…It’s fresh, it’s vibrant and is a fitting homage to the musical legacy of Miles Davis.
Studio band: Jason Miles (keyboards and effects); Aaron Heick (alto sax, soprano sax); Barry Danielian (trumpet); James Genus (bass); Sherrod Barnes (guitar); Cindy Blackman Santana (drums)
Live band: Jason Miles (keyboards and effects); Dino Gavoni (sax); James Genus (bass); Sherrod Barnes (guitar); Cyro Baptista (percussion); Josh Dion (drums)
Studio tracks recorded 2005. Live track recorded at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC January 2006
The genesis of this music goes back more than twenty years, when Jason Miles played a tune he had composed to saxophonist Michael Brecker. Brecker not only insisted on playing on the piece but told Miles that it was kind of music Miles Davis would have liked, and that he should expand on it.
Having worked closely with Miles Davis and Marcus Miller on three groundbreaking albums – Tutu, Siesta and Amandla (he programmed the soundscapes, colours and textures created for these albums) – it was inevitable that Jason Miles would be inspired by the sound, spirit and vibe of Miles’s music. And that’s what this music captures. It’s not a pastiche or ersatz version of Miles’s music, but it strongly points to where Miles might have headed, had he lived longer.
In 2005, Jason Miles went into the studio to record a number of tracks with a top flight band: saxophonist Aaron Heick has played with Sinatra, Steps Ahead and Elton John; trumpeter Barry Danielian’ s cv includes Michael Brecker, McCoy Tyner, Bruce Springsteen and Barbara Streisand; bassist James Genus resume includes Nat Adderley, The Brecker Brothers and Lee Konitz; guitarist Sherrod Barnes has supported Will Downing, Roberta Flack and Earth, Wind & Fire, while drummer Cindy Blackman Santana has recorded a dozen albums as a leader, as well playing with Ron Carter, Pharaoh Sanders and Cassandra Wilson.
This release is a five-track EP, composed of four studio tracks and a live recording with a slightly different band. The opening number, ‘Butter Pecan’ is a midtempo jazz-funk number, with the mellifluous tones of Heick’s soprano sax and Danielian’s muted trumpet merging with a hard, percussive beat. ‘King Of The Bling V2’ lives up to its name. It’s another generous slice of jazz-funk, with some added swagger and swing. The horns harmonize beautifully, and Barnes unleashes a blazing guitar solo, which reminded me of the playing of the late Hiram Bullock. The funky uptempo ‘Street Vibe’ opens with a heavy drum pattern, before Danielian’s muted horn darts about like a boxer dancing in a ring, with Miles playing thick, chunky chords on the organ.
The band do a lovely cover of Miles Davis’s ballad ‘Flamenco Sketches,’ capturing the feel and spirit of the original version, while adding new colours and tones – sounds swirl up and then decay gracefully. Genus plays a slow, rolling bass riff, while Blackman Santana uses brushes, playing with great sensitivity. The song is infused with the sound of rippling electric piano; plaintive guitar lines, and the mellow tones of muted trumpet and alto sax.
The closing track, ‘Voices On The Corner’ was co-written by Jason Miles and Bernie Worrell, founder-member of Parliament-Funkadelic. It’s a live track with a rawer sound than the studio recordings. Think Miles Davis meets Parliament meets Prince and you’ll have some idea of the sound, which mixes a heavy funk groove with lots of percussion, samples and effects. Dino Gavoni tears it up on sax and the audience are clearly having a ball. What strikes you is that, although this music is almost two decades old, it sounds as if it was recorded last week – it’s fresh, it’s vibrant and is a fitting homage to the musical legacy of Miles Davis.
Reviewed by George Cole