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Columns > Dan Alford - Audio Files

Published: 2003/09/12
by Dan Alford

Miles & Alumni

Quick Picks From the Disc Changer:

Phish, 8-3-03- Control Tower Jam

Soulive, 5-17-01, Disc 1- Sick show from GAMH in San Francisco

Garaj Mahal, 7-4-02- A very hectic, frenzied set with a monster Gulam Sabri

SKB, 12-8-02, Disc 2- LFP1 from the last night of the Japan run

The Dead, 7-4-03- Willie's Picnic

Discman: Bob Marley, Bus to Babylon

Miles Davis Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970)

It's been a long time since Audio Files made Miles suggestions and in that time one of the most recent and truly most excellent live Miles Davis recordings has been neglected. Well, that's not entirely true: Live at the Fillmore East, released in 2001, was nominated for the Live Release Jammy in 2002, but lost out to Widespread Panic. Nevertheless, the nomination was an indicator of the album's importance, both musically and historically. The band for these two sets opening for Steve Miller, which consisted of Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea and Airto Moreira, never recorded with that exact line-up, and has never released a live album before. The band is a transitional one, playing at the very end of Shorter's mind-numbing tenure with Miles, playing with mostly electric instruments, playing with all the ferocity of later Miles-fusion, but also playing with a well-tempered respect for the compositions and frequent displays of unquestionable virtuosity.

Of the two roughly hour-long sets included on this release, the first is more frantic. The viciousness with which the band declares Directions is indicative of the whole set. The quintet (plus one) spirals off quickly, all members attacking the piece and showing little to no restraint. The rest of the set includes a back to back Spanish Keys/Masqualero where Corea absolutely shines on the Rhodes. The latter tune includes a lengthy, relatively mellow and very clean solo.

The second set is much funkier, although here the Directions opener is also harried. Yet as the band moves to Miles Runs the Voodoo Down, the frenzy calms a bit and a smoother, more cultivated sound appears. A very early Bitches Brew is also included, concussive and wondrous, and it takes a great long while to finally reach the Spanish Key theme. This release includes two absolutely top-notch sets, and it fills a void in the catalog of seventies Miles Davis. If you love The Plugged Nickel but can't quite stomach Dark Magus, this is a great bridge between eras.

Jay Rodriguez, Jay Rodriguez

Jay Rodriguez, an extraordinary woodwind player and musical director, is probably best known for his role in Groove Collective and the NYC groove and jazz scenes, but he's worked with many musical giants from just about every genre, not the least of which is Miles. His new solo album, available from Kufala Recordings as either a pressed double disc, or as a .shn download, is a live show from Fez in NYC from March of 2003. His backing band is the incredibly hot, entirely overly talented duo of Marco Benevento and Joe Russo (aka Duo), and in fact the album is as much a Duo release as it is a Jay Rodriguez release. As explosive as the pair is on their own, they also excel in the trio format, as evidenced by the hidden What Is and What Will Never Be with Brad Barr on their latest release, Darts. As such, this release makes a great companion to that album, and includes as number of Duo tunes, including Darts and Abduction Pose.

The first disc is exceedingly grooved out and tight, with Jay favoring sax over flute. The interaction between the three is fast and furious, and the attention to detail, to starts and stops, to the vibe and the one, is stupendous. Every song is performed expertly, but Abduction Pose is the literal and figurative centerpiece, a dramatically explosive rendition that begs to be heard over and over. The second set is a different beast. While the opening Children of the Light is still heavy and draped with Jay's wonderful, creative fluting, the rest of the set includes a massive, 19-minute Raindrops Whisper Words (amazing drumming here) and a closing suite of Electric Bodega Man > The Emperor's New Mind > Pure Imagination (Yes, the Willy Wonka song). The music is extreme in its exploration, even self indulgent, loaded with extended jams and solos, not to mention first rate comping from all three performers. It surges and swells, moves in waves and then tsunamis- not hundred foot towers of sound, but true tidal movements that suddenly, simultaneously overwhelm and subvert what was before. Simply put, Jay Rodriguez is the most engaging, groundbreaking and deeply satisfying groove album, studio or live, of the year. That's not a statement lightly made, with releases from Soulive, Robert Walter's 20th Congress, Scofield, Garaj Mahal and the Duo, but it's true.

Herbie Hancock, 6-27-97

This short set circulates mostly as filler on various Herbie Hancock and John Scofield shows, but if you can find it, it's well worth adding to your collection. The band includes a number of Miles Davis alumni, such as Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Scofield and Don Alias. The all star jam moves through a number of Davis tunes, culminating in a super sweet version of Jean-Pierre (a tune often covered, incidentally, by Project Logic). To hear Holland's aggressive, thick bass blend with DeJohnette's fast, crackling drumming is nothing short of fantastic and that doesn't even take into account what Herbie and Sco are able to accomplish together.

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