(All Album Reviews by Chuck AzEee!)
Miles' 60's quintet had run its course, as Miles being influenced by the politics and music of the turbulent Sixties, wanted to produce music that the mass public would be into. Miles was on top of the world, he had the greatest set of musicians at his side: tenor sax great Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and wunderkid drummer, Tony Williams.
All whom were formidable writers as well as extremely ambitious. But Miles was becoming restless with the direction that this great band was heading so in 1966, Miles began experimenting with the bands sound adding guitarist Joe Beck to the sessions of the renounced "Circle In The Round". On "Circle In The Round", Herbie played a Celeste throughout which gave the song an eerie, psychedelic tinge to it that would have floated away had it not been for Tony Williams holding down the song.
A couple of years later, Miles would recruit, a then unknown George Benson, and record a few tracks (but only one would make it on to the Miles In The Sky album). Miles, now had this vision of having Ron and Herbie play their electric counterparts, but at the time it was great, but still lacked fire, so Miles recruited the innovative keyboardist, Josef Zawinul to provide ambience to the quartet's music. But due to his commitment to Cannonball Adderley, Zawinul, moonlighted off and on, so Miles recruited the great Chick Corea, whom doubled with Herbie and fit like a glove.
All seemed well, but Tony and Ron were becoming restless, Tony wanting to branch out on his own, and Ron, a Jazz man was taken aback by the direction Miles was heading, so Miles hired a youngster from England named Dave Holland, who was a classicly trained cellist that was causing a stir with his magnificent Mingus-like bass work, and unlike Ron (whom would rarely play the electric bass afterwards) was a big fan of Jack Bruce, was one of the first true giants of the jazz electric bass (although he would forsake it as well).
During the latter part of 1969, Tony and Ron had both left, and Miles had hired Jack DeJohnette as drummer, and it is here that Miles' greatest Fusion band (Miles, Shorter, Corea, Holland and DeJohnette) came to fruition. Miles also had in his vision that Wayne begin playing the soprano more as it would fit the timbre of electric work more than the Tenor would. An unprecedented move, Wayne would become the leading innovator and the greatest Soprano saxophonist of the Fusion era.
For his next project Miles went into the studio with his current five, and augmented the band with Zawinul (now free of his commitment to Cannonball Adderley) organist Larry Young (some say the greatest there ever was on the instrument), electric bassist Harvey Brooks, bass clarinetist Bernie Maupin (whom set the mood with his styling) youngster Lenny White and Charles Alias on drums and Jim Riley on percussion. Oh and by the way can we also mention one of the stars of the session, guitarist John McLauglin, whom became a household name on Bitches Brew with his Hendrix-like fire branding fretwork.
Zawinul's mood piece, "Pharoah Dance" starts of the album and ambiently build momentum it speeds up to a frenetic solo by Mclaughlin before calming down again. The title track is the center piece of the album, with its funk grooves provided effortlessly by Harvey and Dave (whom also solo as well).
"Spanish Key" is another frenetic piece that jams along with Mclaughlin again stealing the spotlight with his great solo. The next track, is written for the star of the album, "John McLaughlin" is a centerpiece for John's guitar, in which Harvey, Miles and Shorter do not play on.
The critics favorite, "Miles Run The Voodoo Down" is earthy and gritty and so heavily percussive, that it sometime drowns out everyone else but Harvey. And the last track and Wayne Shorter's swan song as a member of Miles Davis' group, "Sanctuary" closes off the album in fitting style.
All of the vent up creativity that Miles had went into making this album, and Miles would forever change the facet of music with this album, as it ushered in a new era of bombasiticity within the tight knitted conformity of the Jazz world. To never be undone as the crown jewel of the Jazz-rock era.
A FEW WORDS OF NOTE: It would later be revealed that these sessions had more musicians partake on them, but only these six songs were selected for the album.