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Miles Davis - A Tribute to Jack Johnson CD (album) cover

A TRIBUTE TO JACK JOHNSON

Miles Davis

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.25 | 129 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Moatilliatta
Prog Reviewer
5 stars When it comes to Miles Davis' electric & highly experimental era, Bitches Brew has hogged a lot of the acclaim for years of unbelievable innovation. Critics often use it as the poster album of the period and as the album to compare avant-garde jazz albums to, jazz fans who for some reason don't put more time into Miles than any other artist will stick to that one, and recommend it sooner than any of the others. Serious Miles Davis fans, however, will probably tell you that the zenith of this era, as with the man's whole career, is actually quite hard to discern.

Coming hot off the heels of that one album was 1970's A Tribute to Jack Johnson. No, this isn't chronologically impossible. Rather than being an album of Davis' renditions of popular beach pop tunes, the mastermind pays a tribute to a famous African American boxer. After I cleared that up, I was able to tackle this album with a right mind. And man, was I stunned. These two songs of at least 25 minutes each continue to prove that Miles can do anything, and do it better than anyone. It's Miles' most rock-oriented set and it set the standard for all 70s fusion records. I once read a claim that he made saying he could create the greatest rock band we've ever heard. Maybe in the 21st century this album doesn't have much to show, but if you consider the time when it was released, shoot, he wasn't lying. The standard was certainly set high. While many great fusion albums came out in the decade, you may notice that a shockingly large number of them featured at least one member (often the leader of the band) who collaborated with Miles in previous years (A Tribute to Jack Johnson happens to feature John McLaughlin, Chick Corea and Billy Cobham). And while Mahavishnu Orchestra, Santana, Return to Forever and Weather Report all expanded on the innovation of those years, there is simply nothing that can replace Miles as a performer. His trumpet is irreplaceable and it shines constantly on this album, in ways the trumpet hadn't been used before to boot!

The first track, "Right Off," is a rocker, feauring one of the coolest jazz-rock riffs ever (at about 18:42) an obviously stellar jamming and all that good stuff. The second, "Yesternow," is a bit more mellow, but still holds its own with more great basslines, improvisations and atmosphere. What's extra interesting about this album is that it really did erupt spontaneously. John McLaughlin started fooling around with some chords while he was waiting for Miles in the studio. Then, Cobham and bassist Michael Henderson quickly joined in. For some reason or another, Herbie Hancock was passing through the building and was brought in to hop on the organ. Miles rushed in when he showed up and belted out one of the greasest solos of his career. That is just nuts!

While the man has released possibly more essential albums than anyone else in history, I would say that A Tribute to Jack Johnson still manages to stand out. Given it's length and that the material on here isn't as dense and avant-garde as Bitches Brew, it'll find its way into your ears more often. An absolutely marvelous album, and another testament to the genius that is Miles Davis.

Moatilliatta | 5/5 |

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