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Miles Davis - Filles de Kilimanjaro CD (album) cover


Miles Davis


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.96 | 117 ratings

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4 stars Miles Davis certainly has his fair share of well-known albums. Kind of Blue is quite possibly the most popular jazz album ever. Besides Kind of Blue, Miles has popular releases such as Sketches of Spain, In A Silent Way, Birth of the Cool, and Bitches Brew. However, there still lie little footnotes in the Miles Davis discography, including one that shows a pathway from Miles' earlier work to his electric outings. Filles De Kilimanjaro, recorded in 1968, puts together recordings from two different quintets Miles recorded with in the time of June to September. Paving the way for Bitches Brew, the entire album puts whichever pianist playing on an electric piano and when Ron Carter appears, he plays electric bass.

Filles De Kilimanjaro, although under the Miles Davis name, puts Miles Davis in a much more secondary role. Sure, Miles takes extenuated solos, wanting his fair share of time at the mic, but when he solos, he is not the standout musician. Tony Williams stands out as the best musician on the album, seemingly knowing Miles Davis and his tendencies so well that he finishes all his phrases for him. History says a lot of tension creeped up between Miles and Williams, maybe because of this reason. Whoever fills out the rest of the rhythm section, whether it be the completely electric combination of Carter and Hancock or the mixed combination of Corea and Holland, sound entirely innovative and fresh. Neither of the bassists revert to normal basslines, often playing sparse and accenting certain hits. The whole band, in both quintets, has an extreme awareness about each other and knows exactly where each soloist is going. Due to this lack of form and the constant outlook of many measures ahead, the album takes a more avant-garde feel. One member remains, that being Wayne Shorter. Wayne Shorter takes the same role as Miles, a soloist and purely a soloist. His solos, especially in the more uptempo songs, fit better than Miles' soloing. Also, Williams suits Shorter much better, playing much more aggressive yet not getting ahead of Shorter and finishing things off too early for him. The other two rhythm players gel just as easily with Shorter as they did with Miles.

Upon reading the track times for the album, this appears to be an album full of songs too long for their own good. However, due to the variety invoked by the quintet, most noticeably Williams, the songs continue on without bore or tire. Despite Miles making one of his worst appearances from a playing standpoint, he makes one of his best as a composer. Every song on the album is fully composed by him, rather than having many songs composed by two or more people. With a wave of change taking over the airwaves in the 60s including Beatlemania, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly and the Family Stone, Miles found a certain infatuation with the bluesy rock coming out of the guitar of Hendrix among other popular acts of the time. For that reason, among other reasons, Miles takes his jazz compositions to a new level with tinges of rock thrown in, including a direct reference to Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" on Mademoiselle Mabry. A 16 minute soother of sultry electric piano by Chick Corea, the sparse drum hits of Tony Williams, and the Hendrixian quotes in Holland's bass, Mademoiselle Mabry is built for a classic Miles Davis solo. Miles leaves all kinds of space open for his beautiful trumpet tone to shine across the airwaves. Due to this composing style, Miles has one of his best solos on the album mainly because the song suits his solo rather than the solo suits the song. This is the only song where Miles outshines Shorter in terms of soloing, but even in Miles' great soloing, Chick Corea's extensively fresh comping outshines all the other musicians.

Tout De Suite is an epic avant-garde jazz song full of all kinds of feel changes and nuance. The song opens with a disambiguated swing beat, but that changes throughout the song. Tout De Suite is avant-garde in its purest form, seeming to have no direction in terms of song form but still the entire quintet flows along together without losing any sense of connection. The song ranges from the laid back swing of the opening to an uptempo, almost fusion styled section led by the ferocious drumming of Williams. The section is a perfect showcase of Williams outdoing Miles and finishing all his phrases before Miles even gets the chance to start them. The song also shows a tired Miles Davis, pinching for his higher range and barely squeezing the notes out. Herbie Hancock makes a fantastic appearance on the Rhodes piano, a foreshadowing of his brilliance on the instrument to come in later years. In terms of soloing, Wayne Shorter makes one of his best appearances, taking the energy laid down by Williams and pushing Williams further into aggression and complexity. Never does Shorter sacrifice tone quality, even in his blisteringly fast runs. The entire rhythm section rises and falls with Shorter's intensity, knowing exactly where he is going. After a fantastic Herbie Hancock solo, although overshadowed by Shorter, the song reverts back to the laid-back feel and even throws in a quick All Blues reference from Kind of Blue. Tout De Suite is truly a brilliant song, showcasing the best of both the laid back and ferocious ability of the quintet.

All the way through, Filles de Kilimanjaro is a full out enjoyable listen, showcasing enough variety and virtuosity to not make the 70-minute album a tiring listen. Petits Machins showcases the best ability of each member of the band, arguably the best on the album although the shortest. A more uptempo and fiery the song, it is a welcome shorter listen after the epic Tout De Suite. The title track brings things down after the fiery Petits Machins, although gaining a bit of intensity in the middle. Frelon Brun simply serves as an album opener and just a taste of what's to come. The song, just surpassing five minutes, is an excellent choice to see the style of the album in a nutshell. For all jazz enthusiasts and jazz drummers especially, Filles de Kilimanjaro is a fantastic album and a lesser-known Miles album that definitely deserves more recognition and attention.

Trevere | 4/5 |


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