Tuesday, February 07, 2006

We Want Miles

We Want Miles
Columbia COL469402 2

Recorded live Boston, MA at KIX June 27th, and New York, NY at Avery Fisher Hall May 7th, and Tokyo, Japan April 10th 1981

1. Jean-Pierre 10:39
2. Back Seat Betty 8:12
3. Fast Track 15:13
4. Jean-Pierre 3:56
5. My Man's Gone Now 20:05
6. Kix 18:35


MILES DAVIS; trumpet
MARCUS MILLER; fender bass
BILL EVANS; soprano sax
MIKE STERN; guitar
AL FOSTER; drums
MINO CINELU; percussion

This was Miles' 2nd album back after his extended late 1970s layoff, and documents his live band of the time. As a document of what he was up to in the early 1980s it shows his playing off to better effect than the often overproduced studio albums that he cut in that decade. In fact the same is true of pretty much all the music Miles was to record for the rest of his life - lightweight, uninspired studio sessions interspersed by moments of pure genius like this.

The band take the jazz-rock fusion of early 70s Davis albums like 'Bitches Brew', and push further in a rock direction. Gone are the complex polyrhthyms of before, to be replaced by a more solid 4/4 underpinning. Mike Stern on guitar has a much rockier sound than previous Davis guitarists. Stern is often heard playing just with Foster and the slap-bass funkiness of Marcus Miller, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd walked into a Red Hot Chili Peppers gig. This is still jazz though (just), as demonstrated by the improvisational playing of the front-line.

Miles still hasn't quite got over his absence, and at times his trumpet sounds a little weak. His lyrical approach of old is gone, replaced by stabs and whoops on his horn that serve as directions for the band to follow. Bill Evans (no relation to the famous pianist) blows up a storm on soprano with some wild flights that show he's been listening to previous Davis sidemen like Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. The use of a soprano is new, though, it's hard tone fitting in well with the rock underpinnings of the music.

Two moments on this LP deserve special attention. The first is 'Fast Track' - as the title suggests it's an uptempo tune which, after some strong statements from Miles and a suitably funky intro from the rhythm section, breaks into an extended improvisational section, with everyone playing to a high standard. Mino Cinelu's long percussion solo even has the audience up on their feet, at one stage.

The second piece worthy of a mention is the version of 'My Man's Gone Now'. Originally recorded by Miles as part of the Gil Evans directed 'Porgy and Bess' sessions of the late 50s, here it's given a funk makeover with an addictive bass vamp supplying a backdrop to some lovely, lyrical muted playing by Davis. This is also the only place in this set where the band try and swing in the usual jazz way - they're not up to it, and soon head back to more comfortable rock timings - showing how effectively Miles was able to direct his musicians at this late stage in his career.

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