Jazz: The timeless appeal of the music box

Jazz CD box sets

Once, we could be satisfied by a measly couple of CDs tricked up with some heavy-duty cardboard, a few pages of liner notes and a grainy old snap or two. Then came bigger and bigger boxes of four discs, five discs, even six or more, complete with lingerie-drawstring ribbons, 70-page essays and whole portfolios of glossy prints. Now, as a matter of course, the boxes look like they've been specially constructed by ancient craftsmen in Peru, their 200-page booklets lovingly bound in luxury llama-skin slipcases and printed on hand-made paper of the type favoured by the emperors of China. The old master-tapes have been re-mastered, re-plastered, pointed and polished into a buffed sheen of state-of-the-art audiophile quality.

But still nothing quite prepares you for the 18-disc box-set of "The Complete Bill Evans on Verve", which costs nearly pounds 200. The box itself is a small, coffin-like slab of heavy metal that has been designed to rust in a natural yet pleasingly decorative way, and it weighs about as much as an electric toaster. Ironically, as a pianist Bill Evans was something of a miniaturist, composing and playing small, quiet tunes with great delicacy and understatement. Needless to say, there's an awful lot of them here. Another irony is that Evans's best work was completed mostly for the Riverside label before he joined Verve, and though there's hours of wonderful music you have to be something of an Evans obsessive to really need as many incomplete and alternate takes as the box gives you. That of course, is part and parcel (and what a parcel - the postman risks a hernia) of the box-set ethos. For Evans' devotees, 18 discs will still not be enough.

The compilers of the six-CD set "Passions of a Man: Charles Mingus - The Complete Atlantic Recordings" (see, even the titles are getting out of hand) claim that they're "taking the lead with their quality-produced jazz reissue series," but can this be true? The hand-made paper is undeniably beautiful but the box, well, it's still cardboard. The contents, however, are sublime: Mingus's series of five truly great albums recorded between 1956 and 1961, together with material later issued as "Tonight At Noon", an album released under the name of vibraphonist Teddy Charles, a live concert from Antibes heard in its complete form for the first time, and a 70-minute interview between Mingus and producer Nesuhi Ertegun. The various essays, notes, pictures and references are impeccably scholarly, and while most of the music will be familiar to Mingus fans, this really is a box worth having.

"Sonny Rollins: The Blue Note Recordings" is a mid-price five-CD set that shows its limited budget. There's no special booklet or pictures, just the original albums in a flimsy cardboard case, although purists will approve that the original covers, liner notes and track listings remain the same. Indeed, these are the same five CDs that you can buy individually, just bunged in a box. While the presentation won't please commodity fetishists the music is, for once, the thing: Rollins tanking his way through "A Night in Tunisia" is one of the greatest moments in the history of jazz. Rollins also gets boxed in the six CDs of "The Complete RCA Victor Recordings" (BMG), and though the music might not be quite as incendiary as the earlier Blue Note dates, it's almost all good stuff.

With "John Coltrane: The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings" (Impulse, four CDs), the commodity and the music reach a satisfying balance in an exhaustive archive of four nights (there was a fifth too, unrecorded) from Coltrane's legendary 1966 engagement at the New York club. This is improvisation at its highest point. Also from Impulse comes the five CD box of "Keith Jarrett: The Impulse Years 1973-74", which documents the latter half (there's an earlier box set too) of the incredibly prolific spell the pianist had with his quartet (Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman and Paul Motian). But just wait until the time comes for "Keith Jarrett: The Complete ECM Recordings". This will be an HGV container-load of discs, the booklet a ten-volume treatise and even now Peruvian craftsman are working on the binding. There may not be enough llamas left to do the job.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice