Jeff Melton 6-August-2001 On The Corner/Get Up With It/Big Fun

Miles Davis - "On the Corner" (Sony/Legacy, C2K63980, CD, 1972/2000)
Miles Davis - "Get Up With It" (Sony/Legacy, C2K63970, CD, 1975/2000)
Miles Davis - "Big Fun" (Sony/Legacy, C2K63973, CD, 1974/2000)

Miles Davis 1970's output was simply astounding for several reasons. One was due to the sheer volume of live and studio work he amassed. Another explanation is simply the many talents he surrounded himself with, including the likes of John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea among so many gifted players. Since most of these LP sessions did not list specific dates, it's important to clarify which ones were first since personnel was shifting rapidly in the post Bitches Brew phase. Big Fun contains the session work closest to that acclaimed period and the CD re-release of the album has been expanded to include three additional tracks from November 1969. "Lonely Fire" and "Great Expectations" (co-written by Zawinul but who does not appear on the track) appear alongside new cuts "Trevere", "The Little Blue Frog", and "Yaphet" where Miles opted to include sitar and tambura into the complex sound map. These tracks can be classified as pieces given wide berth for collective improvisation with sound spats and loose rhythm structures. These four sound collages encapsulate the essential telepathic playing manifested here. The tracks from 1970, Zawinul's "Recollection" and "Go Ahead John" are more spirited grooves where Davis interjects against McLaughlin's wah-wah. Bass clarinetist, Bennie Maupin adds poignant at-the-scenes liner notes, giving a true testimonial to Mile's paternal genius and intuition.

On the Corner is the best collection of tracks from this period due in no small part to Mile's funky ascetic at the time, having decided to take another musical leap forward. Although most of the overall performances were heavily edited, there was a rhythmic consistency to these recordings that was a successful step into the unknown. Multiple layers of drumming are inherent in the recordings (detailed in Bob Belden's blow-by-blow liner notes analysis). Dave Liebman recalls Miles being into funk master Sly Stone's innovative grooves at the time which are the foundations for McLaughlin's cut-up solos (as on track one, ""On the Corner/New York Girl/Thinkin' One Thing and Doing Another/Vote for Miles") which are just as vital today.

Get Up With It served as Miles' last studio album before his self-imposed retirement until the early 80's. Released in 1975 it served to document a live transitional line-up, which included guitarists Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas tearing it up in slightly different style. Dave Liebman again gives some vital fly-on-the-wall insights as to the proceedings from the sessions, which span 1970-74. The earliest of the tracks, "Honky Tonk" benefits from Herbie Hancock's clavinet calling in a dialogue again to McLaughlin's contrasting rhythm, making this one of the more straight rock tracks in the sessions. Miles himself takes to creating the ominous foundation organ on "Rated X" which generates a frantic tone amid an aggressive drumming backdrop. The album is probably best known for the over 30 minute showcase pieces, "He Loved Him Madly" and "Calypso Frelimo". The former track is characterized by a slow developing tone, which evolves into an aggressive jungle rhythm that techno dweebs have been avidly sampling today. The latter piece is a bit more upbeat if only for the light organ phrases which contrast to the controlled mayhem.

Overall, this group of recordings must be considered vital listening for fans of modern improvisation and the "group think" approach to composition.

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