The Jazz Universe Inside My Head

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Live Around The World

Miles Davis
Live Around The World
Year: 1996
Label: Warner Bros. Masters

Miles Davis put a lot of music out in his over forty years of playing the trumpet. Some say that in his long reign, he changed his genre more than anyone else in the history of music. Such albums that caused a movement and evolution in jazz were Kind of Blue, Miles Smiles, In a Silent Way, and Bitches Brew. Those, along with many more, are solidified as classics and were all recorded in 1970 or before.
After that Davis seemed fall off the map a bit, his work not being as focused as before. From ’75 to ’80 he retired from music, secluding himself from the public eye. But in the early ‘80s he came back and got his chops moving again, which leads up to the question of: What did Miles Davis sound like in the late ‘80s, just years before he passed away.
Well, the easiest approach to that inquiry was to get a hold of a copy of Live Around The World. The album, which actually came out after Davis died, is taken from various spots of the earth; “In A Silent Way” is taken from a NYC show, while “Full Nelson” comes from Osaka, Japan. At this point in his long tenor, the trumpet player was selling out stadiums on just about every continent.
Just 10 seconds into the opening song, “In A Silent Way,” the ‘80s feel is definitely evident. Odd synthesizers sound like their landing spaceships in tune with lightly distorted bass ringing. Then Miles’ trumpet elegantly squeaks in a couple of notes and you remember that not in some warped ‘80s nightmare, you’re listening to one of the greatest jazz players toward the end of his career. From then on it’s pretty damn good.
At this point in his career Miles was playing with a lot of young guys. He had Kenny Garret wailing on the sax, the guy known as only Foley on lead bass, Adam Holzman and Joey Defrancesco on the keys, Ricky Wellman on drums, along with countless others playing a little of this and a little of that. Again, the ‘80s sound can’t be stressed enough, as the band creates a landscape for mostly Davis, Garret, Foley, and the keyboardists to stretch wherever they want to go. Although the music that’s made isn’t as revolutionary as some of the other eras Davis spurned, Davis and company are still breaking new ground in the jazz spectrum.
Highlights on the album include “New Blues,” which has a smooth R&B swing feel with great improvisation from the leaders, “Mr. Pastorious,” a nod to the late, great bassist Jaco Pastorious, and “Hannibal,” a track taken from Davis’ last performance.
There are a couple funny tunes, though. The first, “Human Nature,” was a big mainstream hit the ‘80s and Miles seemed have like it enough to give his extended interpretation of it. It doesn’t quite fit the band but they pull it off enough to make a snobby listener not hit the skip button. The other moment of uneasiness comes when the theme to “Time After Time” sounds from the trumpet master. It’s a terrible song but again the group plays the best version out there, if that’s saying anything.
In conclusion, the Miles Davis catalog from the ‘80s is great, slightly weird, but great. The best way to describe it is to possibly compare it to the Grateful Dead’s long career. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Dead were innovative and in the rock/jazz/jam world they changed a tremendous amount of music that would follow. Miles did the same thing in the ‘50s, ’60, and ‘70s for jazz. When the ‘80s arrived both Miles and the Dead were a bit old and tired, kind of out of their element, but they never stopped moving forward, even if the pace had drastically slowed. Check it out.

Other Stuff I’ve Been Listening To:

Charlie Hunter Iron Horse, Northampton, MA 2/24/06
Art Ensemble of Chicago Les Stances A Sophie
Charles Mingus Mingus at Antibes
Jaki Byard Jaki Byard Experience
Yesterday’s New Quintet Angles Without Edges


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