Thought by many to be among the most revolutionary albums in jazz history, Miles Davis' Bitches Brew solidified the genre known as jazz-rock fusion. The original double LP included only six cuts and featured up to 12 musicians at any given time, some of whom were already established while others would become high-profile players later, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Airto, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Don Alias, Bennie Maupin, Larry Young, and Lenny White among them. Originally thought to be a series of long jams locked into grooves around keyboard, bass, or guitar vamps, Bitches Brew is actually a recording that producer Teo Macero assembled from various jams and takes by razor blade, splice to splice, section to section.
A brilliant set from Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi – two long, leaping, loping tracks that almost feel like some of McCoy Tyner's best work! Kikuchi plays acoustic piano, and the group's a quartet with Terumasu Hino on trumpet, Koshuke Mine on tenor, Eric Gravatt on drums, and Juni Booth playing some really wonderful bass. Booth's bass leads the tracks with a soulful quality that you don't always hear on Kikuchi's other work – really giving the record a strongly-rooted vibe, while the musicians are still free to really open up and explore. The album's tracks, "East Wind" and "Green Dance", are both excellent examples of the soulful freedoms allowed in the Japanese scene of the 70s – side-long numbers that are different both from contemporary performances on both the US and European scenes of the period.
Nefertiti, the fourth album by Miles Davis' second classic quintet, continues the forward motion of Sorcerer, as the group settles into a low-key, exploratory groove, offering music with recognizable themes – but themes that were deliberately dissonant, slightly unsettling even as they burrowed their way into the consciousness. In a sense, this is mood music, since, like on much of Sorcerer, the individual parts mesh in unpredictable ways, creating evocative, floating soundscapes.
Reissue with DSD remastering. A real lost treasure from trumpeter Terumasa Hino – a warm and wonderful live set, and one that's neither too free, nor too smooth – just perfectly set up right down the middle to open up on these beautiful long performances! The lineup is all Japanese – a great array of players that includes Shigeharu Mukai on trombone, Hideo Miyata on tenor, Sadao Watanabe on alto sax, Motohiko Hino on drums, and Fumio Itabashi on Fender Rhodes – part of a slightly larger ensemble who can be tight at times, but still allow plenty of room for open freedom on the solos. Hino's only part of the picture, as the other soloists get in some great space too – and the set includes the 23 minute groover "Logical Mystery", the long soulful original "In The Darkness", and a sweet mellow take on "Round Midnight".
Sorcerer, the third album by the second Miles Davis Quintet, is in a sense a transitional album, a quiet, subdued affair that rarely blows hot, choosing to explore cerebral tonal colorings. Even when the tempo picks up, as it does on the title track, there's little of the dense, manic energy on Miles Smiles – this is about subtle shadings, even when the compositions are as memorable as Tony Williams' "Pee Wee" or Herbie Hancock's "Sorcerer." As such, it's a little elusive, since it represents the deepening of the band's music as they choose to explore different territory.
Listening to Miles Davis' originally released version of In a Silent Way in light of the complete sessions released by Sony in 2001 (Columbia Legacy 65362) reveals just how strategic and dramatic a studio construction it was. If one listens to Joe Zawinul's original version of "In a Silent Way," it comes across as almost a folk song with a very pronounced melody. The version Miles Davis and Teo Macero assembled from the recording session in July of 1968 is anything but. There is no melody, not even a melodic frame. There are only vamps and solos, grooves layered on top of other grooves spiraling toward space but ending in silence.
A really great bit of live work from Miles Davis – and the first-ever recorded appearance of the quintet with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams – even though the album was never issued in the US at the time! The set follows very strongly in the mode of the group's work at the Plugged Nickel – with a pace that's faster than usual, and bristling with freely exploratory energy. Titles include "Milestones", "So What", "Walkin", and a nicely stepped-up version of "Autumn Leaves". Shorter's solos are worth the price of the record alone, but Williams' work on the kit never ceases to amaze!
ESP marks the beginning of a revitalization for Miles Davis, as his second classic quintet – saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams – gels, establishing what would become their signature adventurous hard bop. Miles had been moving toward this direction in the two years preceding the release of ESP and he had recorded with everyone outside of Shorter prior to this record, but his addition galvanizes the group, pushing them toward music that was recognizably bop but as adventurous as jazz's avant-garde.
A beautiful live representation of the energy of the Bitches Brew years – one that has Miles Davis and the group really letting loose with free-flowing, modally-inspired lines – cooking up an incredible blend of acoustic and electric sounds at once! There's a bit of funk here, but not much – and although guitar is sometimes used strongly, it's often not as noisy as in later live sides. Instead, the whole group gels together beautifully – an unlikely assortment of players that includes Gary Bartz and Steve Grossman on reeds, John McLaughlin on guitar, Herbie Hancock on keyboards, Hermeto Pascoal on percussion, Dave Holland on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums – all given new focus, direction, and inspiration by Miles!