Monday, October 25, 2004


Miles Davis, June 11th, 1975.

When, 35 minutes in, the music turns soft, opens up and allows luxuriant soul to waft up, I'm reminded of Ghostface's The Pretty Toney Album: hard-hitting and gangsta (in Miles's case, unrelenting wall-of-noise turmoil, funk and guitar chords seemingly ripped out of the instrument), but turning to soul for solace.

Listening to the fabled complete Cellar Door recordings (excerpts of which are in Live-Evil), with Miles in full Jack Johnson mode, Jack DeJohnette pounding a blissful blend of funk immediacy and jazz interactivity ("Yesternow" as a latter-day "John S."?) and Keith Jarrett playing a never-to-be Fender Rhodes future (that comping behind Bartz after 11 minutes? That melodico-abstract-clear-mush solo afterwards? Among so many other things you'd never hear in today's polished keyboard world...), I'm reminded that "influenced by '70s-era Miles" comparaisons applied to people like Nils Petter Molvaer (not that I haven't used that particular facility myself) are, if not entirely false, then at least partially so. Miles is playing fire music, or at least sweat music, the modern day electro-Norwegians don't, even when they play LOUD. Think of Clifford Brown and Chet Baker.

A parallel to currently getting seriously into Andrew Hill for the first time: both Davis and Hill are "Wot Do U Call It" musicians. When I saw Hill, he ran rings around my expectations and knowledge of the music: "So jazz can be like this, too?" was the dominant thought. Black Fire shows how he taught himself this trick 40 years ago. Miles at the Cellar Door: rock? are you kidding me? Incredibly funky, yes, but not funk: jazz had had the same kind of relationship to funk and r'n'b for a long time and to the blues right from the beginning. So, by default perhaps, by sweaty TKO, definitely, it's jazz, leading to a sadly ongoing pondering of what jazz is and is not while the world keeps on turning and the revolutions make the pondering quaint.