Chris Kelsey & What I Say: The Electric Miles Project (2013)
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Chris Kelsey and What I Say say it all. The Electric Miles Project is definitely well thought-out, projected, masterfully arranged, and meticulously performed. Contrary to Miles Davis' school of thought, improvisation on this project seems not to have been part of the agenda. Kelsey clearly knows exactly how to pay tribute to the late legend and, to this purpose, avoids messing with the master: no trumpeter is featured on the album. To play in Miles Davis' shadow or to do without is a question quickly resolved for Kelsey: keep the heart of Davis' music but without his pseudo presence.
Indeed, the songs keep the memory of Davis intact but are fed by a sense of creativity and exploration, well manifested in superb solos, elongated takes, and a punchy texture. The project also includes compositions by the What I Say quintet: "Mad Love Pts 1 & 2." The first part is reminiscent of the ambient, psychedelic live performances of Davis' In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969), while the second part is a conclusion of feelings about electrified jazz sounds.
As to Davis' repertoire, the quintet explores songs to which tributes are rarely paid: "Agartha Prelude," "Directions," "Ife," and "Sivad." Played from different perspectives, the tunes offer a wide range of electrified jazz sounds, ranging from smooth and frantic, to the funky and rock-hard. The rhythm stays clear while the jams seep through smoothly. Relaxin' with Davis, Kelsey cooks a refreshed version of Davis' music along with two gifted guitarists (Rolf Sturm and Jack DeSalvo). Both offer ground to Kelsey to enter into a musical dialogue characteristic of Davis' live performances.
Track Listing: Agharta Prelude; Mad Love Pt. 1; Directions; Ife; Sivad; Mad Love Pt. 2.
Personnel: Chris Kelsey: soprano and straight alto saxophones; Rolf Sturm: electric
guitar (left channel); Jack DeSalvo: electric guitar (right channel);
Joe Gallant: six-string bass; Dean Sharp: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced