Sunday, May 21, 2017

Miles Davis - 1974 [1991] "Get Up With It" [Japan Import]

Get Up with It is a compilation album by American jazz musician Miles Davis. Released by Columbia Records on November 22, 1974, it compiled songs Davis had recorded in sessions between 1970 and 1974, including those for the studio albums Jack Johnson (1971) and On the Corner (1972). In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), J. D. Considine described the compilation's music as "worldbeat fusion".

One track, "Honky Tonk," was recorded in 1970 with musicians such as John McLaughlin and Herbie Hancock. "Red China Blues" had been recorded in 1972 before On the Corner, while "Rated X" and "Billy Preston" were recorded later that year with the band heard on In Concert. The remaining tracks were from 1973 and 1974 sessions with his current band including Pete Cosey.
"He Loved Him Madly" was recorded by Davis as his tribute to then-recently deceased Duke Ellington, who used to tell his audiences "I love you madly." English musician Brian Eno cited it as a lasting influence on his own work.

In a contemporary review, Rolling Stone magazine's Stephen Davis praised Davis' adventurousness and direction of his rhythm band, whom he called a "who's who of Seventies jazz-rock". Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote that, although Davis' recent albums have sounded slapdash with "noodling over a pick-up rhythm section," he still plays Get Up with It "since it contains over two hours of what sometimes sounds like bullshit: it's not exactly music to fill the mind. Just the room." In a 1981 review, Christgau wrote that only two of the six shorter songs—"Maiyisha" and "Honky Tonk"—make up "more than good" background music, but the two long pieces "are brilliant: 'He Loved Him Madly,' a tribute to Duke Ellington as elegant African internationalist, and 'Calypso Frelimo,' a Caribbean dance broken into sections that seem to follow with preordained emotional logic."
Alternative Press gave Get Up with It a rave review when it was reissued in 2000, calling it "essential ... the overlooked classic of psychedelic soul and outlandish improv ... representing the high water mark of [Davis'] experiments in the fusion of rock, funk, electronica and jazz". Stylus Magazine's Chris Smith said that it is "not an easy album to write, let alone think, about. It’s a bit more of an anything-goes hodgepodge than it is a sprawling masterwork, and is probably written about the least of all Miles’ electric work."

A confusing, bold, weird and remarkable statement that in many ways sums up a confusing bold weird and remarkable period of Davis' musical development. Tracks come from sessions between 1970 and 1974 (his last officially released studio material before his five year "retirement") and are of varying quality. I'm not a big fan of the straight blues "Red China Blues" which wastes a provocative title, and I don't feel like the closing 12 1/2 minutes of "Billy Preston" really goes anywhere interesting, though there are moments along its length when I'm entertained even if they don't stick in the memory after they're done. From here though, the quality level rockets upward, with the easy-going "Maiysha" next up quality-wise, making a nice groove that's suddenly derailed by a freaky Pete Cosey solo. "Mtume" is a fierce groover that shows off the great percussionist, but also allows for some nice interaction between the guitars and shows off his 70's "Pete Cosey group" in fine form - if this was a lightweight track, you can imagine how much better they can be. "Honky Tonk" is a nice, disjointed rhythm experiment from 1970 with many of the Bitches Brew players on it, including John McLaughlin who sounds great on this cut, though for me Miles' solo steals the show.

Then there's the great stuff, which numbers among the finest achievements Miles ever put down on tape: "Rated X" is an incredibly noisy, challenging and difficult piece of music, supposedly inspired as much by Stockhausen as any jazz antecedent. Miles sticks to a noisily dissonant organ here while electric guitar and electric sitar create churning, rhythmic patterns with very little in the way of "soloing" over a ferocious rhythm that the bass, drums, and percussion set up - a rhythm that Miles stops and starts on cue. This one's a bracing number that's not always what I'm in the mood for, but when I am ready to engage it, I don't know if he's ever been better. And as has been said many times here and elsewhere, the long tracks - "He Loved Him Madly" and "Calypso Frelimo," both over 32 minutes each - simply take the cake. "He Loved Him Madly" is a long, slow burning tribute to Duke Ellington in the year of his passing which builds over ambient rhythm and guitar into a fine flute solo setting the stage for an absolutely brilliant and gut-wrenching Davis trumpet solo. "Calypso Frelimo" is more "up," with a fast, dense opening sequence featuring solos by the horns, a slowed-down middle segment that gives a lot more (musical) space for everyone to work in, and then a return to the density and rocketing tempo of the beginning that allows the guitars to roam over the top, punctuated by brief trumpet statements (possibly meant to guide the proceedings). It's simply amazing, and each of the ten+ minute segments has its own flavor and character, though together they hold a cumulative power that the tracks separated probably wouldn't have garnered. Amazing stuff.

