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Miles Davis - Aura CD (album) cover

AURA

Miles Davis

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.57 | 37 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Aura' - Miles Davis (7/10)

If 'Kind Of Blue' was Miles Davis' ode to cultured urbania, then 'Aura' shows the civil setting come crashing down around him. Well into the twilight of his career, it was clear that many of his demons were catching up to the tortured genius. Having traversed from one side of the jazz spectrum to the other, 'Aura' sounds almost nothing alike the jazz standards that made him famous. His trademark style of trumpet playing is still here in full force, but it seems as if Miles Davis has evolved into something new altogether.

Despite the labeling as a Miles Davis record, the music here was actually composed by Danish jazz musician Palle Mikkelborg, as a tribute to his hero. As what could only be the biggest flattery for this composer, Davis liked what he heard and decided to take part in the project. While it is indeed a bit unfair that Mikkelborg's name has been overshadowed here on a work that he took most part in, it's clear in many parts of 'Aura' that this is not typical Miles Davis. In what I might only describe as 'avant-bop,' the music here ranges from a dissonant brand of jazz fusion, to very dark neoclassical, to deep big band arrangements.

The album starts with the aptly (if unimaginatively) titled 'Intro,' which at once gives an unsettling feeling to the music through frenetic guitar playing overtop dissonant and awkwardly rhythmic synth backups. From the beginning, the music here does feel quite unbalanced and at times, even jarring to listen to. From the chaotic beginnings however, 'Aura' leads into the second track 'White,' which soon goes to show the dark symphonic sound here. 'White' and the third track 'Yellow' are both deeply atmospheric classically based tracks, that truly define the word 'haunting' in a musical context. Each note or sound seems to be geared towards giving a disturbing feeling to the music. A great deal of 'Aura' can be associated with this musical approach.

The other big sound to 'Aura' is that of the 'jazz fusion' itself. Generally driven by some martial slap bass work, this is where Miles Davis puts his indelible mark on the album. Especially on the track 'Electric Red,' the bass presence and growing tension makes it sound almost like a marriage between funk rockers Primus and Davis himself, which is a very interesting pairing. The issue with the fusion here is that not all of the fusion tracks work nearly as well as the stunning neoclassical pieces here in the suite. While of course a matter of personal preference, I would much rather have seen Mikkelborg and Davis look into the dark avant-classical side of 'Aura' more, instead of having the diverse recording it turned out to be.

Mikkelborg meant for this to be a concept album of Miles Davis' character, and judging by the music here, it's clear that the man was a very tortured spirit, possessed for decades by his unrelenting talent and soul for music. Very much a two-sided work, there's some more traditional jazz-rock fusion here, but also a very experimental, avant-garde side to the music that will surely challenge any listener who approaches. 'Aura' is a grower by all standards, and while it is very unbalanced, more adventurous fusion lovers would do well to check out this overlooked work.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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