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Yo Miles! Featuring Henry Kaiser & Wadada Leo Smith: Sky Garden

The spirit of the late, great Miles Davis is alive and well in this 2 CD tribute from guitarist Henry Kaiser, trumpet player Wadada Leo Smith, and their cast of stellar guest musicians. The list is a "who's who" of the fusion and prog world-bassist Michael Manring, drummer Steve Smith, guitarist/keyboard player Mike Keneally, keyboard player Tom Coster, alto sax player Greg Osby, Chris Muir on guitar, Karl Perazzo on percussion, and John Tchicai on tenor & soprano sax. Special guests on a few tracks include Zakir Hussain on table & percussion, guitarist Dave Creamer, and the ROVA Sax Quartet. This huge batch of players covers eleven tunes over the course of both discs, five being Miles Davis originals, a few songs written by Joe Zawinul, as well as some written by Wadada Leo Smith and the rest of the band. This is as you would guess some stretched-out funky jazz-rock, heavy on the grooves and atmosphere.

Disc One has its highlights, like the medley of "It's About That Time/ The Mask" or the Smith penned acid funk of "Shinjuku", but it is the mammoth interpretation of Miles' "Great Expectations" that is the real kicker, all 35+ minutes of it. Basically a bubbling cauldron of funk and jazz energy for the first 20 or so minutes, the band then lets Smith weave and blast his trumpet explorations much like a hungry Davis in the late 60's. The big band sounds of Zawinul's "Directions" are just lovely, with the horns blasting while Manring's bass and Steve Smith's drums snap with rapid enthusiasm.

The opening suite on Disc Two, "Sivad>Gemini Double Image>Little Church", contains some yearning trumpet from Smith and jagged electric guitar shards courtesy of Kaiser. Tom Coster also plays the Joe Zawinul/Chick Corea role perfectly with his quirky Fender Rhodes accompaniment. "Miles Star" is a tune written by Smith that really displays what the music of Miles Davis was all about. This piece has emotion, groove, swing, and chops. Check out the passionate trumpet passages and the acrobatic guitar lines on this one! The band even tries to emulate what Miles might have moved into had he lived and recorded a bit longer with the extended blues/jazz vamp of "Who's Targeted", a driving piece featuring monstrous slide guitar and stabbing trumpet. One of the best tracks is saved for last, the space-age fusion number "Cozy Pete", a tune penned by the band that has tons of wild guitar histrionics, complex drums fills, bubbling bass lines, and neat keyboard work from both Coster & Keneally.

I also want to mention that this set was recorded directly to a stereo DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recorder as the band played live in the studio, which is similar to the way Miles recorded to stereo or three track analog tape back in the 60's and 70's. This Hybrid Super Audio CD can be played either in a conventional CD player or a Super Audio CD (SACD) player. I don 't own one of these yet, but the CD sounds just marvelous either in my car, laptop, or home CD system. My one warning to you-if you are not a fan of long, sometimes rambling jazz/rock/funk jams, then you may want to listen to some sound samples first before purchasing, as there is a lot of music here to digest. However, if the music of Miles Davis is near and dear to your heart, and you would like to hear what a large group of musicians can do to some Miles tunes as well as some originals dedicated to the spirit of the master, then I can heartily recommend this CD.

Track Listing
Disc One
1) It's About That Time/The Mask (10:26)
2) Jabali (part I) (6:36)
3) Shinjuku 22:38)
4) Great Expectations (35:24)
5) Directions (2:54)
Disc Two
1) Sivad>Gemini Double Image>Little Church (10:17)
2) Miles Star (9:38)
3) Who's Targeted? (21:21)
4) Jabali (part II) (14:18)
5) Willie Dixon (6:53)
6) Cozy Pete (12:43)

Added: June 21st 2004
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Cuneiform Records
Hits: 2310
Language: english

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