Apr 17, 2016

The Electric Music of Miles Davis Might Be His Most Groundbreaking

Miles Davis Album Cover Collage


The music of Miles Davis since 1969 has been reassessed:

The fact that a person might ask which period of Miles Davis' eras were more groundbreaking, speaks volumes by its self to me.

Also the fact that both styles seem equally popular as the years go by, surely says that Miles Davis was one of, if not the greatest jazz musician of all time.

To my way of thinking Miles' electric period, because of its critics, and it's wide cultural audience; along with the lasting scope of the music for today's musician, makes me believe that the electric period of Miles Davis may end up being farther reaching and if possible more groundbreaking than even his 50's and early to mid 60's music.

Certainly I have no issue putting the electric music on the same level as the modal, orchestral, or post bop styles he is best known for.

Honestly, as great as all the acoustic jazz was and is, that music has been discussed and dissected to death, it has already been in the jazz tradition for 50 plus years. The electric music is only now being discovered and critically considered by the masses, all be it, a new breed of younger and less conservative listener.

Kind of Blue is in a league by its self, not many would try to argue against its legacy as the greatest modern jazz record of all time. It's one of the few times where an album actually lives up to the hype.

Today when I hear Kind of Blue, I hear the seeds being planted for In a Silent Way 10 years later.

Years later the electric music still excites me

Most of the electric music is still being figured out, some of it may never be quite understood, and that is part of the lure for me personally.

I like discovering the nuances of the music as I go, all these years later Miles Davis electric music still reveals new things with each listen. Some of those box sets with the unreleased takes blow my mind, I hear things a new every single time a dive in.

I have been a fan of Miles Davis since around 1997, I still return to Kind of Blue, Porgy & Bess, Miles Smiles and the early Prestige Label classics quite a bit, but I do feel as if all the mystery has already been revealed to me within that acoustic music.

On the other hand, the electric music still confounds me, exhilarates me, and pushes my listening to the limit. All the different live releases, official and bootleg, reveal things 15 years later that my mind can barely comprehend.

The electric music is an organic style that seems to change its mood with each listen


A lot of the electric music grows on you and makes sense after repeated listens, I don't get that from acoustic Miles. As great as that acoustic music is, it as almost become a museum piece now, where electric Miles is still moving and growing.

Today's contemporary musical artists seem to have more in common with On the Corner and Bitches Brew than Kind of Blue, and modern jazz artists have more in common with Miles Smiles and Coltrane's classic quartet.

This isn't something that just occurred to me over night, this is an opinion that has taken more than a decade and a half to come to. Kind of Blue is a thousand year classic, where right now today, Bitches Brew, might actually be more relevant.

Conservative critics bashing the electric period

I think my frustration stems from the the music being treated as an afterthought by Ken Burns in his overrated, yet still worthwhile Jazz series.

Critics like Stanley Crouch are very public about their disdain for the electric music, it gets under my skin a bit. It's not jazz proper, and who gives a flip what they think when they are judging music that is not jazz?

I'm not really worried about the anti-electric people: They always seem to need to tell me: "Hey, you know that ain't jazz don't you?"

 It's like telling a pro-wrestling fan that it's fake. Like it's some secret we need to be in on, insulting us, as if we didn't already know they can't seem to understand we don't care that it is, or isn't jazz...but it IS Miles Davis, and I like it, PERIOD.

The electric years do not denigrate the acoustic music


The album Get Up With It seems like the epicenter of what I am talking about. That album has it all, jazz funk, calypso music, ambient, dub, and drum and bass.

A track like "He Loved Him Madly" and "Rated X" only today seem contemporary, back then it was like something from outer space.

One of the most amusing things for me over the years is all the hand wringing over the popularity of the electric years, as if by liking this period you somehow denigrate the acoustic music.

I never understood this thinking, it underlines the greatness of Miles Davis. He was the greatest musician/personality in jazz history, my opinion of course, dispute it if you like, but it will be an uphill battle, no one excelled at as many styles of jazz as Miles Davis did.


Panthalassa: The perfect entry into Miles' electric music


One of the things about Panthalassa that gets overlooked, is how many people were turned onto the Music of Miles Davis through this Bill Laswell re imaging, who would have not discovered the music at all.

I am one of those people who in 1998 took my opinion and thirst for more Miles to a new level after hearing Panthalassa.

I had before purchased Kind of Blue and liked the album, but it was well over a year later before I purchased this masterpiece. Soon after "a matter of days" I purchased, Agharta, Pangaea, and Bitches Brew, then Get Up With It.

Not long after that I was actually exploring classic hard bop like the Prestige years and before a year was up I had at least 50 CD's and several box sets. Back then, the quintet box with the 65-68 stuff was and is a real standout.

There has been a lot of whining about what Bill Laswell has done, they complain about how he went into the master tapes and rearranged and cleaned up some of the tape, doing what producer Teo Macero did in the first place.

Also he condensed several tracks down to sketch form, like "He Loved Him Madly", originally released as a side long 30 minute plus track, on Panthalassa it's only 13 minutes long. These make fantastic abridged versions to wet your appetite.

Laswell also condenses the entire In a Silent Way album down to 15 minutes, and let me tell you, it works extremely well. He essentially does what the original did but does it in less than half the time.

I think the album works as an appetite wetting album, if you hear Panthalassa, how could you not want to explore the original source material? Believe me, there will be a lot of that material for you to check out too.

Box sets full of complete session cuts, dozens of live albums where Miles is creating new music on the fly. If you come from a rock, funk, or even an electronic music back ground, be prepared to find yourself completely immersed in the electric musical world of Miles Davis.

All photos used with permission via Amazon.com.

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