbia Records, 70 CDs in all. We asked David Was to clear his schedule and take a sonic journey through the legendary jazz trumpeter's career.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVID WAS: Listening to the behemoth collection of Miles Davis' music in the last few weeks was a bit like the jazz equivalent of running the New York City Marathon, albeit a less dehydrating and far more swinging odyssey.

Recorded between 1955 and 1985, it bears witness to his perpetual restlessness and growth as a musician and bandleader. These digitally remastered recordings range from the lyrical, if sonically impaired, Paris Jazz Festival date...

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: ...to the extended funk-rock jams of his twilight years.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: In the beginning, though, it was Miles the bebopper who burst on the scene, stringing rat-a-tat fusillades over furious tempos, a style he picked up from saxophonist and bandmate Charlie Parker.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Unfortunately, he also mimicked Parker's offstage lifestyle of sensual excess, which took its toll on the trumpeter's health in his twilight years. But Miles Davis' precarious lifestyle was also part of his allure. As diffident and antisocial as he could appear onstage, sometimes turning his back to the audience while soloing, he revealed his sensitivity by playing serenely measured ballads in the middle register of the trumpet, often with a Harmon mute in the bell.

(Soundbite of song, "Someday My Prince Will Come")

WAS: The frosting on this 70-layer musical cake is the inclusion of the album "Kind of Blue," where Miles recruited pianist Bill Evans and saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley for what many critics agree was his finest hour. I like to think of the album as the most accomplished chamber music of its day: not just the best jazz, a term that Miles regarded as insulting and nearly racist. In his own words, I was always just trying to hear something new.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: Miles Davis' "Complete Columbia Collection" reviewed by David Was. You can hear selections from the box set at our Web site, nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of music)

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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