A Tribute to Jack Johnson
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A Tribute to Jack Johnson
Miles Davis was a gifted composer of film soundtracks, and this is arguably his best. Certainly it's his most listenable film piece. A boxer himself, Davis had a feel for movement in the ring, and this recording overflows with the admiration he had for the grace, style, and confidence of fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson. Jack Johnson was, for a long time, Miles's favorite of his own recordings, and you can see why from the first note: guitarist John McLaughlin steps out and strides across a shuffling groove that is closer to barroom R&B than it is to rock; Davis weighs in with that clipped but plaintive sound which promises you that no matter what kind of music he takes on next, he will always be Miles. And then when--midway through the first of two long jams--Herbie Hancock muscles his way into the mix on organ, of all things, you realize that they could go on like this forever. A joyful, liberating record. --John Szwed
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The first piece "Right Off" starts as an entertaining jazz-rock groove. There's some great firery soloing by Miles and then the tune gets a little spacey towards the middle during the sax solo. There is little harmonic change and the groove stays the same until about 12 minutes in when a James Brown like guitar vamp starts, very cool. Things stay in this mode mode for a while until the groove from the beginning starts again. An organ solo ensues and some good soprano sax and guitar. Not bad, there's some excellent trumpet by Miles and John Mclaughlin's guitar is aggressive and well played. Good solos from the other players. Right Off is a good track, and a fun listen.
The second piece Yesternow suffers from an extremely repetitive bass line that just goes on annoyingly for minutes and minutes while other instruments noodle around leaving much space in the playing. Not much happens for a LONG time. But the piece very gradually builds momentum until "Shh Peaceful" (what the ?!?!) from in a Silent Way comes in. Wow, what a "great" way to expand a composition, insert previously recorded material from another album in the middle. Well it is a sound track album and I have to give Teo Macero props for his usually excellent tape editing and production. Then its back to more repetitious bass playing with horn and guitar accents. This remains in the same mode until at last, thank god, a groove is formed and Miles solos some. Then a really beautiful slow melodic part reminicsent of "Sketches of Spain" closes out the album. Its too bad that this section isn't longer as its a really effective and emotive bit of music. I could have done without the Brock Peters voice over, but I'm not bothered by it because of its brevity.
I think this album is pretty good. It has its moments of great playing from Miles and John McLaughlin plays generally excellent guitar. But there are long stretches of barren groove and noodly solos that never seem to really get off the ground. The bass and drum playing are unremarkable. I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed when I got this CD because I remembered "Jack" as being a much better album. Oh well memory can play tricks on you, I last heard it in the mid-eighties. I have to say though on second listen there are better electric Miles albums out there (not to mention the 30 previous years of acoustic music) This album is inferior to "Bitches Brew," "In a Silent Way," "Live Evil", "Get Up With It," or even "On the Corner" (which is basically a series of deep grooves) If you want to hear some really angry Miles Davis pick up Pangea recorded live in Japan. I'm not saying this is a bad album, or that its not worth getting, it is. But it incorporates some previously recorded material and some of the playing on Yesternow gets a bit tedious. "A Tribute to Jack Johnson" is a good film soundtrack but I'm afraid it pales in comparison to much of Miles' other electric work.
Comprising of two tracks, but broken into various sections & moods.
Starting at quite a fast pace, with great interaction & call n' answer between the Guitar & trumpet. Moving onto a more sombre section with a drone effect, then a bass/trumpet jam with the keyboards arriving towards the end. Next is a funky guitar section with Davis showing us his Sly influence, finishing off with a nice guitar/keyboard interplay.
Starting with a much slowly pace, not too dissimilar to "Bitches Brew", & a little bit of stylings of Alice Cooper! Then Davis speeds the pace up, introducing the keyboards. Next we hear a kind of film noir, which acts like an interlude before the final act. Which is then followed by repetitive funky guitar, with Miles coming in & out with his trumpet.
Finishing off with a short filmic score to complete a quite astounding record.
It is interesting that even though this is a Miles Davis album, the trumpet is not the most prominent instrument on the record, with Davis giving the rest of the musicians a chance to breathe & do their own thing. It's not a million miles from when The Who Improvised at The Isle of White, or Zeppelin at Long Beach
So being a big rock music fan, I sometimes feel a little frustrated at how unwilling a lot of the acts in this genre are unwilling to experiment, so this record is a absolute god sent, & demonstrates if you're willing to take a creative risk, the rewards are amazing.
"Yesternow" with Brock at the end is great. I hate to declare a favorite album, especially with an artist the likes of Miles, but this is very close for me. The personnel is surreally outstanding!!!!!!!
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