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Miles Davis - Amandla CD (album) cover

AMANDLA

Miles Davis

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.85 | 22 ratings

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js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars After the overly trendy electronic pop of Tutu, Amandla was an excellent comeback for Miles Davis and his number one composer/arranger/performer at that time; the multi-talented Marcus Miller. Amandla continues Miles' interest in contemporary synthesizers and drum machines, but unlike on Tutu, Miles and Miller wisely choose to vary the palette with plenty of real woodwinds and lots of guests on real drums, guitars and percussion. The result is a beautiful rich full sound that rivals Miles' classic jazz orchestral albums with arranger Gil Evans such as Quiet Nights and Sketches of Spain. Miller's bass clarinet in particular adds much warmth to the stacks of digital synthesizers.

The writing on here is as lush as the tone colors and arrangements, Marcus seems to be channeling in equal parts; Gil Evans, Stevie Wonder, Henry Mancini, George Gershwin, Steely Dan and Prince's jazzy work in the late 80s. These sophisticated third stream creations are driven with contemporary hip-hop flavored beats that are subtle and tasteful and provide plenty of swing to inspire the soloists. The prevailing rhythm on here is the late 80s sound of Washington DC's infectious go-go beat. Go-go, made popular by E.U.'s 'Doin the Butt', was all the rage at this time and had taken over the music of George Clinton and many east coast rap artists who liked it's swing base for the new double-timed rhyme scheme.

Every song on here is excellent, and all contain a suave mix of loungey jazz, modern composition, dense electronics flavored with acoustic orchestrations, and totally chill sophisticated Latin influenced hip-hop. Two songs really stand out though. Title song Amandla is one of the finest pop-jazz ballades I have ever heard with bizarre constantly shifting chord changes that rival Stravinsky and Poulenc and keep you suspended wondering what could be next. Album closer Mr Pastorius recalls the abstract swing jazz of the classic 60s Miles quintet, but with tastefully added polysynths; and also brings back Miles' old buddy, Al Foster, on the traps doing a great Tony Williams tribute in his drumming style.

I saw Miles on tour with this material just shortly before he passed away. He seemed in really good spirits and joked with his band constantly as he seduced the audience with a constant flow of expertly arranged jazz-pop as high art. It was very appropriate that the concert took place in San Francisco's esteemed symphony concert hall, not the Fillmore. It seemed like after years of psychedelic rock jams Miles had finally returned to his true love, lush romantic groove based music that could be enjoyed by anyone, just like the music he had made long ago with Gil Evans.

js (Easy Money) | 4/5 |

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