When Get Up with It was released in 1974, critics -- let alone fans -- had a tough time with it. The package was a -- by then customary -- double LP, with sessions ranging from 1970-1974 and a large host of musicians who had indeed played on late-'60s and early-'70s recordings, including but not limited to Al Foster, Airto, John McLaughlin, Reggie Lucas, Pete Cosey, Mtume, David Liebman, Billy Cobham, Michael Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Fortune, Steve Grossman, and others. The music felt, as was customary then, woven together from other sources by Miles and producer Teo Macero. However, these eight selections point in the direction of Miles saying goodbye, as he did for six years after this disc. This was a summation of all that jazz had been to Davis in the '70s and he was leaving it in yet another place altogether; check the opening track, "He Loved Him Madly," with its gorgeous shimmering organ vamp (not even credited to Miles) and its elaborate, decidedly slow, ambient unfolding -- yet with pronounced Ellingtonian lyricism -- over 33 minutes. Given three guitar players, flute, trumpet, bass, drums, and percussion, its restraint is remarkable. When Miles engages the organ formally as he does on the funky groove that moves through "Maiysha," with a shimmering grace that colors the proceedings impressionistically through Lucas, Cosey and guitarist Dominique Gaumont, it's positively shattering. This is Miles as he hadn't been heard since In a Silent Way, and definitely points the way to records like Tutu, The Man with the Horn, and even Decoy when he re-emerged.
That's not to say the harder edges are absent: far from it. There's the off-world Latin funk of "Calypso Frelimo" from 1973, with John Stubblefield, Liebman, Cosey, and Lucas turning the rhythm section inside out as Miles sticks sharp knives of angular riffs and bleats into the middle of the mix, almost like a guitarist. Davis also moves the groove here with an organ and an electric piano to cover all the textural shapes. There's even a rather straight -- for Miles -- blues jam in "Red China Blues" from 1972, featuring Wally Chambers on harmonica and Cornell Dupree on guitar with a full brass arrangement. The set closes with another 1972 session, the endearing "Billy Preston," another of Davis' polyrhythmic funk exercises where the drummers and percussionists -- Al Foster, Badal Roy, and Mtume -- are up front with the trumpet, sax (Carlos Garrett), and keyboards (Cedric Lawson), while the strings -- Lucas, Henderson, and electric sitarist Khalil Balakrishna -- are shimmering, cooking, and painting the groove in the back. Billy Preston, the organist who the tune is named after, is nowhere present and neither is his instrument. It choogles along, shifting rhythms and meters while Miles tries like hell to slip another kind of groove through the band's armor, but it doesn't happen. The track fades, and then there is silence, a deafening silence that would not be filled until Miles' return six years later. This may be the most "commercial" sounding of all of Miles' electric records from the '70s, but it still sounds out there, alien, and futuristic in all the best ways, and Get Up with It is perhaps just coming into its own here in the 21st century.

Tracks Listing

Disc 1
1. He Loved Him Madly (32:20)
2. Maiysha (14:56)
3. Honky Tonk (5:57)
4. Rated X (6:53)

Disc 2
5. Calypso Frelimo (32:10)
6. Red China Blues (4:10)
7. Mtume (15:12)
8. Billy Preston (12:35)

Total time: 123:52


- Miles Davis / trumpet (3), electric trumpet with wah-wah (1,2,5-8), organ (1,2,4,5,7), electric piano (5)

- Steve Grossman / soprano saxophone (3)
- John Stubblefield / soprano saxophone (5)
- Carlos Garnett / soprano saxophone (8)
- Dave Liebman / alto flute (1,5)
- Sonny Fortune / flute (2,7)
- Lester Chambers / harmonica (6)
- Pete Cosey / electric guitar (1,2,5,7)
- Dominique Gaumont / electric guitar (1,2,7)
- Reggie Lucas / electric guitar (1,2,4,5,7,8)
- John McLaughlin / electric guitar (3)
- Cornell Dupree / electric guitar (6)
- Khalil Balakrishna / electric sitar (4,8)
- Badal Roy / tabla (4,8)
- Herbie Hancock / clavinet (3)
- Keith Jarrett / Fender Rhodes electric piano (3)
- Cedric Lawson / Fender Rhodes electric piano (4,8)
- Michael Henderson / bass guitar
- Al Foster / drums (excl. 3)
- Billy Cobham / drums (3)
- Bernard Purdie / drums (6)
- James Mtume Foreman / percussion (excl. 3)
- Airto Moreira / percussion (3)
- Wade Marcus / brass arrangement (6)
- Billy Jackson / rhythm arrangement (6)

Releases information: Recordings made in NYC - 1970 (track 3), 1972 (4,6,8), 1973 (5) and 1974 (1,2,7)



  2. A friend has (or had?) this album. Great memories back. many thanks for the post.

  3. Thanks for the abundant Miles posts, having a blast digging into the 'electric' period.