Miles! comprises 160 minutes of music, presented
in 2 CD-long suites developed from original Miles Davis themes
and compositions plus an orignal composed by Wadada, and encoded
in sonically superior HDCD format. It is the first recording
to explicitly explore the alchemical implications of what Miles
himself was doing in the peak electric period, 1973-'75.
To journey with them
on their own expeditions, Wadada
Leo Smith and Henry
a core band with guitarists Nels Cline
(of Geraldine Fibbers) and Chris Muir,
drummer / percussionists Wally Ingram
and Lukas Ligeti (son of the famous
composer Gyorgi Ligeti), and bass guitarist Michael
tracks they are joined by Canadian pianist/organist
Paul Plimley, Berkeley pianist Greg
Goodman, organist John Medeski
(Medeski, Martin and Wood), multiple sax virtuosos Bruce
Ackley, Steve Adams, Larry
Ochs, and John Raskin (ROVA
Saxophone Quartet) and George Brooks,
bass clarinetist Oluyemi Thomas
(Positive Knowledge), lap steel guitar wizard Freddie
Roulette, guitarist Elliott Sharp,
and electronic keyboardist from the Grateful Dead camp, Bob
All Yo Miles! recordings:
Sky Garden | Lightning | Shinjuku
p r e s s r e v i e w s
Yo Miles!, guitarist Henry Kaiser and trumpeter Leo
Smith revisit the glory days of Miles Davis's mid-'70s electric
jazz-fusion experiments. Accompanied by the likes of The Rova
Saxophone Quartet, keyboardist John Medeski, and guitarist Elliot
Sharp, Kaiser and Smith faithfully revive extended Davis compositions
like "Black Satin" and "Theme From Jack Johnson." With a background
of pulsing electric bass, percussion, a bustling reed section,
and floating organ fills, Leo Smith does an admirable job emulating
Miles Davis's distinctive trumpet sound. Kaiser's guitar consistently
pushes the ensemble into a realm of heady improvisation, blending
hard rock and deep funk influences into ambitious jazz structures.
This lengthy double-disc is a fine introduction into the mystical
methodology of Miles Davis and his most misunderstood musical
Mitch Myers, Amazon.com
conservative "jazz" critics turned their back on it, at least
at first. It was electric, while "jazz" was acoustic, they argued.
Miles was "selling out" to the latest trend in music, psychedelic
rock, they angrily said as they dismissed it.
Not everyone, of course,
felt that way. Writing about the electric music that Miles Davis
began making, musicologist Ralph J. Gleason concluded, "it's
all in there, the beauty, the terror and the love, the sheer
humanity of life in this incredible electric world which is
so full of distortion that it can be beautiful and frightening
in the same instant."
In retrospect it was
Gleason, not the more conservative critics, who "got it." Miles
Davis had chosen a new direction, one that evolved as he did,
as the times did. Not only was it jazz, it was great jazz. Not
only was it music, it was music for the ages.
Guitarist Henry Kaiser
and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith pay tribute to the electric period
of Miles Davis on a new CD called "Yo Miles!" and in the process
have created more music for the ages, more great jazz.
Rather than simply recreate
Miles' original music, they use it as it a starting point for
music that has its own beauty, terror, love and humanity, music
that is more about eradicating boundaries than it is about reifying
established categories. While theirs is not the only tribute
to the electric music of Miles Davis that was released in 1998
-- Bill Lasswell reconfigured many of Miles' original master
tapes in a dub-like process for his critically acclaimed "Panthalesa"
project that year as well -- what Kaiser and Smith have done
does not try recreate or reconfigure Miles' music. They do not
employ the same instrumentation, for example, that Miles did.
Rather they have chosen songs, and other identifiable segments
of jams and compositions, and jammed on them.
There is a palpable
energy and spirit in these sounds, in part perhaps because the
basic tracks were laid down in just three days of sessions in
early 1998. Sure there was a certain amount of digital editing
-- done by David Gans of Truth & Fun -- but that too is true
to the spirit of Miles' electric period, whose albums were cut
and pasted together from various sessions and concerts in ways
more easily discernable to the listener than it is here. "Yo
Miles!" sounds and feels like one big jam, even if it is not.
Henry Kaiser may be
one of the most under-rated guitar players in the Bay Area.
The man is truly a gifted player, and has very much developed
his own signature sound. All those screeching and screaming
notes, the long sustains and the frightfully fast flurries of
sound all say Henry Kaiser when you hear them. And "Yo Miles!"
is often more a guitar based record than anything else, as Kaiser
gets help from Nels Cline and Chris Muir on guitars throughout
the two disc set.
The core group of "Yo
Miles!" band also featured two drummer / percussionists, Wally
Ingram and Lukas Ligeti. It would be impossible to speak highly
enough of Wadada Leo Smith's trumpet work, so suffice it to
say that Smith has clearly been influenced by and pays tribute
to Miles Davis, he does not merely mimic Miles by any stretch.
The collection features
some spectacular bass work from the Bay Area's Michael Manring,
who clearly understood that in this type of music less is often
more. "Ife," for example, might sound like it is too repetitious
to handle the 35 minute reading it gets here if one reads the
liner notes and finds out it is nothing more than a seven note
theme over a two note bass vamp, but that would be like trying
to understand the Grateful Dead's extended "Dark Star" improvisations
by saying it is only a two chord song. Like "Dark Star," writes
Davis scholar Enrico Merlin, "Ife" "was Miles' primary vehicle
for extended ensemble improvisation during the first electric
period. It could take on many different forms, colors and moods
from night to night." Indeed this version of "Ife" has many
different forms, colors and moods in it.
Many guests drop in
for various tracks here as well. For example John Medeski contriutes
some organ on "Black Satin," while Bob Bralove plays electric
keyboards and Freddy Roulette offers some on "Maiysha." Paul
Plimeley plays pianos and organs on most of the record, and
Berkeley saxophonist George Brooks, who is becoming famous for
his Indian-jazz fusions, also contributes some of his trademark
"Yo Miles!" explores
the many faces of Miles Davis's electric music over the course
of its two 79-minute-plus discs. There are ecstatic and chaotic
moments, such as when the Rova Saxophone Quartet joins in on
the "Agharta Prelude," and there are quiet moments of beautiful
balladry such as on "Maiysha." There is also *everything* in
I recommend "Yo Miles!"
very highly to everyone who digs electric jazz.
da Flower Punk, pauserecord.com - Feb. 1, 1999