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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Miles Davis Tribute Albums

Allright, let's get rid of these bland so-called "tribute" albums that serve only one purpose : to sell CDs just because the name of a famous artist figures in the title. A cheap trick, unfortunately also all too common in the jazz world. But there are exceptions.

Fusion For Miles - A Bitchin' Brew (Tone Center, 2005) *

This is another monstrosity in the Jeff Richman series, on which each title is brought by another guitar heroe, namely Eric Johnson, Jimmy Herring, Mike Stern, Pat Martino, Warren Haynes, Bill Connors, Bill Frisell, Bireli Lagrene, Steve Kimmock, accompanied by musicians no less than Larry Goldings (organ), Alphonso Johnson (bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums). And do you really think these great names manage to "brew" something? Nothing! Saltless fastfood. They have understood nothing of Miles. It is less painful though than the Coltrane "tribute" because the music is in essence a little bit closer, but still ... how is it possible?

Dave Liebman - Back On The Corner (Tone Center, 2007) *

And there is this one, issued earlier this year, a tribute by Dave Liebman, who played sax in Miles' band of the early seventies after Shorter left. Here he is accompanied by Mike Stern (also at one time with Miles) and Vic Juris on guitar, Anthony Jackson and Tony Marino on bass, Marko Marcinko on drums. These are all excellent musicians, but again : this music is really hard to listen to. They bring the tunes, recognizable enough, packaged in outright fusion wrapping, funky, with screaming guitars and pumping bass, but everything is so shallow, so stripped of even the simplest emotion, without any depth, without any musical vision. Technically skilfull, but if that's the objective, then join the circus, but don't give us this. Miles deserves better.

Tribute Allstars - Update Miles Live (Sara Records, 2007) ***

Luckily, there are some Scandinavians to bring some consolation in this miasma of cheapness.
Jannis Eliasson plays the guitar, Magnus Broo trumpet, Fredrik Ljunkvist sax, Tovert Elovsson keyboards, Tommy Thordsson bass, Margan Agren drums, Rafael Sida and Per Tjernberg percussion. They bring Miles' Bitch's Brew period back to "live" somewhere in the far north of our planet. And in contrast to the other tributes, this one is built on the joy of playing Miles, with interesting interpretations and musical vision. Not that it comes even close to the original, but their covers of "Selim", "Funky Tonk", "Bitches Brew", "Theme From Jack Johnson" are actually quite good. Their cover of "It's About That Time" is excellent. The musicians are good too, and despite the fact that Eliasson has the lead over this band, he plays very much in a supporting role, but quite well. Magnus Broo on trumpet is not Miles of course, but his technique and reading of Miles is good, as well as his own coloring of it. Ljunkvist too goes very deep on his sax. This music is real, not plastic. Just great fun!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reviews, i will try to check them out