Review : Miles Davis - The Complete On The Corner Sessions
RollingstonesFission — not fusion — is the right word to describe the music on these six CDs, at least according to my dictionary: "a cleaving of parts; the splitting of an atomic nucleus resulting in the release of large amounts of energy." Nothing in these recordings, made by Miles Davis during his most radical, electric-funk era, from 1972 to 1975, moves in consort to a fixed resolution: saxes, guitars, tumbling percussion; even Davis' commanding gales of trumpet. Compared to Bitches Brew, his defining 1969 rupture with modal and hard bop, Davis' 1972 LP On the Corner and the sessions that followed were amplified wartime, reflecting his obsessions with extreme blackness (Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone) and the violent blurring of tone and noise in Karlheinz Stockhausen's compositions. Polyrhythm is all, even in the convulsive solos and melodic shorthand overhead, later edited and sequenced for release by producer and proto-mix-master Teo Macero. The players come from disparate worlds: R&B (bassist Michael Henderson, guitarist Pete Cosey), post-Coltrane blowing (saxophonists Dave Liebman and Sonny Fortune), the near East (tabla player Badal Roy). But the true star of pieces like the epic, unedited take of "On the Corner," the avant-Trinidad of 1973's "Calypso Frelimo" and 1974's furious, previously unissued "What They Do" is the P-Funk-like momentum of the musicians. Even Davis' long, aerated eulogy to Duke Ellington, "He Loved Him Madly," moves in insistent, implied time. The light funk ballad "Minnie," from Davis' last '75 session before he temporarily retired due to health and drug problems, points the way to his pop-jazz records of the Eighties — as if he knew how far out he'd gone and didn't expect to return....full text
StylusmagazineThe Complete On The Corner Sessions isn’t my favorite Miles Davis box set, but that’s kind of like saying, “Well, The Birds isn’t my favorite Hitchcock movie.” Because when you’re dealing with an artist whose output is as extensive and consistently terrific as Davis’ or Hitchcock’s, then who really gives a shit what’s your favorite? They’re all awesome, and most of the time they’re better than another guy’s best. This music is better than just about anything else you’ll hear all year, and that’s only on the first disc.
Six discs. Say that real loud and fast. It sounds like “sex dicks.” That’s dirty. This is the dirtiest shit you will ever hear in your life. It’s filthier than a back alley filled with rabies-infected dogs eating used condoms. Bathroom floors in strip clubs are cleaner than this. You’ll wash your ears with bleach after you hear it. Oh yeah, and there’s six discs of it.
SIX DISCS! There’s more unheard material than you might think; twelve unreleased tracks, along with unedited masters of all the On The Corner jams, many of which provide fascinating insights into their eventual edited results. Aside from the album, you also get tracks from Big Fun and Get Up With It, recorded shortly after On The Corner. Sequenced chronologically by recording date, except for the original On The Corner and its accompanying singles (“Red China Blues,” “Big Fun/Holly-wuud”) wedged into the end, you could mistake this for one huge album. As such, the box set has a continuity lacking from other Davis reissues. I like to call it “sprawling cohesion,” but then Miles would’ve probably called me “some lazy white critic.”...full text
Musicbox-onlineOnce Miles Davis invented fusion, he owned the genre. During the 1970s, other acts obtained greater access to the mainstream, but as they moved their music in directions that were either flamboyantly virtuosic (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report) or decidedly commercial (Maynard Ferguson), their approaches generally lost touch with their art’s heart and soul. There’s little doubt that Davis was just as obsessed as his followers were with exploring the ways in which rock and world rhythms could be used to provide a new framework for jazz (and vice versa). Although his ego also was equally enormous, he nevertheless wasn’t so smitten with himself that his recordings became insular concoctions. Rather than being the primary impetus for his work, his self-pride fed and bolstered his confidence; without negatively impacting his output, it enhanced his creativity. Consequently, he never lost touch with the group-think mechanics that allowed his ensembles to live, breathe, and move in unison.
Between 1972 and 1975, Davis held 16 recording sessions with an alternating group of 27 musicians. The results spawned a trio of albums: On the Corner, Get Up with It, and the odds and sods set Big Fun. Not only did these efforts effectively sever his ties to old-school jazz critics and fans, but they also remain among the most challenging and controversial endeavors within Davis’ canon. Like a lot of his pursuits, On the Corner and its offshoots were far ahead of their time. Only in hindsight did they begin to receive the attention and adoration that they always have deserved. In that regard, The Complete On the Corner Sessions — the ninth and final chapter in a series of exquisitely packaged boxed sets that masterfully have examined Davis’ extraordinary career — is designed to provide insight into the trumpeter’s creative process, and much like The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, which was issued in 2003, the comprehensive endeavor does its job better than anyone could have predicted....full text
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