Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Get Up With Miles

Get Up With It
Columbia C2K 63970
Recorded 1970-1974, released 1975

Produced by Teo Macero

Disc One

1. He Loved Him Madly
2. Maiyisha
3. Honky Tonk
4. Rated X

Disc Two

1. Calypso Frelimo
2. Red China Blues
3. Mtume
4. Billy Preston


Miles Davis;
organ, trumpet
Dave Liebman;
flute, alto flute
Pete Cosey;
Reggie Lucas;
Dominique Gaumont;
Michael Henderson;
electric bass
Al Foster;
Sonny Fortune;
Steve Grossman;
soprano sax
John McLaughlin;
Keith Jarrett;
Herbie Hancock;
Billy Cobham;
Airto Moreira;
Cedric Lawson;
Khalil Balakrishna;
electric sitar
Badal Roy;
John Stubblefield;
soprano sax
Wally Chambers;
Cornell Dupree;
Bernard Purdie;
Wade Marcus;
brass arrangement
Billy Jackson;
rhythm arrangement

Miles' last album before his enforced late 70s lay off sees him sticking with his tradition of innovation, despite the approach of a creative block which would see him out of action until 1981. There are 3 Miles here - the voodoo-funk Miles of 'Dark Magus' or 'On The Corner'; the post-bop-blues Miles of 'Bitches Brew', and a new one - Miles at the organ, Miles the explorer, Miles the inventor of ambient music.

Yes, he played a part in pioneering ambient electronic music with the use of his organ. Disc one of this 2000 CD reissue highlights this; despite running for over 32 minutes, the opening 'He Loved Him Madly' hardly features Miles' horn at all, but is swathed in organ textures. Much of the track is a dialogue between Miles, using the keyboard to set out the chords he could hear in his head, and the guitarists, constantly exploring the bleak (almost lunar) landscapes that Miles conjures up. There's a funky bluesiness to their playing that makes this track come over as a twisted union between 'Dark Side of the Moon' and 'Maggot Brain'. It really is as good as that.

'Maiyisha' is taken at a faster tempo, but is much the same as the previous track - textural organ playing and a fat rhythm section underlying the soloists. The amazing thing here is that unlike most jazz, where the harmonic underpinnings of the music are always moving, here the chords are static, the changes entirely predictable, which gives the soloists less freedom but allows the rhythm section - and the percussionists in particular - to subtly shift the components of the beat to create a slippery, sliding backdrop. This idea is extended even further by 'Rated X' which has been edited heavily by Teo Macero. The organ is ever present, building layer upon layer of dissonance and texture, while the band stick to jamming around one chord, being dropped into and out of the mix to create a sense of dislocation that's truly frightening. I've heard nothing like it from before or since.

'Honky Tonk' and 'Red China Blues' are from another planet than any of the above tracks - but strabgely they slot into place nicely. 'Honky Tonk' dates from 1970 and features many of the 'Jack Johnson' era musicians in a bluesy jam (in fact, a couple of takes of this track are included on the recently released 'Complete Jack Johnson Sessions' box set, which is an essential purchase for any serious jazz lover). 'Red China Blues' is just that - a blues, but with added big band support, again something that was unusual for Miles. The other tracks - the smoking funk of 'Calypso Frelimo', the percussion riot of 'Mtume' and the organ freak-out of 'Billy Preston' are basically in the hard jazz-funk style that Miles made his own in the early 70s with albums like 'Jack Johnson' and 'On The Corner'.

It's the ambient tracks - the organ-heavy pieces of the first disc that stand out here - much because they were so new and strange - Miles had never been heard on organ before. But they've proved to have a massive influence on many forms of music to come since - which is perhaps surprising, considering the reception the album got at the time of release. 'Frightening' said one critic, comparing it to Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music' in it's sheer bleakness! While this music might terrify a newcomer to Miles, anyone who appreciates his don't-give-a-fuck persona will love the mad new ideas presented here.

You've got to read this review of the album too.

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