Monday, June 12, 2017

Various Artists - 2005 "Fusion For Miles" - A Guitar Tribute

Titled Fusion for Miles: A Guitar Tribute, this set is a bit unusual. A five-piece band that includes Dave Liebman on soprano sets up grooves and backgrounds that sound like Miles Davis' bands of 1969-1971. A different guitarist is featured on each of the ten selections, with the biggest names being Mike Stern, Bill Frisell, Bill Connors, and Pat Martino. Ironically, those four are each featured on pre-fusion Davis-associated songs ("So What," "Nefertiti," "Eighty-One," and "Serpent's Tooth") that are performed with funk rhythms and as if Davis had revived them in 1970. In addition to having a string of guitars in the foreground, it is unusual to hear this music without any trumpeters. But overall, the project is successful with plenty of fireworks and creative playing along the way, reviving music from 35 years earlier that still manages to sound fresh and slightly menacing.

Trumpeter Miles Davis shifted gears so many times during his forty-year career that doing a proper tribute which covers the entire time frame represents a distinct challenge. Perhaps that's why many artists have focused on specific periods in their Miles tributes. Producer Gary Guthrie put a new spin on Kind of Blue with A New Kind of Blue, while trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Henry Kaiser's Yo Miles! project has released three sets inspired by Miles' '70s electric period. Even trumpeter Wallace Roney, while not recording a tribute album per se, has taken one of Miles' mid-'60s albums, Nefertiti, and used it, along with other sources, as the foundation for his own work.
In the past year, guitarist Jeff Richman has released tributes to saxophonist John Coltrane (A Guitar Supreme) and guitarist John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra (Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse). He's probably the first to try and put the departed trumpeter's greater career arc into perspective. The problem is that there's little to tie together Miles' various periods. One reason for this is that whenever he moved into a new musical space, he often alienated much of his existing fan base. Fans of Kind of Blue are not inherently going to be disposed towards Bitches Brew, and many who discovered Miles with the pop-funk of his last decade may find his more abstract mid-'60s quintet completely unfathomable.

Consequently Fusion for Miles starts with an immediate handicap. The bad news is that Richman's arrangements—featuring a core band of keyboardist Larry Goldings, bassist Alphonso Johnson, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta—don't go very far in finding the elusive common link. In fact, Richman often takes tunes that were the barest of sketches—for example, Miles' funk vamp of "Jean-Pierre" and the equally harmonically static jungle funk of his early-'70s "Black Satin"—and writes new passages to give them greater interest. While these radically altered and stricter arrangements give the guest guitarists more to work with, by its very virtuosity Fusion for Miles loses sight of one of Miles' core musical goals: creating specific vibes and particular feelings.

The good news is that Fusion for Miles is one heck of a great fusion record when taken on its own merits. It features a varied bunch of guitarists who range from the post bop sensibility of Pat Martino and Bill Connors, to more clear fusion from Jimmy Herring and Mike Stern, and the rock-centric approach of Warren Haynes and Steve Kimmock. Covering material from the late '50s ("So What") through the mid-'80s ("Splatch"), every guitarist digs into the solid foundation laid by the rhythm section. Unlike Richman's Mahavishnu Orchestra tribute, none of the core band members actually played with Miles, but the inclusion of one early-'70s Miles veteran, saxophonist Dave Liebman, on some tracks provides linkage. And while the individual tunes come from a multitude of spaces, Richman's arrangements bring them together for an album that is sure to please fans of pedal-to-the-floor fusion to no end.

Musicians and fans that revere Miles Davis’ late period work will treasure Fusion For Miles, an anthology whose participants consider “Black Satin,” “Back Seat Betty” and “Spanish Key” just as important as “So What” or “Nefertiti” (which are also part of the menu here). Organist Larry Goldings brings some blues/soul grit to the main lineup that also includes a tremendous funk bassist (Alphonso Johnson), a saxophonist just as comfortable with groove-heavy fare as the avant-garde (Dave Liebman) and a guitar-and-drum drum combo that are regulars in this setting (Jeff Richman and Vinnie Colaiuta, respectively).

Although personal favorites include Bill Frisell’s typically unusual but effective playing on “Nefertiti,” Pat Martino’s easy, sleek solos on “Serpent’s Tooth” and Bireli Lagrene’s balance between flash and soul on “Spanish Key,” there’s also Mike Stern’s steady playing on “So What” and Jimmy Herring’s resourcefulness on “Black Satin.” Richman’s arrangements retain much of the intensity and appeal of the original tunes, though the larger Davis aggregations generated more punch on “Black Satin” or “Back Seat Betty.”

As someone who initially loved (and still loves) the electric Davis’ ensembles as much as the great acoustic groups, Fusion for Miles is a worthy celebration of both approaches.

Track Listing:

01 Black Satin
02 Splatch
03 Jean Pierre
04 So What
05 Nefertiti
06 Eighty One
07 Serpent's Tooth
08 It's About That Time
09 Back Seat Betty
10 Spanish Key

Personnel:

Vinnie Colaiuta: drums;
Alphonso Johnson: bass;
Larry Goldings: keyboards;
Jeff Richman: guitars
Dave Liebman: saxophone.

Featured guitarists:

Jimmy Herring (1)
Jeff Richman (2)
Eric Johnson (3)
Mike Stern (4)
Bill Frisell (5)
Bill Connors (6)
Pat Martino (7)
Warren Haynes (8)
Steve Kimmock (9)
Bireli Lagrene (10)

6 comments:

  1. http://www76.zippyshare.com/v/BesIzERT/file.html
    http://www76.zippyshare.com/v/5Bzekaal/file.html

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  2. never knew about this one. many thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks
    Love anything with AJ on bass Looks like a guitar fest
    Cheers

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