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Mark Isham: Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project

Douglas Payne By

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Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project was, perhaps, inevitable. Trumpeter and composer Mark Isham has always displayed a predilection toward the moody melodicism Miles Davis conveyed in his electric works. But Isham is a far more methodical, constructive player and his themes (especially evident in his jazz scores to films like Afterglow ) hark to something a bit more aching and sadder than Miles's portraits of anger and defiance.

Since Isham records for the same label where Miles made his boldest statements, Miles Remembered seems borne out of pure marketing maneuvers (can't you picture the brass saying, "who cares if it sells, it'll get more people to buy our recent reissues of Miles's electric sides"). But just the same, it's a valid tribute from a worthy fan/student - even though the majority of these pieces lend themselves less to inspired reconsideration than to pure Xeroxing of the originals.

Recorded at various times throughout 1996, Isham and his group - featuring two Gaumont/Cosey like guitarists, a drummer and a Jaco-like bassist — primarily stick with Miles's 1969-72 material as if Miles himself had reconsidered these pieces circa 1975. That's a world of difference when you stop to consider it. As the clunky title suggests, Isham leans heavily on Silent Way but he also includes his own very Miles-like riff, "Internet" (playing what sounds to be a more sweetly amplified trumpet than Miles would have), and the typical Isham Miles-in-the-new-age resonance of "Azael."

Isham does include some truly bold aces, though. The most notable is his reconsideration of Miles's "All Blues" (1959) as if it was 1975: a daring, perfectly winning stroke. His interjections here and throughout are also Davis-influenced, but cleaner and more delicate than Miles himself would probably be capable of. And by wedding "In A Silent Way" with "Milestones," Isham suggests that Miles innovated from a lineage or a progression - rather than the compartmentalized vacuum that is often suggested. Other highlights included the thumping funk of "Spanish Key," the delicate electric ballet of "Ife" and the way "Great Expectations" seems to get dragged through the groove Talking Heads concocted for "Take Me To The River."

Miles Remembered, like Henry Kaiser and Leo Smith's Yo Miles! (Shanachie), suggests there are limitations to reconsidering Miles's electric sides. But whereas Kaiser and Smith (who never seemed to harbor any influence from Davis) took great pains to recreate, Isham, always the Davis devotee, works within these limitations to interesting and positive effect. Indeed, it's a cinch that Miles's electric fans will appreciate Miles Remembered as much as Isham's listeners will admire hearing a tribute to his greatest musical influence.

Songs:In A Silent Way/Milestones; Right Off (Theme From Jack Johnson); Internet; All Blues; It's About That Time; Azael; Spanish Key; Ife; Great Expectations; Black Satin.

Players:Mark Isham: trumpet; Peter Maunu, Steve Cardenas: guitar; Doug Lunn: bass; Michael Barsimanto: drums.

Title: Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: W.E.R.F.


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