George Coleman, Mike Stern, Ron Carter, and Jimmy Cobb: 4 Generations of Miles (2002)

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George Coleman, Mike Stern, Ron Carter, and Jimmy Cobb: 4 Generations of Miles
In terms of star power, this record's got no shortage. Every player in this quartet is a great musician—not just good, but great. That and the fact that 4 Generations of Miles was recorded live should make it exciting just to open the case. Unfortunately, that excitement dissipates not long after you press play. The group is airtight, and each player plays articulately and lyrically, but in the end it just doesn't add up to much more than you've already heard. It seems that Miles Davis tributes pop up at an alarming rate these days... but for them to really work, they need to go beyond the Dark Prince. The trick is rising "above" the music and capturing its spirit within a new context of vision and invention. To name one example, the World Saxophone Quartet's '98 record Selim Sivad did exactly that.

For diehards, this record spans a nice range of styles and moods, mostly representing the late '50s/early '60s vintage (though "81" offers a bit of a backbeat for contrast). Titles like "Blue in Green" and "Freddie Freeloader" offer strong hints. It's certainly interesting to hear old-timers like Jimmy Cobb, Ron Carter, and George Coleman jam with fusion star Mike Stern (two decades their junior). Stern tucks in the edges, and he leaves absolutely zero doubt that he can travel straight-ahead with the best of them. He's by far the most interesting player on this disc, toying with convention when he's not hanging low comping harmony or playing heads. His solos dwell in the modal/scalar realm for the most part, though they scatter here and there. Stern blows with incredible energy on "Freddie Freeloader," ripping through changes and tossing in some nice blues licks along the way. That's the high point of 4 Generations of Miles by a long shot.

In the end, though, it's mostly rehash, so dig in only if you want to hear four veteran players enter the shrine. Take it or leave it—I recommend the latter.

Track Listing: There Is No Greater Love; All Blues; On Green Dolphin Street; Blue in Green; 81; Freddie Freeloader; My Funny Valentine; If I Were A Bell; Oleo.

Personnel: Mike Stern: electric guitar; Ron Carter: bass; George Coleman: tenor saxophone; Jimmy Cobb: drums.

Record Label: Chesky Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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