Children On The Corner: Rebirth (2003)
That’s one part of Miles Davis’s bequest. Wadada Leo Smith’s Yo Miles! and Mark Isham’s Silent Way Project have taken another route and approached Miles’ 1970s music as repertoire ripe for musical interpretation. Two recently formed groups to have shared this approach comprise former members of Miles’ 1970s groups: guitarist Pete Cosey’s Children of Agharta and Michael Henderson’s Children On The Corner. In the latter example Miles Davis’s bassist is joined by three other Davis alumni: Ndugu Chancler on drums, Sonny Fortune on sax, Badal Roy on tablas and two others, Michael Wolff on keyboards and Barry Finnerty on guitar.
The eight tracks on Rebirth were recorded at a club date and the sound quality has a rough and ready feel. The problematic aspect of enterprise lies in the group's interpretation of the three tracks which originally appeared on its namesake. What to this day sets On The Corner apart is the stripped down, foregrounded nature of the harsh, tabla-dominated rhythm section. This emphasis upon the repetitive, the skeletal and the other is repeatedly subjected to the buffeting of studio effects and harsh solos. The production is strikingly prescient of much dance music from the 1990s onwards, including hardcore, techno and jungle. The versions of “New York Girl” and “Black Satin” on Rebirth unfortunately don’t recognise the central importance of this particular sound to the originals. When reduced to musical composition, the essential impact of the originals dissipates like a dream upon waking.
Despite that, some of the playing on Rebirth is a pleasure. Sonny Fortune literally kicks off “Directions” with a five minute solo at once more urgent and more ragged than his playing on Agharta and Pangaea. Ndugu Chancler and Michael Henderson drive the music along and Barry Finnerty’s guitar, though no match for Cosey, is at times suitably firey. Michael Wolff’s organ dovetails nicely with the rest of the group although his two compositions, “Oakland Raga” and “Madimba,” sound out of place alongside the other pieces.
Miles Davis established a level of innovation, passion and commitment to which most can only aspire. Ultimately your judgement of Children On The Corner will rest upon your perception of his 1970s music and what it is that continues to make it vital thirty years later.
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Track Listing: Directions; New York Girl I; Oakland Raga; New York Girl II; Madimba; Tone Poem; Bb Philly Funk; Black Satin.
Personnel: Barry Finnerty: guitar; Michael Wolff: piano, keys; Ndugu Chancler: drums; Sonny Fortune: sax, flute; Michael Henderson: bass; Badal Roy: tablas
Record Label: Sonance Records
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock