Running the Voodoo Down: The Electric Music of Miles Davis
Even Miles' last decadeto which, at only 30 pages, Freeman gives relatively short-shriftis analyzed from a broader perspective. If any period of Miles can be construed as being a "sell-out, it's those final years. But Freeman puts Miles' motivations in a larger context. If jazz was becoming an increasingly marginalized genre, would being remembered as a member of such an exclusive club have really been appropriate for Miles? Clearly Freeman thinks not, and it's a compelling argument.
That's not to say Freeman isn't critical of certain moves.. But he's one of the first to recognize that the largely-derided Doo-Bop, despite its admittedly appalling vocal tracks, has some merit, and was even forward-looking; with some of the music fitting the definition of trip-hop before the term even existed.
Freeman's clear pro-electric bias means that there's the occasional misstep. Fortunately, suggestions including Keith Jarrett's move from his exploratory work with Milesespecially on the recently-released The Cellar Door Sessions 1970)to acoustic-only playing was "a retreat (and it sure feels like exactly that) are few and far between, with Freeman generally coming across as open-minded and stylistically-unprejudiced.
Freeman spends the final chapter of the book discussing recent "post-Miles projects including Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser's Yo Miles!, Burnt Sugar, Tim Hagans' Animation-Imagination and Bill Laswell's Panthalassa. It's hard to imagine what Miles would be doing were he alive todayFreeman suggest, and rightly so, that Miles would be turning 80 this year, so the ravages of time would likely impact his capabilities. But Freeman makes it clear that there's a wealth of artists today moving forward the innovations and ultimate desertion of the jazz tradition that made Miles such a controversial (and, in some cases, loathed) figure.
Running The Voodoo Down: The Electric Music of Miles Davis won't likely change the minds of those closed to the possibility that breaking down musical boundaries is, perhaps, more important than bolstering them up. But it's a refreshingly youthful perspective that places Miles Davis in a broader context, suggesting his ultimate importance and influence extended far beyond the confines of jazz to hip-hop, electronica...even punk. Miles would have been thrilled.